Best Plumbing Repair Tape: “Rescue Tape”

Living aboard Que Tal, Dave and I used what I called “plumber’s tape” on more than one occasion to stop a leak that seemed impossible to stop otherwise.  The tape I’m talking about is silicone (see photo), not the narrower white Teflon “thread-locking” tape that is often also called “plumber’s tape.”

When we moved aboard Que Tal, a handyman friend gave us a roll of plumber’s tape, which we threw in the tool box and sort of forgot about.  Then, when we replaced Que Tal‘s galley sink and faucet, we discovered that we had a couple of persistent drips that we just couldn’t stop.  Probably the result of our Rube Goldberg style of connecting a faucet designed for a home to hoses on a boat, Dave drove himself nuts tightening connections.  About to give up, he spotted the roll of tape and figured he’d give it a try.  Voilà!  Problem solved in just a couple of minutes.

A quick description:  This type of tape is silicone and sticks to itself — well, actually, it fuses to itself — when wrapped around an object.  The tighter you pull it, the better the seal.  No, you can’t just put it on a flat surface to mend something, but it’s great on hoses and plumbing — see more uses below.

We later used plumber’s tape for a number of other projects, and since we couldn’t buy it in Mexico, always brought a few rolls back to the boat when we went to the US.  We even went so far as to ask visitors to bring us some.

For some time now, my list of article ideas has included “plumber’s tape” — while not strictly a galley product, the fact that we did use it in the galley seemed like a good reason to include it here.

I’m glad I didn’t write that article before I went to the Annapolis Sailboat Show.  There, we found a highly improved version of “plumber’s tape” sold under the brand name Rescue Tape.

The plumber’s tape that we had used was only good to about 100 PSI of pressure, and 212° F.  The brand we used most often was called “Magic Wrap tape” (I think) but there are lots of brands with similar performance characteristics.  These are good for household plumbing and a few other low-stress applications, but not a lot of other projects that might arise on a boat.

Rescue Tape costs slightly more BUT it’s good to 950 PSI, will insulate up to 8000 volts of electricity, is heat resistant to 500° F. and will remain flexible to -85° F.  It’s resistant to fuel (gas and diesel), oils, acids, salt water and UV.  That means you can use it even on the high pressure side of a watermaker and on diesel engine hoses and fuel lines that are in areas that need to be able to withstand the heat of an engine even if it overheats.  You can also use it to seal a punctured refrigeration line.

And unlike most other tapes or repair materials, the surface doesn’t have to be totally clean or dry.  You can use it on wet, oily, gasoline- or diesel-covered, dirty surfaces.

As Dave and I stood there, stunned, we thought of all the times we would have used Rescue Tape to make an essentially permanent repair.  Times when we spent a lot of time making a repair . . . or waiting for a part because we couldn’t repair it.  And it would be better for certain other projects than what we had used.  In just a few minutes as we stopped for a cold drink, we came up with this list of things we would or could have used Rescue Tape for:

  • Got a leaky hose or pipe? Fuel line or heat exchanger split? How about a high pressure, hot or cold application? Need to waterproof an electrical connection? Repair a refrigeration tube? Mark anchor chain or rode?a couple of watermaker leaks that took forever — and a few new connectors — to cure;
  • a split in our oil cooler that took 2 days to repair using JB Weld, some patch material and hose clamps;
  • a split diesel copper fuel line that could have been repaired in 15 minutes instead of a full day;
  • a cracked dinghy gas line (we did use the plumber’s tape that we had on this);
  • a crack in the diesel heat exchanger (the outside shell, not an interior tube);
  • virtually any other hose — water, sewage, drain, fuel, exhaust, etc.;
  • a split snorkel (don’t leave one in the cockpit where someone else can step on it!);
  • a punctured refrigeration tube (would still need to evacuate the system and recharge it, but wouldn’t have to buy and install a new tube);
  • rigging tape;
  • line whipping (be sure to pull it very tight);
  • anchor chain/rode marking (the sales rep from Rescue Tape swears that it will go through a windlass without being chewed off);
  • marking halyards for reef points;
  • bundling wires;
  • shrink-wrapping wire connections (it’d be wonderful not to have to use the butane torch and still make the connection watertight); and
  • make galley utensils and other tool handles heat resistant and electrically insulated . . . as well as non-slip!

