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-colored 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 the home. It can also be used for crafting, organizing, and DIY projects. With such a range of strengths and color options to choose from, which duct tape is right for your project? Read on to discover shopping tips and winning solutions for your next quick fix.
- BEST OVERALL: Gorilla Black Duct Tape
- RUNNER UP: Lockport Heavy Duty Silver Duct Tape
- BEST CLEAR: Gaffer Power Transparent Duct Tape
- BEST WATERPROOF: Gorilla Weather Tape
- BEST VISIBILITY: Gorilla High Visibility Duct Tape
- BEST DESIGN: Simply Genius Patterned and Colored Duct Tape
- BEST FOR CARS: 3M All Weather Duct Tape
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Duct Tape
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 ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials.
Duct tape is classified into different grades: military, industrial, premium, and commercial. This guide focuses on commercial and premium duct tapes, which are most useful for home and outdoor repair and maintenance, crafting, and DIY. When choosing a general purpose duct tape, keep the following factors and features in mind.
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, lower strength tape—with a polymer-based adhesive and thinner cotton layer—may be best to rip, remove, and manipulate easily as needed.
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 product descriptions will state the type of glue used, such as “synthetic rubber adhesive,” which will bind to a wide range of surfaces. Also check 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.
Most duct tapes feature some degree of weather resistance, which can be especially helpful for repairs that require a tight yet flexible bond to repel water. All commercial-grade tapes have a clear plastic coat over the fabric layer that’s often waterproof or weather-resistant, but make sure the label states this outright.
Be aware that some waterproof duct tape can still fail in certain situations. Extreme temperatures and excess humidity can affect both the adhesive bond and its water-repelling ability, possibly 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 (such as those made by 3M) will rip both vertically and horizontally for maximum ease and range of use. The adhesive should stick firmly to whatever surface is being taped but not stick to itself as it is peeled off the roll.
Many duct tapes will lift and remove cleanly after they are placed and pressed down. Just remember 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 a torn bicycle seat or a leaky garden hose. But duct tape isn’t limited to repair and maintenance. This fabric tape is great for crafting, kids’ school projects, and DIY home design and organization. Duct tape is commonly available in a large spectrum of colors and a wide array of patterns for any mood or idea that may strike.
Our Top Picks
The best duct tape options include features such as adhesive strength, weather resistance, durability, and more.
Gorilla’s duct tape is a top option that’s durable, waterproof, and easy to use for patches and repairs on a host of common surfaces. The highly concentrated rubber adhesive glue is designed for both indoor and outdoor use.
Gorilla duct tape will stick to rough, uneven surfaces like wood, stone, stucco, plaster, and brick but not as well on oily or ultrasmooth plastic surfaces. The tightly woven black fabric is coated with a weather-resistant shell to withstand sun and rain while still being easy to rip by hand.
- Double-thick adhesive
- Reinforced backing
- Weather resistant
- Suitable for wood, brick, stone, paper, plaster, and rubber
- Can leave residue if removed
- Not suitable for use in heat above 32°f
For strong adhesion without sticky residue, consider this Lockport product. It’s suited to metal, cement, wood, and plastic surfaces and resists drying, cracking, and breaking even when used outdoors in frigid winter temperatures or under the heat of the sweltering summer sun. And when the tape is removed, it won’t leave messy evidence behind.
The duct tape comes in a five-roll or six-roll multipack, so users can complete a large project like sealing windows for the winter or keep several rolls around the home, in the garage, and out in the car for emergencies and quick fixes.
- Suitable for all-weather use
- Can be teared by hand
- Suitable for cement, metal, tile, wood, glass, cardboard, and plastic
- Does not leave residue
- Only available as a multi-pack
From Gaffer Power, this duct tape has a clear backing and transparent adhesive to make quick repairs without standing out. The backing is durable and has high tensile strength, allowing users to stretch the tape to create a strong seal between the adhesive and the surface.
This duct tape has an impressive adhesive glue that can be used on a variety of materials, including glass, plastic, wood, stucco, rubber, metal, and vinyl. The waterproof and UV-resistant tape can be used indoors and outdoors on siding, roofing, rubber hoses, and more.
- Waterproof and UV resistant; good for indoor and outdoor use
- Suitable for use on wood, glass, plastic, and metal
- Tears easily
- Unknown performance in cold weather conditions
When it comes to outdoor fixes, like patching a leak in the roof of the shed or fixing vinyl siding, consider this durable, ready-for-almost-anything duct tape from Gorilla. It has a waterproof backing and is also resistant to UV radiation, high temperatures, and low temperatures.
