Duct Tape

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Duct tape is a type of heavy-duty adhesive fabric tape that is usually silver, but also comes in many other colors.

It ain't broke, it just lacks duct tape


Duct tape was invented around 1942 by the Permacell division of Johnson & Johnson.[1] It was developed from fabric medical tapes for soldiers serving in the Pacific theater of World War II, to keep their ammunition cases dry. The new tape utilised two technologies: polycoat adhesives which gave the tape its strong stick, and a laminated polyethylene coating to make it waterproof.[2]

The resulting tape was strong and flexible and was nicknamed "Duck Tape" for its ability to repel water (like water off a duck's back). However other sources claim that the name derives from the "cotton duck" fabric from which it was made. It proved very popular with the troops as it ripped easily into strips for fast convenient use and was adopted for many other on-the-spot repair jobs when improvisation was a necessity.

During the post-war building boom the tape was used to seal heating and air-conditioning ducts and obtained its silver color to make it less conspicuous. The name then transmogrified into "duct tape".[3] However, it was later discovered that the heated/cooled air passing through the ducts -- along with their usual placement in unventilated areas -- made the tape (ironically) generally useless for that purpose.

Modern tape

Although duct tape became an essential part of the handyman's toolkit it suffered from lateral adhesive ooze which caused stored rolls of tape to stick to each other. In the 1970s the manufacturer Manco (who use the trade name "Duck Tape") introduced shrink-wrapped rolls.

Generally duct tape is composed of three layers. A top layer of resilient plastic (vinyl or polyethylene), a bottom layer of rubber-based adhesive and a middle layer of fabric mesh. The tape was formerly manufactured by pressing these three layers together but some manufacturers have developed a single-step process.

There are at least eight companies in the United States and Canada that manufacture duct tape with Duck® brand being the market leader. Other notable companies include 3M, Anchor, Nashua, Polyken, Tessa, and Tuck.

Modern duct tape is available in a variety of colors from different manufacturers: original silver, black, brown, red, yellow, blue and white. There have even been "dayglo" varieties and a camouflage version is popular with hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. The Scotch division of 3M also produce a transparent version.


The uses of duct tape are only limited by human imagination. A matt black version is widely used in the entertainment industry for rigging lighting and stage sets where it is known as "gaffer" tape. It was used by the almost-doomed Apollo 13 astronauts to make repairs and safely return to earth, while during the Apollo 17 mission it was used to repair the lunar rover’s fenders.[4] It is NASA policy to have a roll on every space shuttle mission and even outlines its use for restraining mentally unstable astronauts.[5]

Other uses:[6]

  • On windows to keep the glass from shattering during hurricanes
  • Replace worn webbing on lawn furniture with regular or coloured duct tape
  • Wrap pieces around your fingers to protect your skin when working with interlocking brick or stone
  • Make fashion statements: wallet, purse, belt, tie, hat, umbrella with a matching raincoat[7]
  • Temporarily seal leaky automobile radiator hoses
  • Patch leaky eavestroughs
  • Secure wires
  • Temporary tie-down for transporting goods
  • When doubled over onto itself can be used to pull a 2000 lb. car out of a ditch
  • On the bottom of Irish step dance hard shoes to prevent them from slipping


As of 2005 "The Duct Tape Guys" (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) have written seven books about duct tape, selling over 1.5 million copies. In 1994 they coined the phrase, "It Ain't Broke, It Just Lacks Duct Tape" and in 1995 with the publication of a book on WD-40;

Two rules get you through life:
If it's stuck and it's not supposed to be, WD-40 it.
If it's not stuck and it's supposed to be, duct tape it.

The title character of the Red Green show favors duct tape, and uses it for almost everything.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends you seal your house completely using duct tape and plastic sheeting during a chemical attack.[8]

If an astronaut should go insane in space, the official policy of NASA regarding detainment is to restrain him or her in duct tape as a first response.[9]


  1. http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/ducttape.htm
  2. http://www.ducktapeclub.com/university/history.asp
  3. In the TV sitcom "Home Improvement", the lead character, Tim Taylor. often corrects his wife for calling it "duck tape" and emphasises the use of the glottal stop to pronounce it "duct"-"tape". However, in reality she is probably justified in her usage.
  4. http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap040417.html Astronomy picture of the day: April 17, 2004
  5. https://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,254138,00.html Fox News: NASA Trains Astronauts to Bind, Tranquilize Unstable Crewmates
  6. http://www.3m.com/intl/CA/english/centres/home_leisure/duct_tape/sc_area.html
  7. http://www.ducttapefashion.com
  8. http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/press_release_0084.shtm The Duct Tape Alert
  9. https://www.thrillist.com/culture/what-happens-if-an-astronaut-goes-nuts-in-space-solutions-to-space-madness