I’m sure there are other uses as well . . .

Most people who don’t think Rescue Tape (or any other brand of silicone tape) works well are not applying it correctly.  Two things:  you have to pull hard on it and really stretch it (make it very tight, particularly with high pressure applications) and you can’t be chintzy.

You wrap it around an item, and overlap it by 50%, pulling tight — stretching it to at least double the length — and going 3 to 5 inches on both sides of the leak (not necessary for things like rigging, chain marking, line whipping and so on where there’s no leak).  That means for a 1″ split in a hose, the total repair is going to be 7 to 11 inches long!  The tighter it’s wrapped, the faster and stronger it will fuse.  For high pressure leaks, you may need to put a second layer on.  But the result will be water-, fuel- and air-tight.  Consider it permanent, too — if you need to remove it, you’ll have to cut it off.

Unlike electrical tape, it won’t get gummy, and it won’t dry out like duct tape can — even in the sun.  And while it can last almost forever in the corner of the tool box, I’ll bet that it won’t!

As I began to write this article, I discovered that there are a few other brands of what is now referred to as “repair tape” with similar specs.  Most don’t have the same specs, though — so be sure to check carefully if you buy a different brand.  However, since Rescue Tape made the effort to show their product to boaters at the Annapolis show, I’ll recommend their brand.

You can buy Rescue Tape in all sorts of colors (and clear) directly from the company on Amazon:

  • Rescue Tape on Amazon (I linked to this page so you can pick the color(s) you prefer . . . but beware, there are a few “lesser quality” tapes on this page.)

It’s also available at various brick-and-mortar stores, including most Pilot travel centers and some other truck stops.  This is one of those things to get before you need it — while I hope you’ll never be desperate for it, just remember Captain Ron’s words of wisdom: “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen out there.”

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  • Sue Waudby on Facebook
    Posted at 26 February 2012 Reply

    We love it and use it to help seal the mast.

  • Debra Perfitt on Facebook
    Posted at 26 February 2012 Reply

    I agree

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 27 February 2012 Reply

    Another thing that works really well to seal the mast is a wax toilet ring — see Jan’s article about it

  • Leslie LaBute
    Posted at 21 June 2012 Reply

    My husband loves this stuff. Give it 2 thumbs up. He fixed a leak in our diesel engine. Makes us very happy. No smell.

  • Chris Link on Facebook
    Posted at 09 August 2012 Reply

    Love Rescue Tape,reaired a leaking fuel hose when we were far from anchorage,held for days of motoring.

  • Leslie LaBute on Facebook
    Posted at 09 August 2012 Reply

    Likewise we repaired a coolant hose for our engine until we could get to a fuel dock to replace it. Held up for 24 hours of motoring.

  • Kelly Lerigny on Facebook
    Posted at 09 August 2012 Reply

    Couldn’t live without it on our boat!

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 09 August 2012 Reply

    It is great stuff…we have both sizes…our only problem is that you have to have space to pull and keep it tight and avoid having it stick to itself before you are ready. We had a hard time getting it on when we had a wet exhaust leak…but that was just because of the ‘no space’ to work in issue.

    I would never leave the dock w/o some.

  • Irene Loycano on Facebook
    Posted at 07 April 2013 Reply

    Love the stuff – has not disappointed me yet!

  • Candy Ann Williams on Facebook
    Posted at 07 April 2013 Reply

    I agree this is great stuff! (But can be hard to use in very tight spots.)

  • Rusty Barnett
    Posted at 05 December 2013 Reply

    I use it as a coax connector seal as well, and it’s easy to remove later if needed.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 05 December 2013 Reply

      It’s one of those things that you just keep finding more and more uses for 🙂

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 05 December 2013 Reply

    Its truly an amazing product! We always keep it on board

  • Chris Link
    Posted at 06 December 2013 Reply

    We had a leaking diesel hose happen in a desolate area of the ICW.Rescue tape held until a replacement came days later.

