A handy all-purpose repair tape, flexible duct t […]
A handy all-purpose repair tape, flexible duct tape is a household staple used for everything from patching holes to packing boxes to repairing gutters. It’s tough and water resistant, allowing it to be hand torn and removed without leaving any sticky residue behind. It’s also available in a variety of widths, lengths and colours – with the most popular being black, silver or clear. For outdoor projects, it’s best to choose a version that’s been treated to resist UV light and can withstand temperature extremes.
Unlike other adhesives that need evaporation of solvent to form a chemical bond, duct tape relies on what’s called pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) to keep its stickiness. PSAs are soft polymer blends that exploit van der Waals forces to hold together two surfaces. This allows the tape to be pressed down onto rough and uneven surfaces, like wood, brick or plaster.
Duct tape comes in many varieties, with different combinations of fabric, polyethylene and adhesive coatings geared towards specific uses. The first step in selecting the right product for a project is determining what surface you’ll be applying it to and how long you plan on using it. Then, select a tape with the right level of strength in its cloth, polyethylene and adhesive coatings, judged by tensile strength. For example, an outdoor version is often reinforced with a stronger polyethylene and has a thicker layer of adhesive for maximum durability.
Another important consideration is the surface temperature of the area you’ll be working on. For high-temperature surfaces, duct tape may lose its adhesion and slip from its attachment. Similarly, extreme cold can harden the adhesive, which decreases its sticking power. It’s best to choose a product that can perform well in both conditions, like a polypropylene duct tape with an acrylic “CW” cold weather adhesive system like 3M Venture Tape 1599B.
Originally developed during World War II, the US military needed a strong waterproof tape to seal ammunition boxes. A Johnson and Johnson employee came up with the idea for a tape that would mimic the waterproof properties of duck feathers. Duct tape soon became an American icon, helping veterans and everyday people out of a multitude of sticky situations. Since its debut, it has become a staple for DIYers and professionals, being used for everything from patching leaks to repairing electrical wires to bundling lumber. It even works as a temporary bandage for blisters and sores.