World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Duct tape

Article Id: WHEBN0000043707
Reproduction Date:

Title: Duct tape  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Drag king, NOH8 Campaign, 1995 Okinawa rape incident, Asbestos abatement, Pressure-sensitive tape
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Duct tape

Powdered aluminum pigment gives traditional duct tape its silvery gray color

Duct tape or duck tape is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure-sensitive tape often coated with polyethylene. There are a variety of constructions using different backings and adhesives. One variation is gaffer tape designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape is not. Another variation is heat-resistant duct tape useful for sealing heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, produced because standard duct tape fails quickly when used on heating ducts. Duct tape is generally gray or black but also available in other colors.

During World War II, Revolite, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on ammunition cases during World War II.[1]

History and etymology

The first material called "duck tape" was long strips of plain cotton duck cloth used in making shoes stronger, for decoration on clothing, and for wrapping steel cables or electrical conductors to protect them from corrosion or wear.[2] For instance, in 1902, steel cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge were first covered in linseed oil then wrapped in duct tape before being laid in place.[3] In the 1910s, certain boots and shoes used canvas duck fabric for the upper or for the insole, and duck tape was sometimes sewn in for reinforcement.[4] In 1936, the US-based Insulated Power Cables Engineers Association specified a wrapping of duck tape as one of many methods used to protect rubber-insulated power cables.[5] In 1942, Gimbel's department store offered venetian blinds that were held together with vertical strips of duck tape.[6] All of these forgoing uses were for plain cotton or linen tape that came without a layer of applied adhesive.

Adhesive tapes of various sorts were in use by the 1910s, including rolls of cloth tape with adhesive coating one side. White adhesive tape made of cloth soaked in rubber and zinc oxide was used in hospitals to bind wounds, but other tapes such as friction tape or electrical tape could be substituted in an emergency.[7] In 1930, the magazine Popular Mechanics described how to make adhesive tape at home using plain cloth tape soaked in a heated liquid mixture of rosin and rubber from inner tubes.[8]

In 1923, Richard Gurley Drew working for 3M invented masking tape, a paper-based tape with a mildly sticky adhesive. In 1925 this became the Scotch brand masking tape. In 1930, Drew developed a transparent tape based on cellophane, called Scotch Tape. This tape was widely used beginning in the Great Depression to repair household items.[9] Author Scott Berkun has written that duct tape is "arguably" a modification of this early success by 3M.[10] However, neither of Drew's inventions was based on cloth tape.[9]

The idea for what became duct tape came from an ordnance-factory worker, and mother of two Navy sailors, named Vesta Stoudt, who worried that problems with ammunition-box seals would cost soldiers precious time in battle. She wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 with the idea to seal the boxes with a fabric tape, which she had tested at her factory.[11] The letter was forwarded to the War Production Board, who put Johnson & Johnson on the job.[12] The Revolite division of Johnson & Johnson had made medical adhesive tapes from duck cloth from 1927 and a team headed by Revolite's Johnny Denoye and Johnson & Johnson's Bill Gross developed the new adhesive tape,[13] designed to be ripped by hand, not cut with scissors.

Their new unnamed product was made of thin cotton duck tape coated in waterproof polyethylene (plastic) with a layer of rubber-based gray adhesive ("Polycoat") bonded to one side.[6][14][15][16][17][18] It was easy to apply and remove, and was soon adapted to repair military equipment quickly, including vehicles and weapons.[14] This tape, colored in army-standard matte olive drab, was nicknamed "duck tape" by the soldiers.[19] Various theories have been put forward for the nickname, including the descendant relation to cotton duck fabric, the waterproof characteristics of a duck bird, and even the 1942 amphibious military vehicle DUKW which was pronounced "duck".[20]

After the war, the duck tape product was sold in hardware stores for household repairs. The Melvin A. Anderson Company of Cleveland, Ohio, acquired the rights to the tape in 1950.[15] It was commonly used in construction to wrap air ducts.[19] Following this application, the name "duct tape" came into use in the 1950s, along with tape products that were colored silvery gray like tin ductwork. Specialized heat- and cold-resistant tapes were developed for heating and air-conditioning ducts. By 1960 a St. Louis, Missouri, HVAC company, Albert Arno, Inc., trademarked the name "Ductape" for their "flame-resistant" duct tape, capable of holding together at 350–400 °F (177–204 °C).[21]

