Duct Tape Differences

Most of us probably don’t want to admit just how often we reach for the roll of duct tape. We use it for everything from making quick labels to emergency repairs.

But what we learned cruising is that there’s duct tape, and then there’s duct tape. Great stuff, good stuff and really awful stuff.

The really awful stuff is thin, stretchy plastic that tears just coming of the roll and won’t tear straight across where you want it to (it’ll tear maybe a half inch across, then start tearing lengthwise) and doesn’t stay stuck to anything for long. We’ve thrown almost full rolls of awful stuff away — it caused more problems than it solved.

Typical signs of the bad stuff . . . or what we learned to watch out for:

  • Cheap duct tape is usually bad, but just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it will be good (we found this to be especially true in less developed countries).
  • The awful stuff is almost always not a name brand, although we ran into counterfeit “name brands” a few times.
  • Rolls of bad duct tape are lightweight for their size (more like what you’d expect from a similar-size roll of masking tape).
  • The cut end can be hard to find as the tape is thin.

There's duct tape and then there's duct tape. Tips for finding the good stuff and avoiding the awful.The good stuff tears well, doesn’t stretch and sticks well IF the surface is smooth:

  • Rolls seem heavy for their size.
  • It’s easy to find the cut end of the roll as the tape is thicker.
  • It’s rare to find good duct tape being sold cheaply.
  • 3M/Scotch and Duck Tape brands are good duct tapes (unless you get a counterfeit roll; more likely in developing countries). There are probably other good brands; those are the ones we’re familiar with.
  • Just because a roll calls itself “heavy duty” or “professional” doesn’t mean that it’s good.
  • “Duct tape” that’s marketed for crafts tends not to be all that great. The colored/patterned duct tape made by 3M and Duck brands is an exception to this (and usually isn’t sold in the craft areas).

There's duct tape and then there's duct tape. Tips for finding the good stuff and avoiding the awful.And then we come to the really great duct tape: Gorilla Tape. We first learned about Gorilla Tape when we were cruising in Mexico and a friend gave us a roll when we were back in the US for a quick trip (you know it’s a good friend who “gets” your lifestyle when they give you duct tape as a present and it’s one of your favorite presents ever!).

Gorilla Tape is not cheap, tending to cost about $15 for a 35-yard roll (in contrast to the “good” stuff that tends to cost a little over $10 for a 50-yard roll). We tend to save it for the repair jobs!

Why is it so good? It has three layers (as opposed to two for the good stuff):

  • A weather-resistant outer layer that gives it much better performance in direct sunlight (that is, it will still degrade over time but much more slowly);
  • A tough fabric layer that makes it stronger (the company says 145% stronger than the “good” stuff) while still letting you tear pieces off; and
  • An adhesive layer that’s twice as thick as on the “good” stuff so it sticks much better to rough and uneven surfaces.

The adhesive is a different formula from most tapes in that freezing doesn’t affect it.

Because Gorilla Tape is almost twice as expensive as just “good” duct tape, we usually have both on hand as shown in the photo at the top of this article. Then we choose which to use based on what we’re doing. Labels and a temporary “extra hand” usually get the good tape, while McGyver repairs get the Gorilla Tape. I also use the Gorilla Tape for projects such as making a gel ice pack where I really don’t want the tape to fail in the freezer.

Most home improvement stores and big box stores with a hardware department will sell cheap duct tape as well as the good stuff and Gorilla Tape. Don’t be tempted by the cheap thin stuff — I’ve wasted way too much money on rolls that ended up in the trash.

If you just want to get it online, here are links:

A final tip for tearing duct tape — don’t twist! Just pull your hands apart.

There's duct tape and then there's duct tape. Tips for finding the good stuff and avoiding the awful.

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  • Norm Pettett
    Posted at 01 September 2014 Reply

    You did it perfect! The cheap brands that you really don’t know what your getting till it’s open and Gorilla. I have 6 different rolls of silver of varying degrees and Gorilla on the big truck. It all depends on the weather and how important the project is which gets used. One thing I didn’t see on the article, I keep all my rolls tied together on a rope, the roll I want always is the lost one. Now none get lost or they are all lost.

  • Taunya
    Posted at 01 September 2014 Reply

    We use black gaffers tape instead of duct tape. Duct tape doesn’t weather well and often leaves a sticky residue.

  • Diane Cook
    Posted at 01 September 2014 Reply

    I just bought some at the 99 cent store…Never again! It’s going in the trash! :/

  • Jim
    Posted at 01 September 2014 Reply

    Exactly. Found Gorilla tape a few years ago, and have not bought anything else, since!

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 02 September 2014 Reply

    Good stuff is part of my emergency kit.

  • Barbara Lowell
    Posted at 07 May 2015 Reply

    I bought cheap stuff because I have had duct tape meld together in the FL heat and become unusable so I figured I would buy cheap and use 3X as much and then buy a new roll when this one gets deteriorated. Does Gorilla or the others deteriorate with time and heat? I don’t have a lot of uses for it but its imperative to have some on hand for who knows what. I have once read that all you need in life is duct tape and WD40. 😀

    • Stef from downunder
      Posted at 19 January 2017 Reply

      I have just signed up to the newsletter as i was looking for tips to remove gooey duct tape glue from my soft top on my car…. it does not like the heat from our New Zealand sunshine. Saw you question…. but no answers on a good tape which will withstand the heat.
      Can anybody illuminate please?

  • Peter Robertson
    Posted at 08 May 2015 Reply

    Agree….I once bought a 6 pack of the cheap stuff on impulse. …. tossed it all

  • Kevin Schruben
    Posted at 09 May 2015 Reply

    Its Gorilla tape or nothing for me, same with their glue

  • Chris Oregon
    Posted at 28 May 2015 Reply

    In Alaska we called it 100 mph tape as small plane wings have been patched over with duct tape allowing planes to fly back to civilization. Should I mention Red Green???

  • Annette
    Posted at 25 September 2015 Reply

    Well you made my mind up about whether to buy duct tape or gorilla tape.
    I’ve just bought gorilla tape.
    My project? To restick together strong polythene for my little greenhouse out the back. I remade the cover in late winter this year as original one disintegrated, and a front cover for this little greenhouse and used duct tape from Aldi. It has peeled off and the whole thing blew off in strong winds. Temporarily used strong clamps to keep the cover on.
    I’m in the UK by the way, so couldn’t use your links to raise funds for you, sorry.
    Here’s hoping all my hard work won’t be wasted this time, it took hours to make the new cover.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 September 2015 Reply

      No guarantees, but it’s worked well for us on a number of projects. Let me know how it goes!

      • Annette
        Posted at 26 September 2015 Reply

        That’s good, I will let you know how I get on, thanks

  • Douglas Grant
    Posted at 10 August 2017 Reply

    The best duct tape I have found comes from Japan. We have a friend in Tokyo who sends us a roll or two every year. It does not dry out, it stays sticky and pliable for long periods of time and does not leave a lot of residue behind once removed. I had a piece on a heating duct for over a year and when I removed it, it was still in basically new condition. Our favorite so far is the tan colored duct tape.

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