The strong butyl rubber adhesive bonds to plastic, metal, wood, brick, tarps, ductwork, and more, helping to ensure that repairs last through bad weather, changing seasons, and intense heat.
- Made with strong butyl adhesive
- Suitable for heavy-duty outdoor tasks
- Works with most outdoor surfaces
- Temperature- and water-resistant
- Not suitable for indoor projects
- Does not work with high oil or plasticizer materials
With a bright fluorescent-orange backing that stands out against stone, brick, wood, metal, and plastic, Gorilla’s high-visibility duct tape is a great choice for a range of applications—for example, placing cautionary strips across a busy work site so folks stay safe.
This duct tape has a rugged, flexible backing that’s resistant to water, UV radiation, and temperature extremes, protecting the tape from drying, cracking, and peeling.
- Double-thick adhesive
- Heavy-duty backing
- Over 35 yards of tape per roll
- UV-, temperature-, and water-resistant
- Available in 4 colorways
- Can leave residue upon removal
- Not flexible upon application
This set from Simply Genius includes a dozen rolls of duct tape, each emblazoned with its own decorative pattern—flames, flowers, palm trees, wood grain, and more. While the tape isn’t as rugged as all-weather duct tape, it’s suitable for plastic, metal, leather, and some fabrics to create unique crafts and DIY projects. Each pack has 12 rolls, measuring 1.9 inches in width by 10 yards in length.
- Unique decorative patterns
- Suitable for use on wood, plastic, and metal
- Easy to tear
- Variety of designs to choose from
- Not meant for heavy-duty or outdoor use
This water-resistant duct tape can withstand fluctuating temperatures, high winds, and rain, making it a fine choice for an emergency roadside kit. It has a strong adhesive that can bond to most surfaces, including plastic, metal, rubber, leather, and vinyl. This versatility means that users can repair cracked seats or steering wheels, temporarily reattach a hanging muffler, and seal up a broken window until the car can be repaired.
Keep a roll in the car and another at home to make lasting repairs to gazebos, sheds, siding, and drainage pipes.
- All-weather performance
- Attaches to most outdoor surfaces
- Flexible and easy to tear horizontally or vertically
- May leave residue
- Not meant for indoor use
With a strong tape adhesive and a highly flexible backing, duct tape is an excellent addition to repairing, crafting, organizing, and DIY projects. We selected the Gorilla Black and Lockport duct tapes as our top picks for weather-resistance, versatility, and adhesive strength. Be advised that the Gorilla option is not as temperature resistant in high heat and the Lockport tape is best suited for larger projects.
How We Chose the Best Duct Tapes
Whether you need a quick fix for a leak or crack, or are in the market for your next crafting tape, this list of top picks includes some of the best adhesives that remain durable whether indoors or out. With the stronger adhesive tapes on this list, be advised that once they are affixed to a surface, they may be difficult to remove and leave behind a sticky residue.
Many of the featured options are made with a multifunctional adhesive for a variety of light projects. Other products contain double-thick glue and a reinforced backing for all weather conditions to handle the toughest of outdoor jobs. Additionally, several top picks come in a variety of colorways with ample tape per roll, and will remain affixed to different surface types.
The Advantages of Owning Duct Tape
Duct tape is so popular due to its high durability, tensile strength, adhesive strength, and water resistance. It can stretch tightly while being applied to form a strong seal and once in place resists shifting, sagging, cracking, and breaking.
The strong adhesive helps to bond the durable backing to almost any surface, including brick, stone, metal, wood, plastic, cardboard, and more. The highly weather-resistant, and sometimes waterproof, nature of duct tape makes it great for outdoor repairs.
- The durability and high tensile strength of duct tape resist cracking, stretching, and breaking.
- High adhesive strength helps to ensure that duct tape can stick to most surfaces without issue.
- Duct tape can be used for outdoor repairs due to the water-resistant backing and adhesive.
Read on to find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the best duct tapes and how to use them in maintenance and repair projects.
Q. What is the best brand of duct tape?
There are several leading brands of duct tape, including Gorilla tape, 3M, Duck, and T-Rex duct tape.
Q. Is duct tape waterproof?
Gorilla tape, 3M, and several other manufacturers make individual products that are waterproof, like Gorilla Weather Tape, but not all duct tape is waterproof.
Q. Is duct tape flammable?
Duct tape is resistant to fire, but high temperatures can melt the adhesive, drying out the tape and eventually leaving it susceptible to flame.
Q. Is duct tape recyclable?
Unfortunately, duct tape is not recyclable. After it is removed, it should be thrown in the garbage.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series, including This Old House and Bob Vila’s Home Again, he popularized and became synonymous with “do it yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.