In 1971, Jack Kahl bought the Anderson firm and renamed it Manco.[15] In 1975, Kahl rebranded the duct tape made by his company. Because the previously used generic term "duck tape" had fallen out of use, he was able to trademark the brand "Duck Tape" and market his product complete with a yellow cartoon duck logo. In 1979, the Duck Tape marketing plan involved sending out greeting cards with the duck branding, four times a year, to 32,000 hardware managers. This mass of communication combined with colorful, convenient packaging helped Duck Tape become popular. From a near-zero customer base Manco eventually controlled 40% of the duct tape market in the US.[16][22]

After profiting from Scotch Tape in the 1930s, 3M produced military materiel during WWII, and by 1946 had developed the first practical vinyl electrical tape.[23] By 1977, the company was selling a heat-resistant duct tape for heating ducts.[24] In the late 1990s, 3M was running a $300 million duct tape division, the US industry leader.[25] In 2004, 3M invented a transparent duct tape.[26]


Modern duct tape is made with any one of a variety of loosely woven fabrics to provide strength. The threads or fill yarn of the fabric may be cotton, polyester, nylon, rayon or fiberglass. The fabric is a very thin gauze called "scrim" which is laminated to a backing of low density polyethylene (LDPE). The color of the LDPE is provided by various pigments; the usual gray color comes from powdered aluminum mixed into the LDPE. There are two commonly produced tape widths: 1.9 in (48 mm) and 2 in (51 mm). Other widths are also offered.[27] The largest rolls of duct tape were made in 2005 for Henkel, with 3.78 inches (9.6 cm) width, a roll diameter of 64 inches (160 cm) and weighing 650 pounds (290 kg).[28]

Common uses

Transparent duct tape

Duct tape is commonly used in situations that require a strong, flexible, and very sticky tape. Some have a long-lasting adhesive and resistance to weathering.

A specialized version, gaffer tape, which does does not leave a sticky residue when removed, is preferred by gaffers in the theatre, motion picture and television industries.

Duct tape, in its guise as "racer's tape", "race tape" or "100 mile an hour tape" has been used in motorsports for more than 40 years to repair fiberglass bodywork (among other uses). Racer's tape comes in a wide range of colors to help match it to common paint colors. In the UK, it is usually referred to as "tank tape" in motorsports use.

Usage on ductwork

Although the higher quality metallized and aluminum tapes used by professionals for sealing ducts are also often called "duct tape", the product now commonly called duct tape should not be confused with those actually designed and certified for sealing heating and ventilation ducts.

Common duct tape carries no safety certifications such as UL or Proposition 65, which means the tape may burn violently, producing toxic smoke; it may cause ingestion and contact toxicity; it can have irregular mechanical strength; and its adhesive may have low life expectancy.[29][30] Its use in ducts has been prohibited by the state of California[31] and by building codes in many other places.

Usage in spaceflight

Improvised wheel fender extension with duct tape, Apollo 17

According to NASA engineer Jerry Woodfill, duct tape had been stowed on board every mission since early in the Gemini days.[32] NASA engineers and astronauts have used duct tape in the course of their work, including in some emergency situations. One such usage occurred in 1970, when the square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13's failed command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar module, which was being used as a lifeboat after an explosion en route to the moon. A workaround used duct tape and other items on board Apollo 13, with the ground crew relaying instructions to the flight crew. The lunar module's CO2 scrubbers started working again, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board.

Ed Smylie, who designed the scrubber modification in just two days, said later that he knew the problem was solvable when it was confirmed that duct tape was on the spacecraft: "I felt like we were home free," he said in 2005. "One thing a Southern boy will never say is, 'I don't think duct tape will fix it.'"[33]

Duct tape, referred to as "...good old-fashioned American gray tape..."[34] was used by the Apollo 17 astronauts on the moon to improvise a repair to a damaged fender on the lunar rover, preventing possible damage from the spray of lunar dust as they drove.[35]

Military usage

In the US submarine fleet, an adhesive cloth tape is called "EB Green," as the duct tape used by Electric Boat was green.[36] It is also called "duck tape", "riggers' tape", "hurricane tape", or "100-mph tape"[37][38]—a name that comes from the use of a specific variety of duct tape that was supposed to withstand up to 100 mph (160 km/h; 87 kn) winds. The tape is so named because it was used during the Vietnam War to repair or balance helicopter rotor blades.[39][40]

Alternative uses

A wallet constructed entirely from tape and envelope windows

Duct tape's widespread popularity and multitude of uses has earned it a strong place in popular culture, and has inspired a vast number of creative and imaginative applications.

