You’ve probably heard from multiple people anything can be fixed with duct tape.
This versatile adhesive product can be used to hold things together, patch holes, and handle any situation where you need something to stick.
Before using it around the house though, you may be wondering if it is flammable and can catch fire.
While duct tape isn’t considered flammable, it does have flammable components that will melt or ignite. The mesh in the middle can catch fire but the polyethylene coating and rubber adhesive around it won’t.
Using duct tape for your various projects is generally safe but it is important to understand the limits it can handle. Even if it doesn’t necessarily burn, it can melt and lose its effectiveness.
Can Duct Tape Catch Fire?
If you’re worried about your duct tape catching fire or exploding then you can rest easy as it’ll most likely melt away before doing that.
Of course, no duct tape is built the same and there may be some varieties that can cause a fire.
If you’re worried about it being a potential fire hazard on whatever you’re sticking it to then look for some varieties that are fireproof, or go with an entirely different tape altogether.
Likelihood of Duct Tape Burning or Melting
The tape itself will lose its adhesive qualities before catching flame, often falling off before getting hot enough to ignite.
It is recommended for use in temperatures ranging between 20 °F and 200 °F (-6 °C and 93 °C).
This means that the tape will effectively melt in extreme heat situations such as a fire.
Otherwise, it should not show any signs of degradation unless it is below the operating temperature or frequently wet.
What Is Duct Tape Made Of and How Does it Work?
With its intricate layers of mesh and rubber, duct tape is as strong as you need it to be and easy to handle.
While the formula may not be complex, it is the synergy between the components that gives it the strong bond that it’s famous for.
Cotton – The main component of duct tape is the cotton mesh netting that is at the heart of the product.
The design of the fabric lets it be torn in any direction while adding the strength needed to make it difficult to break down.
Polyethylene – The coating over the mesh is polyethylene which protects the cotton from moisture, fraying, and heat damage.
Polyethylene can be applied so thinly that it still allows the mesh underneath to move around.
The properties in the plastic coating are not flammable and stop the cotton mesh from burning.
Adhesive – The adhesive part of duct tape is different from conventional tape in that it uses a rubber compound to form a strong bonding agent.
It can resist hot and cold temperatures while maintaining a strong grip. The rubber is also not flammable which adds a further layer of fire protection for the cotton mesh.
What are the Specific Industry Standards for Duct Tape?
Duct tape needs to be able to adhere to anything as long as the temperature stays below 200°F. Anything beyond that and the quality of the tape will be compromised, and in worst cases, melting.
Try not to use generic duct tape as a seal for your heating ducts. There is a special tape designed for that as it can withstand the high heat of a furnace fan blowing heat for the home. The tape will fail and there is a possibility of it melting and causing a mess.
Why Was Duct Tape Invented?
Generic duct tape was a product of the military for accessing ammo caches while in the field.
The old method of using wax and paper to seal an ammo crate was unreliable and sometimes would fail.
Duct tape was effectively a cloth adhesive that is waterproof and tough. Cotton has been used for a long time as a material that can be sealed against water.
After the war, it was rebranded and launched as a product with a wide variety of uses throughout the home and beyond.
Can I Use Duct Tape Instead of Electrical Tape?
Multiple types of tape could fall under the umbrella of duct tape. Remember that not all duct tape is great for every job.
The generic stuff will be good for most applications but for a little more power you may want to look into it.
Electrical tape is used to bundle wires and to wrap freshly stripped ones. It has excellent insulating properties that prevent arcing or shocks. It also stretches and can stick to itself which is great for wiring.
Duct tape will eventually heat up and melt, potentially causing it to catch fire. For this reason, it’s not recommended that you replace the electrical tape with duct tape.
Friction tape has the same adhesive properties as duct tape; However, the smooth side is replaced with a textured material.
This is effective for repairing tools as normal duct tape can get slippery and fall from your grasp.
It also has a use in bathtubs as you can cut little strips and space them around the bottom of the tub so that you don’t slip while using the shower. As the friction tape peels away you can replace it with new stuff.
Think of these as higher-end duct taps that utilize top-grade fabric and polyethylene coatings.
Professional grade is generally considered better quality than industrial grade. Use these types of tape when you need the removal to be clean.
The higher the quality tape the more likely it won’t leave pieces of it behind when you pull it up.
True Duct Tape
Yes, there is a separate duct tape category where it’s true to its name. There is duct tape that is made for sealing up ductwork.
It is designed to be a permanent solution that can withstand various air pressures and temperatures.
True duct tape is essential for building codes all across the world thanks to its flame-retardant ability.
Duct tape is safe to use in many applications and you shouldn’t have to worry about it bursting into flames.
Using common sense and understanding the limitations of the product will help you apply it safely.
As for using it in survival situations, well, it’s always handy to have duct tape rolled around a handle or two on your tools.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the variations of duct tape found on the market. Most of them will have it clearly labeled on them as to whether or not they are toxic or flammable.
Yes, It can withstand high heat but will burn in the presence of a direct flame.
Yes, under high heat gaffer tape will burn as its core is still heavy cotton.
Purely plastic tapes such as scotch and packing tape aren’t flammable whereas cotton-based ones are.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.