Duct tape is a cloth-backed adhesive tape that is more easily ripped than cut. The three layers that make up the tape are polyethylene, fabric mesh, and adhesive. The most common width is 1.88 inches (~48 mm), but depending on application, it is available in widths from 0.7 inches to 2.83 inches (~18 mm to ~7.2 cm). Originally called duck tape because it was green and waterproof, shedding liquid like the proverbial duck’s back, it became known as duct tape and colored silver because of its applicability in heating and air conditioning duct work. There are four basic grades, known as utility, all-purpose, professional, and industrial, but there are also specialty tapes that don’t fit within this grading scheme.
Today, still marketed as Duck® tape by one company of the same name, this tape is an entire line of adhesive products, not just a single type. Specialized forms are available for exterior use and professional repair work, with attention to heavy-duty thickness and moisture resistance. Industrial duct tape is a separate category, featuring thicker, heavier tape suited for specialized manufacturing purposes. There is also a special fire safety tape that is rated for flame spread.
The varieties of duct tape have multiplied through the years, and both transparent and double-sided options are available. In addition, colored tape is available in many different hues, similar to the 8-pack box of crayons used by youngsters, and it has been specially designed both for general use, being less obvious in repair work, and craft applications. Shoppers can also find it in camouflage, fluorescent colors, and in flattened rolls without the core for compact storage.
In addition to home repair and improvement, construction, and industrial applications, duct tape has been used for to make clothing, including period clothing like armor; Halloween costumes; prom wear; and wedding gowns and tuxes. Accessories such as purses, hats, wallets, corsages, and jewelry are popular, but there are also adventurous folks who make furniture and footwear from tape. In fact, it is an adhesive of such wide and varied use that some people include it in “three things I’d take to a desert island.” Not only was it used on Apollo space flights, but it is now required cargo on space shuttle missions. A wide variety of medical applications, from wart removal to reinforcing casts and beyond, have also been recorded.