The Best Duct Tape for Household Repairs
In a pinch? The right duct tape can get you out.
If you’ve heard the expression “like water off a duck’s back,” you may be surprised to learn that it was the original inspiration for duct tape. This durable, cloth-backed tape was originally known as duck tape and was invented during World War II to help soldiers waterproof their ammunition cases. Over time, the Johnson & Johnson company developed a silver version specifically for sealing heating and air ducts: hence, duct tape.
Today, duct tape is the go-to product for quick fixes and sturdy repairs, both inside and outside your home. It can also be used for crafting, organizing, and DIY projects. With so many benefits, such a wide range of uses, and an ever increasing number of options, which is the right duct tape for your project? Read on for our shopping tips and our list of the top five best options out there today.
- BEST VALUE: 3M Multi-Use Duct Tape
- BEST FOR QUICK FIXES: Gorilla Black Duct Tape
- BEST FOR OUTDOOR USE: Sticky Ass Tape
- BEST FOR CRAFTS: Anvel Colored Duct Tape
- BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Nashua 357 Polyethylene Coated Premium Grade Duct Tape
Key Shopping Considerations
All duct tape is made of three layers, which makes it flexible, strong, and often waterproof. The top layer is polyethylene plastic, the middle layer is cotton fabric, and the bottom layer is rubber- or polymer-based glue. All duct tape must also meet a series of standard tests designed by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Duct tape is classified into different grades: military, industrial, premium, and commercial. We will focus on commercial and premium grade duct tapes. These grades are most useful for home and outdoor repair and maintenance, crafting, and DIY. When choosing a general purpose duct tape, you’ll want to consider the following factors.
Adhesive and Tensile Strength
The two properties that make duct tape so unique and useful are its stickiness (adhesive strength) and stretchiness (tensile strength).
- Adhesive strength depends on the type of glue used. Duct tape adhesive is either rubber-based, for strong bonds, or polymer-based, which is less binding.
- Tensile strength depends on the weave and thread count of the cloth layer, which is made of cotton mesh. This cloth forms the flexible middle layer and gives the tape its distinctive stretchiness. A higher thread count results in a stronger tensile strength and a greater ability to bear weight and withstand stress.
Base your choice of duct tape on the level of tensile and adhesive strength best suited to your project. For home repairs, you’ll want a tape that will not leak, peel off, or tear. This often requires a higher thread count and strong rubber-based glue. For craft projects, you may want a lower strength tape, so you can rip, remove, and manipulate it easily. A polymer-based adhesive and thinner cotton layer may serve you better in this case.
To determine what strength of duct tape to buy, read the label. For heavy-duty tapes, look for phrases like “double-thick adhesive” and “reinforced backing.” Some products will state the type of glue used, such as “synthetic rubber adhesive,” which will bind to a wide range of surfaces. Look for descriptions of the kinds of projects and surfaces each tape is designed for and whether it is suitable for outdoor as well as indoor use.
Speaking of the great outdoors, duct tape can be especially helpful for repairs that require a tight, yet flexible, waterproof bond. All commercial-grade tapes are coated with clear plastic over the fabric layer. This coating is often waterproof—or at least weather-resistant—but make sure the label states this outright. Even if it does, be aware that so-called “waterproof” duct tape can still fail in certain situations. Extreme temperatures and excess humidity can affect both the adhesive bond and its water-repelling powers, causing duct tape to peel prematurely or melt into the surface.
Ease of Use
Duct tape’s stickiness and stretchiness are its greatest strengths. The trick is finding a product with just the right blend of those qualities to suit your needs and projects. Even heavy-duty duct tapes should peel and rip easily and cleanly off the roll, preferably by hand. Certain tapes (like those made by 3M) will rip both vertically and horizontally, for maximum ease and range of use. The adhesive should firmly adhere to whatever surface you are taping, but it shouldn’t stick to itself as you peel it off the roll. Many duct tapes will lift and remove cleanly after they are placed and pressed down. As noted above, however, be warned that time, heat, and other surface factors can cause the adhesive to melt, making it harder and messier to remove.
