House Grail is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

What Is Adhesive Tape? Types, Best Uses & FAQ

man holding adhesive duct tape

Adhesive tape is an official term for a very common item. Adhesive tape is any strip with a sticky back that can be used for a variety of different purposes. People use or see adhesive tape every day, but few people know how it works or how truly widespread this simple material truly is. What exactly is adhesive tape? What is it used for? How does adhesive tape work? These are simple questions with some interesting answers.

Here is everything you need to know about adhesive tape.

divider 4

How Does It Work?

Adhesive tape is a strip of flexible material with an adhesive on one side. Adhesive tape can be rolled out and pressed onto a surface to create a bond. The sticky side of the tape is created using some really interesting science. One thing about tape that is unique is that the bond between the adhesive and the surface is a physical bond rather than a chemical bond.

The adhesive in adhesive tape uses special polymers to create quick physical bonds. These polymers are made up of things like rubber, silicone, and acrylic. The polymers in tape are special pressure-sensitive adhesives called PSAs. These PSAs activate when they are pressed, and the polymers are spread out across the surface. The polymers then bond to the molecules in the surface and create that sticky feeling that is so useful.

Different types of tape use different adhesives to do different jobs. You can change the polymers in the adhesive to create different bonds. Some adhesives are stronger than others. Some adhesives hold up better in different conditions than others. All adhesive tape uses a special blend of PSA polymers to create a bond between itself and another surface.

duct tape
Image Credit: stux, Pixabay

What Are the Different Types of Adhesive Tape?

Common Adhesive Tapes

Adhesive tapes are extremely common, and they can be found in a wide variety of places on any given day. Most people are familiar with common adhesive tapes. The most common types of adhesive tape include scotch tape, packing tape, and duct tape. Scotch tape is used to repair tears in paper or hang a piece of paper on the wall. Packing tape is used to wrap up boxes for shipping. Duct tape is used for all sorts of things. Duct tape was originally designed to seal air ducts, hence the name, but it has migrated from an industrial tape to a common tape due to its widespread and varied use. Common adhesive tapes can be used in a wide variety of different ways by regular people on a daily basis.

Industrial Tapes

Industrial tape is any type of tape used to do an industrial job or construction job. Industrial tape includes things like painter’s tape, electrical tape, filament tape, and aluminum tape. These types of adhesive tape have very specific jobs and help a professional fix or finish something. Painter’s tape, for example, is used to help keep paint off of nearby objects and create straight clean lines. Electrical tape wraps up wires and is designed to dampen electricity and won’t burn.

Medical Tapes

There are various types of medical tape that are used to help people heal and help doctors do their jobs. Medical tape includes things like elastic therapeutic tape (also known as K-tape), which is used to treat sports injuries. There is surgical tape that is used to help surgeons close up wounds. There are even wound closure strips, also known as Band-Aids, which are a type of adhesive tape. Autoclave tape can also be considered medical tape because it can be used to help shore up autoclave machines which are integral in sterilizing medical instruments.

man removing adhesive tape
Image Credit: Serenethos, Shutterstock

Where Is It Used?

Adhesive tape is used virtually everywhere. There are very few places where you cannot find adhesive tape if you look hard enough. Adhesive tape is used at home, in hospitals, in standard offices, in shipping centers, on construction sites, and in plumbing and electrical work. Here is a non-exhaustive list of where you can find adhesive tape on a regular basis.

  • Classrooms
  • Libraries
  • Offices
  • Warehouses
  • Post Offices
  • Hospitals
  • Sports fields
  • Mechanic shops
  • Construction sites
  • Scientific labs

Advantages of Adhesive Tape

Adhesive tape has a number of benefits. It is very inexpensive, easy to come by, and easy to manufacture. Tape can quickly be grabbed and used on the go. It does not require any training, construction knowledge, or time to use. Simply stick the tape and wait for the bond to set. Tape is perfect when you need a rapid fix or a temporary fix. For example, you can use tape to hold in a broken headlight until you can make it to the shop and get it fixed permanently. That is why tape is commonly found everywhere, from junk drawers to school classrooms to packing centers and standard offices. It has many uses, and it is very easy and cheap to use.

Disadvantages of Adhesive Tape

Adhesive tape has some downsides. First, many tapes are not permanent. Tape represents a quick fix but a temporary fix. In the long term, the tape cannot always permanently fix or fill the need. Tape also has a relatively short shelf life and is sensitive to changes in the environment. Tape, for example, often does poorly if it gets wet. All of that means that in some situations, adhesive tape is great, but in other situations, adhesive tape will be nearly worthless. Knowing when tape will be useful and when you need to find a better solution is imperative to getting the best results.

man removing adhesive tape
Image Credit: osenka91, Shutterstock

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Long Does Adhesive Tape Last?

Adhesive tape generally has a very strict shelf life. The shelf life for adhesive tape ranges from six months to two years. As tape sits, the polymer adhesives start to change and break down. If the tape is subject to high heat, it can melt and fuse together and make it unusable. Old tape can lose its stickiness over time or become stuck together. If used in a proper way, some tapes can last years under the right condition. Duct tape, for example, is designed to seal air ducts, and it can remain solvent for years if it is installed right. The overall lifespan of tape is dependent on keeping the tape in the proper condition. That means not letting it get too cold or too hot. If the tape gets a good adhesive bond, it can be hard to break that bond down without applying force.

There are different types of tape with different purposes. Some tapes have different strengths and different lifespans. Scotch tape and painter’s tape are designed to be temporary, while duct tape and electrical tape are designed to last a lot longer. If you are curious, check the exact specs of your particular tape to see what the shelf life and operational life are.

How Strong Can Adhesive Tape Be?

Adhesive tapes can be incredibly strong if they are designed properly. The strongest tapes have very special polymer adhesives that are designed to have extremely high tensile break strengths. There are likely incredibly strong tapes designed in labs for experimental purposes. However, the Guinness Book of World Records has a category for the world’s strongest duct tape. In 2022, T-Rex® Brute Force® tape captured the record for the world’s strongest tape with a tensile break limit of 273.1 pounds per square inch. That is very high. For comparison, typical scotch tape has a tensile strength ranging between 20 pounds per inch and 100 pounds per inch.  T-Rex tape claims that its specialty tape can hold up to 700 pounds of weight under the right conditions.

man using adhesive tape
Image Credit: Angurt, Shutterstock

How Many Types of Adhesive Tape Are There?

There are over two dozen different types of adhesive tape. There are numerous types of adhesive tapes that are used outside of the regular everyday tape. There is sports tape, like hockey tape, that is designed to be used on a hockey stick. There is garment tape that helps people keep clothing in place for a long night out. There are even special tapes used to mark flooring and roadways when waiting for paint or for a temporary look. Everywhere you look, there are different types of adhesive tape being used for different reasons. There is no official number of the exact varieties of adhesive tape, but the number is well thirty or more for easily identifiable variants.

divider 4


Adhesive tape is used all around the world in a ton of different locations, from the sideline of an NFL football game to surgery in the bowels of a hospital to an elementary school classroom. Adhesive tape uses special polymers to create a strong bond that can easily be undone, making it an extremely versatile material. The term adhesive tape applies to dozens of different types of products that are used every single day.

Featured Image Credit: Studio_Fennel, Shutterstock


Related posts

OUR categories

Project ideas

Hand & power tools