Electrical tape comes in many colors, though it is seen most often as a narrow, black roll of tape with smooth rubber, vinyl, varnished cambric, or mastic backing. This backing can stretch out while you are wrapping the tape around your wiring and the elastic composition of the tape will provide a naturally secure fit. This type of tape is also made to withstand extreme temperatures and acts as an insulator for the electrical current traveling through the wires.
Keep a general-purpose roll of electrical tape for a variety of fixes in your home, and you can add a range of colors that are ideal for labeling your wiring. This helps you easily identify the wires you are working with and where they run through your home. Take a look at the products below to find some of the best electrical tape for your purposes.
- BEST OVERALL: Scotch(R) Super 33(TM) Vinyl Electrical Tape
- RUNNER-UP: Black Electrical Tape by LYLTECH
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: TradeGear Electrical Tape Assorted Matte Rainbow
- BEST FOR AUTOMOTIVE WORK: Tesa 51026 Highest Quality Heat Proof Engine Tape
- BEST HIGH-VOLTAGE: 3M 2228 Scotch Moisture Sealing Electrical Tape
- BEST WEATHERPROOF: Proxicast Pro-Grade Extra Strong Silicone Tape
- LONGEST LASTING: 3M 88-SUPER Electrical Tape
Types of Electrical Tape
Electrical tape comes in four different varieties, including rubber, vinyl, mastic, and varnished cambric.
Rubber electrical tape is usually nonadhesive, which means that to properly use it you will need to stretch the tape and tightly wrap it so that it can physically adhere to itself using the elastic tension of the backing. This type of tape typically is used for splicing and terminating wires or cables rated up to 69 kilovolts (KV). Rubber electrical tape also can add water resistance and insulation to electrical connections.
Vinyl electrical tape is the most common type of electrical tape for use in the home. It has an abrasion-resistant PVC backing that is long lasting and flexible, making it ideal for insulating the wires and electrical connections during electrical tapping. This type of tape also protects against moisture, though its primary purpose should be as an economical wire and electrical connection insulator. Vinyl electrical tape can also be used for repairing minor nicks and cuts in your wires, making it an ideal addition to your wire stripper, cable ripper, and other electrical tools.
Mastic is the portion of the tape that makes up the spongy center between the backing and the adhesive. You can find mastic electrical tape with a vinyl backing, a rubber backing, or without a backing, giving you plenty of options if you need versatility on your projects. Mastic electrical tape is used regularly by professional electricians because it adheres easily and can be manipulated to fit in tight spaces or around oddly shaped components. This type of electrical tape is able to insulate metals, rubbers, and synthetic cable jackets, while providing a complete moisture seal and even UV resistance, making it ideal for outdoor electrical connection sealing and repairs.
Varnished cambric electrical tape is made of straight-cut woven cotton fabric primed with oil and coated with an electrical insulating varnish. This is to ensure that it can insulate electrical currents without being damaged by the energy that passes through the wire. This type of electrical tape is ideal for covering bolts, corners, and other rough edges that might cut through a less durable electrical tape. Use it for insulating areas in your home or on your vehicle where mechanical protection and puncture resistance is necessary.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Electrical Tape
Before choosing an electrical tape for your home or workshop, take a few minutes to educate yourself on the most important shopping considerations to keep in mind.
Monomeric vs. Polymeric
Electrical tape can be split into monomeric and polymeric based on the material’s molecular makeup.
- Monomeric electrical tape is made with short-chain plasticizers that are economical and effective for light-duty, general-purpose jobs. These tapes tend to be of a lower grade than polymeric electrical tape, but they are also more affordable.
- Polymeric electrical tape is made with long-chain plasticizers that give it higher durability and the ability to provide tighter seals that are better at protecting against moisture and corrosion. This type of electrical tape is also a better option for high-voltage applications, typically having a voltage resistance of at least 600V.
When you are deciding on an electrical tape, you should consider how well the tape can stretch as well as its ability to maintain elasticity. If a tape stretches easily but does not return to form, then the seal will not benefit from an elastic force. Instead, you will be working with a loose wrap.
To properly insulate a wire with electrical tape, the tape must stretch while you are applying it so that when you release the tape it will want to return to its original shape. This force increases the grip of the tape and helps to prevent moisture and other contaminants from lifting it away from the wire.
Electrical tape, like any other tape, should be selected based on its adhesive strength and the effectiveness of the adhesive. On average, electric tape remains effective for up to 5 years before the adhesive begins to break down, though factors like extreme temperature changes, physical stress, and exposure to direct sunlight can reduce this length of effectiveness.
Look for an electrical tape that meets your project’s requirements for adhesive strength. Light wiring fixes and even moderate wiring insulation jobs don’t require tape with incredible adhesive strength, but if you are using your electrical tape for working on your car, you will want to ensure to invest in a heavy-duty adhesive.
Electrical tape is designed with many different resistances to help retain its durability and protect wiring, though some types of electrical tape are better suited to specific jobs than other types, depending on their resilience.
- Chemical and harsh fluid resistance isn’t a common resilience of rubber and mastic electrical tape, but vinyl tape can resist chemicals.