Duct tape occlusion therapy (DTOT) is a method intended to treat warts by covering them with duct tape for an extended period. The evidence for its effectiveness is poor;[41][42] thus it is not recommended as routine treatment.[43] However, other studies suggest the duct tape treatment is more effective than existing medical options.[44]

Duct tape has been used to temporarily fix Apple's iPhone 4 dropped call issue, as an alternative to Apple's own rubber case.[45]

In popular culture

University of Southern California's Tommy Trojan statue covered in duct tape prior to a football game

The Duct Tape Guys (Jim Berg and Tim Nyberg) as of 2005 have written seven books about duct tape. Their bestselling books have sold over 1.5 million copies and feature real and unusual uses of duct tape. In 1994 they coined the phrase "it ain't broke, it just lacks duct tape". Added to that phrase in 1995 with the publication of their book about lubricant WD-40 book was, "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". Their website features thousands of duct tape uses from people around the world ranging from fashions to auto repair. The combination of WD-40 and duct tape is sometimes referred to as "the redneck repair kit".

The Canadian sitcom The Red Green Show '​s title character often used duct tape (which he dubbed "the handyman's secret weapon") as both a shortcut to proper fastening as well as for unconventional uses. The series sometimes showcased fan duct tape creations. The series had a feature film based on it entitled Duct Tape Forever and several VHS/DVD compilations of the show's use of the tape have been released. Since 2000, series star Steve Smith (as Red Green) has been the "Ambassador of Scotch Duct Tape" for 3M.[46]

The Discovery Channel series MythBusters has featured duct tape in a number of myths that involve non-traditional uses. Confirmed myths include suspending a car for a period of time, building a functional cannon, a two-person sailboat, a two-person canoe (with duct tape paddles), wearable shoes, a leak proof water canister, rope, and a hammock which can support the weight of an adult male, and constructing a bridge that spanned the width of a dry dock. In the episode "Duct Tape Plane," the MythBusters repaired (and eventually replaced) the skin of a lightweight airplane with duct tape and flew it a few meters above a runway.