  • Chris VanOsdol
    Posted at 06 December 2013 Reply

    GREAT STUFF! We have similar stuff in the aviation field, but of course being aviation approved it is way over priced.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 06 December 2013 Reply

      You mean there’s a higher price category than ‘marine?’

      • Becky
        Posted at 30 January 2016 Reply

        hahahaha, Carol!

  • Kim
    Posted at 28 December 2013 Reply

    Used it on my gas line in my car ……. excellent !! It is fuel injected so it would have had to go in the shop & I NEED my car NOW. Everything else I tried turned to goo but this did not. I am VERY pleased. Got mine at the hardware store, automotive shop said they never heard of it and there was no tape that could stop a gas line leak, they were WRONG. I guess they would loose money on parts. So glad I saw your ad. Thank YOU !!

  • Norm Pettett
    Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

    Your info gets better and better! Time for book#2 “everything outside the galley”

  • Paul McEvoy
    Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

    I’ve tried it and confess I don’t really like it that much. I’m not sure if I’m using it wrong but I can’t say it’s particularly amazing.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

      The tighter you pull it, the better the fix. And it needs multiple wraps. We’ve found that a single roll doesn’t always do it, depending on the size of the leak, diameter of hose/pipe/whatever and the pressure.

    • Paul McEvoy
      Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

      I find that it tends to collect dust unless you keep it wrapped all the time and it becomes useless. It’s impossible to make the last wrap tight enough to stick, so the end tends to come loose. I don’t know. I don’t get it.

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

        After you make that last wrap, hold your hand around it for maybe 15 seconds while it fuses to itself. The warmth from your hand seems to help it get a good “fuse.”

    • Paul McEvoy
      Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

      Now that west system don’t sink putty, that is some amazing stuff. Don’t ask me how I know. But I can vouch for it. It’s really amazing in a pinch.

  • Samm Souvigny
    Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

    Ryan Hof

  • Dawn Hendriex
    Posted at 18 November 2014 Reply

    Lucky Read

  • Frank Collins
    Posted at 20 March 2015 Reply

    Your helpful hints are so great, especially for us newbees. I also keep a couple tubes of JB WELD Water Weld putty epoxy in my tool kit. It’s a tube of putty just mix by kneading the thick putty and stick where the leak is. It even works underwater. Carolyn your the best and have a file just for your emails. It’s one of the best boating information around. Thanks so much

  • Dennis Burgard
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    Great stuff. Always have it onboard. Never had to use it. I have used it for an interim repair on my pressure washer. Worked well enough to finish the job.

  • Shawna Smith
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    Love that stuff. Used it to wrap the leaky squeezeball on the outboard motor once, kept us drip-free for the 30 miles to land and a new squeezeball.

  • Marvin Gauthier
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    got mone @ the boat ahow in Toronto

  • Thomas Keenan
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    Have two ROLLS on standby for emergencies as you mention above… Yeppers… Crazy practical stuff….

  • Becky
    Posted at 30 January 2016 Reply

    Why didn’t I learn about this 42 boating years ago!!!

  • Pacific NW Boater
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    We’ve used it in quite a few places around the boat. Here’s a short video of a temporary repair we did:

  • Diana K Weigel
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    Bought this on a prior recommendation from you. This stuff is a real lifesaver! We had a valve crack and leak Rescue tape stopped the leak.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

      Glad to hear it! Well, not that the valve cracked, but that it fixed it.

  • John Oliver
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    So funny, we just bought a few rolls at Seattle Boat Show today. Awesome stuff, no adhesive as it heals to itself. Silicon based and very stable.

  • Lesley Feeney
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    Michael Feeney

  • Mark Hancheroff
    Posted at 31 January 2016 Reply

    This stuff rocks. I carry several rolls.

  • Brian Heiney
    Posted at 01 February 2016 Reply

    Captn P McBlinky, saw this at the Ship Shop when we were in the other day. Might grab some next time.

  • Captn P McBlinky
    Posted at 01 February 2016 Reply

    I think it would be good for wrapping the sharp bits on my stays…

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