- Abrasion and puncture resistance is a main selling feature of the varnished cambric electrical tape, but this resistance is also present in much more common vinyl electrical tape. Unfortunately, rubber and mastic electrical tape are vulnerable to abrasions and punctures.
- Moisture and water resistance seems like it would be handled best by rubber, but mastic tape is actually the best. Both rubber and vinyl also resist moisture and water but to a lesser degree.
- Extreme vibration resistance is a regular feature for all electrical tape types with vinyl having the least vibration resistance and rubber having the highest.
- High-voltage performance may be sought for working on primary electrical components in your home. While all types of electrical tape normally have some voltage resistance, the best electrical tape for high-voltage applications is rubber.
- High-temperature performance is a typical feature of both vinyl and rubber tape, though rubber tape tends to perform better under extremely high temperatures.
- Airborne contaminant resistance is present in all electrical tape types, though vinyl is the least effective and mastic is the best type for reducing the risk of airborne contaminant buildup.
UL Listing and CSA Approval
A UL listing and the equivalent Canadian CSA approval are certifications that indicate an electrical tape product has passed specific quality and performance qualifications. The testing ensures that the electrical tape has adequate adhesion and resistance to thermal cycles, and verifies that the tape can create an airtight seal.
If an electrical tape product has the CSA/US designation, this means that the product was tested in Canada to meet the same quality and performance standards as laid out by the American National Standards Institute.
Ease of Use
Whether you are working on your car or trying to insulate a small-diameter wire, you want an electrical tape that is easy to use. Give primary consideration to whether the electrical tape can be torn with your hands or needs the use of a sharp cutting implement to effectively apply the tape.
Electrical tape is most often used for minor wire repairs or insulating wires. For this purpose, you need an electrical tape that is flexible and easy to maneuver so that you can stretch it and tightly wind it around a small wire. It can also be more difficult to use the tape if it twists or curls when you pull it from the roll. If this is a common problem for you, consider a mastic electrical tape that conforms easily to the surface you use it on.
Choosing a color for your electrical tape can be a completely subjective process based on whether you like the way the color looks or whether it is suitable for your project. However, color selections also can be used to label your household wiring so that if you need to do any electrical maintenance you will be able to find and trace your wires.
If you are using different colors to label your wiring, ensure that you are following the appropriate color code so that your electrician does not get confused by a random assortment of colors on the wiring. White and black electrical tape is best for general purpose repairs and other applications around your home.
Our Top Picks
With that shopping advice in mind, the recommendations below were pre-selected to help you find the best electrical tape for your projects.
Measuring a width of 3/4-inch and a total length of 52 feet, a roll of Scotch Super33 Electrical Tape is an excellent option for a variety of circumstances thanks to the versatility of the tape’s design. This tape can function effectively in temperatures ranging from 0 to 221 degrees Fahrenheit and it has been developed to conform to uneven and irregular surfaces so that you can seal up your electrical connections regardless of their shape.
This black vinyl electrical tape uses a pressure-sensitive rubber resin adhesive and is resistant to UV rays, moisture, acids, corrosion, winds, and rubbing or piercing abrasions. The tape is rated for use with a current up to 1,150V and can stretch to more than double its length to provide a tight seal on your wiring and electrical connections.
Use the waterproof and flame-retardant Black Electrical Tape by LYLTECH to patch wiring in the kitchen or bathroom without the risk of moisture leaching through the seal of the tape or sparks igniting a fire. This roll of tape is 3/4-inch wide and 66 feet long with a black backing suitable for many different applications. This can include smartphone cable repair or even HVAC work due to the tape’s UL/CSA certification.
The vinyl electrical tape is highly flexible, able to stretch to double a piece’s length to ensure a tight seal on your wires. It has a strong adhesive ideal for sticking to plastic, rubber, and metal, as well as an electrical current resistance up to 600V.
When you move into a new home, one of the first things you should do is properly label the wires that run from your electrical panel, this multicolored 10-pack of TradeGear Electrical Tape can help. If there is ever an electrical emergency or you just need to make repairs, color labeling will help you quickly and easily locate the wires you need. This inexpensive pack of electrical tape comes in 10 different colors so that you can properly label your wires according to the electrical code.
Each roll in this 10-pack measures 3/4-inch wide and 60 feet long, with a rubber-based adhesive that provides additional adhesion power. The vinyl electrical tape is UL Listed and rated for up to 600V of electrical current. It is also effective at up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit and resistant to UV rays, oil, moisture, acids, alkalies, fire, and impact or abrasion damage.
The Tesa 51026 Highest Quality Heat Proof Engine Tape is used by professional vehicle manufacturers and dealerships to seal and insulate the wires and electrical components in vehicles. The electrical tape is well-suited to this purpose with a super-high maximum effective temperature of 302 degrees Fahrenheit and high abrasion resistance that can handle the impact of being jostled around inside the engine of your vehicle.
This electrical tape can also be used underneath your vehicle to safely secure loose wire harnesses or cable assemblies due to its puncture-resistant backing. The tape measures 82 feet long and it has an acrylic adhesive designed to adhere best to the backside of the tape, so you can neatly wrap your wires and secure the tape to itself for a strong, lasting seal on your car.