See also


  1. ^ Gurowitz, Margaret (08112009). "Duct Tape: Invented Here!". Johnson & Johnson. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Freeman, Jan (March 14, 2012). "Tale of the tape". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Wrapping on Cables of New East River Bridge". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. November 21, 1902. p. 15.  "Considering... that 100,000 yards of cotton duck tape must be wrapped around the cable with neatness and exactitude, it may be imagined that this method of cable preservation is quite expensive."
  4. ^ "Increased Use of Fabrics by Shoe Trade". Textile World Journal (New York) LVII (13). March 27, 1920. 
  5. ^ United States National Bureau of Standards; Paul A. Cooley; Ann Elizabeth Rapuzzi (1945). National Directory of Commodity Specifications. NBS special publication 178. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 716. 
  6. ^ a b  
  7. ^ Sommer, Otto (December 1916). "Friction Tape Used for Plaster Strips". Popular Science: 925. 
  8. ^ "Rubber and Rosin Make Compound for Many Uses". Popular Mechanics: 856. May 1930. 
  9. ^ a b Carey, Charles W. (2009). American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries. Infobase Publishing. pp. 98–99.  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ "Couldn't Keep Her Idea Down", 24 October 1943, Chicago Tribune
  12. ^ Gurowitz, Margaret (06212012). "The Woman Who Invented Duct Tape". Johnson & Johnson. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  13. ^  
  14. ^ a b Berg, Jim; Nyberg, Tim (2000). The Jumbo Duct Tape Book. Workman Publishing. p. 10.  
  15. ^ a b c Cole, David John; Browning, Eve; Schroeder, Fred E. H. (2003). Encyclopedia of Modern Everyday Inventions. Greenwood Publishing. pp. 22–23.  
  16. ^ a b "History of Duck Tape". Duck Brand. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Genericide: When a Brand Name Becomes Generic". Age of Persuasion. CBC. Retrieved 14 May 2011. 
  18. ^ Steele, Randy (July 2003). "Tale of the Tape". Boating: 18. In 1942 research scientists at Johnson & Johnson sandwiched a layer of mesh fabric—cotton duck—between a top layer of green polyethylene plastic and a bottom layer of rubber glue, and pressed them together. 
  19. ^ a b Ewalt, David M. (March 15, 2006). "The Other Greatest Tool Ever". Forbes. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  20. ^ Kruszelnicki, Karl (2010). It Ain't Necessarily So... Bro. New Moments in Science 8. HarperCollins Australia. p. 31.  
  21. ^ Heating & Air Conditioning Contractor (Edwin A. Scott Publishing) 52: 88, 97. 1960. 
  22. ^ Levinson, Jay Conrad; Godin, Seth (1994). The Guerrilla Marketing Handbook. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 249.  
  23. ^ A century of innovation: the 3M story. 3M Company. 2002. p. 129.  
  24. ^ "Home Energy Guide: Insulation". Popular Mechanics: 77. September 1977. 
  25. ^ The Journal of employee ownership law and finance (National Center for Employee Ownership) 9: 14. 1997. 
  26. ^ "History". Company Information. 3M. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  27. ^ Smith, Jenny M. (2007). "Forensic Examination of Pressure Sensitive Tape". In Robert D. Blackledge. Forensic Analysis on the Cutting Edge: New Methods for Trace Evidence Analysis. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 291–331.  
  28. ^ Magazine, The Editors of Discover (2008-07-08). Discover's 20 Things You Didn't Know About Everything. HarperCollins. pp. 134–.  
  29. ^ "Sealing HVAC Ducts: Use Anything But Duct Tape".  
  30. ^ Max Sherman, Lain Walker, Can Duct Tape Take the Heat?, Home Energe Magazine, retrieved September 27, 2012 
  31. ^ "California Energy Commission Title 24 of the Building Energy Efficiency Standards". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  32. ^ Atkinson, Nancy (2010), 13 Things That Saved Apollo 13, Part 10: Duct Tape, retrieved 2013-05-30 
  33. ^ Associated Press article, referring to the use of duct tape on Apollo 13.
  34. ^ "Moondust and Duct Tape", April 21, 2008,
  35. ^ "Lunar Dust and Duct Tape". Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  36. ^ "The EB-Green myth - Topic". 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  37. ^ Airlift Technologies supplier of tape under this name
  38. ^ The Medical NBC Battlebook USACHPPM Tech Guide 244 (May 2000) p 1.13
  39. ^ Vietnam Stories, Army Times (September 1993)
  40. ^ Richard T. Edwards (June 5, 2011). "Vietnam -- Balancing Rotorblades With Duct Tape". 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery AFA [blog]. 
  41. ^ Wenner, R; Askari, SK, Cham, PM, Kedrowski, DA, Liu, A, Warshaw, EM (March 2007). "Duct tape for the treatment of common warts in adults: a double-blind randomized controlled trial.". Archives of dermatology 143 (3): 309–13.  
  42. ^ Ringold, S; Mendoza, JA, Tarini, BA, Sox, C (October 2002). "Is duct tape occlusion therapy as effective as cryotherapy for the treatment of the common wart?". Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine 156 (10): 975–7.  
  43. ^ Stubbings, A; Wacogne, I (September 2011). "Question 3. What is the efficacy of duct tape as a treatment for verruca vulgaris?". Archives of Disease in Childhood 96 (9): 897–9.  
  44. ^ "The Efficacy of Duct Tape vs Cryotherapy in the Treatment of Verruca Vulgaris". 
  45. ^ "iPhone duct tape fix". CNN. 2010-07-13. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  46. ^ 3M Canada Press Box


  • ASTM International ASTM D5486 Standard Specification for Pressure-Sensitive Tape for Packaging, Box Closure, and Sealing, Type IV woven cloth backing
  • ASTM D580 Standard Specification for Greige Woven Glass Tapes and Webbings
  • ASTM D4514-12 Standard Specification for Friction Tape
  • ASTM D2754-10 Standard Specification for High-Temperature Glass Cloth Pressure-Sensitive Electrical Insulating Tape
  • MODUK DEF STAN 81-25, EN-Tape Pressure-Sensitive Adhesive (Water Resistant Fabric)
  • McDonnell-Douglas DMS1968E
  • Lockheed LCP-86-1226-A
  • Boeing D 6-8099
  • Ford specification ESB-M3G71-B
  • etc.


  • "Pressure-Sensitive Adhesives and Applications", Istvan Benedek, 2004, ISBN 0-8247-5059-4
  • "Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Tapes", J. Johnston, PSTC, 2003, ISBN 0-9728001-0-7
  • "Pressure Sensitive Formulation", I. Benedek, VSP, 2000, ISBN 90-6764-330-0

External links

  • Duct Sealant Longevity
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.