The Origin of Duct Foil Tape


Adhesive duct foil tape is one of the most useful types of pressure-sensitive tapes on the market today, due to its durability and wide range of potential uses. Duct foil tape usually carries some type of cloth or scrim or metal backing, and is normally coated with a malleable plastic material known as low-density polyethylene. A variety of backing materials and adhesives can be used to comprise what is loosely called “duct foil tape,” but common characteristics include superior strength, flexibility, and higher-than-average stickiness. Duct foil tape is usually either gray or black, but it is available in a variety of other colors as well.

The roots of adhesive duct foil tape can be traced back to the early 1900’s, where a primitive form of duct foil tape made of cotton duck cloth with an adhesive solution applied to one side was in fairly common use. Known in those days as “duck tape,” it was utilized for all kinds of purposes ranging from shoe repair to steel cable reinforcement.

Then, subsequent research led to a new type of adhesive tape being developed for military use during World War II. Scientists developed a new waterproof tape that could seal ammunition cases and keep them from being damaged by moisture. This tough new tape was able to be ripped by hand instead of having to be cut by scissors, making it very easy to use and quick to apply.

Generally speaking, the primary distinction between this new version of duct foil tape and the older “duck tape” was that the new formula utilized a rubber-based adhesive known as “Polycot” on one side, which provided the tape’s waterproof characteristics. This new version of duct foil tape began to gain widespread acceptance within the military and was eventually offered for sale in hardware stores after the war.

Once duct foil tape began to be sold commercially in the 1950s, it was commonly used to wrap air ducts in construction projects. Its usefulness as an all-purpose household repair aid also contributed to its increasing popularity. Not too long after its commercial debut, the moniker “duct foil tape” came into widespread use to describe this multi-purpose adhesive tape.