The 3M 2228 Scotch Moisture Sealing Electrical Tape is 65 mils thick due to the mastic construction and UV-resistant rubber backing. The tape measures 10-feet long and 1-inch wide, allowing you to apply wide strips of mastic tape to your electrical cables and wire connections. You can safely use this electrical tape to insulate wires with a running current up to 1,000V, so the tape is a great option for quick wiring repairs, sealing electrical devices, and labeling your home’s main wires.
The thick build of this mastic electrical tape makes it naturally resistant to vibrations and allows it to quickly create a layer of padding to seal irregular connections. You can also use the tape in high-temperatures since it has an effective temperature maximum of 194 degrees Fahrenheit, and fire resistance to help protect against sparks, overheating, and melting.
Nonadhesive Proxicast Pro-Grade Extra Strong 30mil Weatherproof tape can stretch up to three times its length when it is being applied. To form a secure seal, it must reach around to the back of the tape. When it sticks to itself, the tape forms a permanent bond that can be used for outdoor roofing, cable, or electrical applications to provide a seal that resists dust and corrosion, as well as being completely waterproof.
This roll of electrical tape is 1.5-inches thick and 15-feet long with a self-fusing design that won’t leave a sticky adhesive on wiring or electrical connections. It can also be applied on rough, sharp, and uneven surfaces without needing to layer tape to form a proper seal, and is impervious to both cold and hot temperatures. This electrical tape has a black backing, but you also can choose white, red, blue, gray, green, yellow, or clear to better organize your wires.
If you need to secure the wiring in your home, choose an electrical tape like the 3M 88-SUPER Electrical Tape, which can last up to 5 years while providing protection against alkali substances, UV rays, moisture, piercing, and abrasions. The tape is designed with longevity and durability in mind, using a flame-retardant and cold-weather resistant adhesive that remains effective between 0 degrees to 221 degrees Fahrenheit.
The vinyl electrical tape has a strong mastic sealant that conforms easily to irregular and misshapen connections. The roll of tape is even UL-Listed so you know you can rely on it as a tested product. It measures 66 feet long by 3/4-inch wide and it’s rated for use with electrical currents up to 600V. This tape is also abrasion resistant and self-fusing, ensuring that your electrical connections remain sealed for years.
Tips for Using Electrical Tape
Electrical tape is designed to resist extreme temperatures and has an elastic backing that allows it to tightly adhere to a wire, wrapping it neatly while insulating the electrical current. When you are using electrical tape it’s necessary to stretch the tape to achieve the elastic recoil that tightly seals the wiring.
You can use electrical tape to patch minor nicks or cuts in wiring, or it can be used for providing insulation to the electrical current, though it isn’t the best option for working on your boat, the hot tub, or woodworking projects. Outside of the workshop, you can use electrical tape for labeling or arts and crafts. However, the electrical tape shouldn’t be used to reattach or repair wiring that has significant damage. To avoid the risk of electrical fires, you should completely replace damaged wiring.
- When you use electrical tape, ensure that you stretch the elastic backing to tightly wrap around the wire.
- Electrical tape can be used to patch minor nicks in your wiring, provide a source of insulation, and for arts and crafts projects, but it’s not great for marine or woodworking applications.
- While electrical tape is designed for use on wiring, it should not be used to repair significant electrical damage.
FAQs About Your New Electrical Tape
Before investing in new electrical tape, take a look at these frequently asked questions and their answers below.
Q. How does electrical tape work?
Electrical tape is made with an adhesive and a stretchy, elastic backing resistant to temperature extremes, allowing it to tightly wrap around wiring without being affected by the electrical current. Other tapes, like duct tape, might have fiber backing that cannot stretch and even dries up with extended exposure to electricity, presenting a fire risk.
Q. Can you cover exposed wire with electrical tape?
Yes, you can use electrical tape on exposed wires, though if the damage is extensive, you should replace the wiring or at least trim the exposed wire to a manageable degree so that you can work safely with it.
Q. Can electrical tape be used for non-electrical applications?
Electrical tape is frequently used for non-electrical applications such as labeling or creative projects because it is easy to write on and can be applied and removed from objects easily.
Q. How do you remove electrical tape residue?
You can remove electrical tape residue using a couple of dry rags, water, and a household lubricating spray that won’t damage the surface, like window cleaner.
- Spray the area with lubricating spray, allowing it to soak the adhesive. Use a rag soaked in lubricating spray to properly address residue on wires.
- After the residue has soaked in the lubricant for about 5 minutes, use your rag to firmly wipe down the area, lifting the adhesive.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you are satisfied that the adhesive has been removed.
- Using water and a rag, rinse the lubricant off the area and wipe it away, leaving a clean, dry surface.
Q. Does electrical tape shrink when heated?
No, electrical tape doesn’t typically shrink when heated and the tape should withstand temperatures higher than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you can get a specially designed heat shrink tape that shrinks to a third of its size when heat is applied. Either option makes a great addition to your electrical tool kit for working on wiring and electrical projects.
Q. Can electrical tape catch fire?
Electrical tape can catch fire, though the temperature must typically exceed at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit.