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Duct Tape vs Electrical Tape: What’s the Difference?

Duct Tape vs Electrical Tape

Duct Tape vs Electrical Tape

Duct tape and electrical tape are both found in many households. They are inexpensive and versatile enough to use for many jobs, but they are also very different, and it’s easy to get confused about the best time to use each one. We will take a look at each one to find out more about them and see when we should and shouldn’t use them. Keep reading while we look at materials, adhesive, size, durability, and more to help keep you informed.divider 4

Overview of Duct Tape:

Credit: kerttu, Pixabay

What Is It?

Duct tape has a cloth or scrim backing coated with polyethylene and an extremely sticky rubber-based adhesive. It was originally used for sealing heating and cooling ducts, hence the name and grey color, because of its firm hold, durability, and resistance to hot and cold temperatures. Professionals now use foil tape for sealing heating and cooling ducts but duct tape remains more popular than ever.

Many people confuse duct tape with duck tape, which is either a brand of duct tape or is referring to an old tape that used duck cloth in its construction. It’s also confused with gaffer tape, another cloth-based tape commonly used in theater for its ability to be removed without leaving residue.

What It’s Good for

Duct tape had a wide range of uses and is one of the best all-purpose tapes you can buy since it sticks to nearly anything. It’s durable and strong enough to use for any task you’d attempt to solve with tape. It will also hold pottery together, repair torn book bindings, hold fabric together, create a washable waterproof surface, and lots more. Creative people even make jackets and wallets out of duct tape.

The downside to duct tape is that the adhesive is left behind when you remove the tape, leading to quite a mess. This residue makes it unsuitable for many uses where it would interfere or ruin what’s underneath. You should not use duct tape on your body because it will pull out your hair and could tear your skin.


  • Many uses
  • Strong and durable
  • Waterproof
  • Suitable for high and low temperatures
  • Leaves residue
  • Not suitable for skin

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Overview of Electrical Tape:

Credit: papazachariasa, Pixabay

What Is It?

Electrical tape has a nylon backing that stretches and prevents the transmission of electric current. It’s often called insulating tape since its primary purpose is for insulating electrical wires. The most common color is black, and the other colors indicate voltage level and wire phase for complex electrical systems. It’s black because that’s the color most resistant to ultraviolet light.

What It’s Good For

You usually use electrical tape to cover electrical connections and solder joints. The vinyl backing doesn’t conduct electricity, so you won’t get shocked when handling components wrapped with it. Electrical tape will stick to many surfaces, and you can use it in many places you would use any other tape.

Electrical tape is quite thin, so it won’t make a good packing tape, and the thick nylon doesn’t degrade, so it’s not very environmentally friendly. It also leaves adhesive behind when you remove it.


  • Sticks to most surfaces
  • Prevents electrical shock
  • Waterproof
  • UV resistant
  • Color-coded
  • Not environmentally friendly
  • Leaves residue behind

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Quality Comparisons:

Credit: Free-Photos, Pixabay


Both duct tape and electrical tape have a strong adhesive that will stick to almost every surface. However, duct tape adhesive is much stronger, made of rubber, and can pull out hair or tear the skin. Electrical tape adhesive is also rubber-based, but it’s not as thick.


Electrical tape is much more elastic than duct tape. Its elasticity allows for pulling it tightly against the connections so the tape can form to the surface, which creates a tight bond and prevents air from reaching it. Electrical tape is not good for holding things together and will stretch. Duct tape is the preferred choice when you need to hold items together. It will not stretch and is durable enough to keep them together for a long time.


The electrical tape uses extremely durable nylon that can last many years. In addition, wires and other electrical components that you will use this tape on are often hidden away, so there is less risk of damage. The black color is resistant to ultraviolet light, so you can use it in exterior locations, like electrical boxes and antennae.

Duct tape is also extremely durable, and its cloth or scrim backing will prevent it from stretching or tearing. It’s not as resistant to ultraviolet light as electrical tape, but it can survive higher temperatures, and you can use it underwater.

When to Use Duct Tape

  • Sealing air ducts
  • Packing
  • Underwater
  • High temperatures
  • When you need a long-lasting bond
When to Use Electrical Tape
  • Sealing exposed wires
  • Tidying loose wires
  • Decoration
  • Labeling
  • To mark electrical lines

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If you could only get one kind of tape, we highly recommend duct tape. It’s more useful, can be cut to any size, and it sticks to almost anything. You can find modern duct tape in a wide range of colors and decorative patterns so you can make it look attractive. Electrical tape is also inexpensive and available in many colors, but the adhesive doesn’t last as long. It doesn’t stick to some surfaces as well as duct tape, especially ones that are dirty or corroded, and it’s much less effective in cold weather. Both have countless uses around the home, so keep a roll of each on-hand if you have the budget.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this comparison and have learned a little more about both types. If we have helped answer your questions so you can pick what kind you need, please share this shootout between duct tape and electrical tape on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay, Commons Wikimedia

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