Due to its military origins, duct (or duck) tape was originally green. The most common colors now are silver, black, white, and clear. Silver duct tape is intended to match the metal sheeting of air ducts but can be used for many other residential and industrial purposes. Black, white, and clear duct tape are designed to blend in with the project at hand, whether you are repairing a bicycle seat or patching a leaky garden hose. But don’t limit your duct tape use to repair and maintenance. This fabric tape is great for crafting, kids’ school projects, and DIY home design and organization. You can easily find duct tape in rainbow colors and a wide array of patterns for any mood or idea that may strike.
Top Duct Tapes for Home and Outdoor Use
We’ve gathered feedback, compared notes, and crunched all the numbers. These are the best duct tapes on the market today.
1. BEST VALUE: 3M Multi-Use Duct Tape
It’s the duct tape most of us know and love: the gray tape with the red 3M label. One of the least expensive duct tapes on the market, it is also water-resistant (though not waterproof) and succeeds in temporary rather than long-lasting repairs. It is also good for bundling cords, patching, reinforcing, and packing. The fabric tears both vertically and horizontally, so you can tailor the size of your tape to each project. One happy customer shares her experience: “I have wasted so much money on tape that was supposed to be super packing tape. This tape is amazing! The adhesion sticks so well, it didn’t even come off in the humidity.”
2. BEST FOR QUICK FIXES: Gorilla Black Duct Tape
This workaday tape scores big with both professionals and average Joes. Highly durable, waterproof Gorilla Black Duct Tape is a solid choice for small repair jobs around the house. The Gorilla brand calls it “duct tape on steroids” for good reason. It is designed for both indoor and outdoor use and will stick to rough, uneven surfaces like wood, stone, stucco, plaster, and brick. The tightly woven black fabric is coated with a weather-resistant shell but is still easy to rip by hand. The double-thick, rubber-based adhesive takes hold and stays put, rain or shine, though it may struggle in conditions of high heat.
3. BEST FOR OUTDOOR USE: Sticky Ass Tape
If you’re searching for something extra-sticky and flexible, look no farther. Sticky Ass Tape is fun to say and features an extra-thick strip of adhesive. Its fabric layer is triple reinforced for maximum tensile strength and flexibility. It also bonds faster and lasts longer than most competing tapes, is waterproof, and promises to withstand 200 mph winds. While Sticky Ass is more expensive than competing commercial-grade tapes, it is well worth the additional dollars. Use it on a wide range of surfaces—metal, cement, brick, stucco, rock, fiberglass, plastics, wood, glass and more.
4. BEST FOR CRAFTS: Anvel Colored Duct Tape
Rainbow-colored duct tape is not just for kids (though they’ll love it too). With ten different colors and an easy, tear-by-hand design, it’s well worth keeping Anvel’s 10-pack on hand for home organization, craft projects, color-coding, decorating and more. Compared to other colored duct tape multi-packs on the market, you get a lot of product for the price. The glue is low residue but stickier than competing brands, so it will stay put. It is also weather-resistant and suitable for outdoor use–bold, bright signage anyone?
5. BEST FOR HEAVY DUTY: Nashua 357 Polyethylene Coated Premium Grade Duct Tape
Nashua’s premium grade duct tape is a silver bullet for heavy-duty home repairs. One of its best qualities is its supreme stickiness. At the same time, though, it peels off cleanly when it comes time to remove it. While slightly more expensive than Sticky Ass Tape, Nashua is reasonably priced for a professional-grade duct tape. The polyethylene-coated cloth layer is waterproof and designed to resist moisture, chemicals, solvents, punctures, and abrasion, making it the duct tape of choice for many contractors. Nashua duct tape is suited not only to common home repairs, but also to HVAC maintenance, plastering, and other similarly heavy-duty applications.