Duct tape – we’re stuck with it

Tapes that people love to use

If you were to look in any “junk drawer” you would probably find at least one type of duct tape, such as cellophane or masking tape. Most people have several different types of tape because we use different types for different jobs. Masking tape was invented in 1925. You can have duct tape, electrical tape, tape (for sewing), and even floral tape. Duct tape has really become part of our everyday life. We use it for everything from book repair to medical procedures. So let’s take a closer look at what’s old and what’s new in the world of duct tape.


Although people have used natural adhesive tape manufacturers like beeswax for centuries, it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that American inventor Henry Day invented the first tape-like product. In the twentieth century, with the rise of synthetic materials such as nylon, cellophane, and other products, there are now dozens and dozens of types of tape used for every type of task and in almost every aspect of our lives.

A touch of humor

There is a bit of gooey humor associated with the invention of masking tape. The automotive industry was looking for something to mark paint lines on cars that wouldn’t damage the paint once it was removed. A scientist named Richard Drew was tasked with inventing tape to fill the need. He made duct tape that had an adhesive that wasn’t too sticky but held enough to get the job done. The problem was that, in order to save money, the manufacturers applied glue only to the two edges of the tape, and not to the middle. Auto workers complained loudly about this “scotch tape”, citing the Scottish reputation for frugality. Soon the duct tape had glue all over the surface.


Richard Drew invented another very popular adhesive tape, cellulose tape, also called duct tape for obvious reasons. It is now available in many different styles, finishes, sizes and even colors. You can get matte finishes that seem to “disappear” when applied, and gloss finishes, and you can even get some with decorative patterns to decorate packages or envelopes. It’s even available in a double-sided version with glue on both sides. It comes in single-use dispensers, rolls that can fit into permanent dispensers, and now even convenient dispensers that let you take one small piece of duct tape at a time.

What is its benefit?

Some specialty tapes include electrical tape, which is used to repair frayed wires or cut wire ends. Marking tape is an acrylic adhesive tape used by seamstresses to hold a hem or seam in place as they prepare a piece for sewing. Instead of stitches, the medical tape can be used to allow doctors to tape up an incision so they can go back if necessary, or to hold a cut in place so it can heal.

When the potential of duct tape was recognized, its durability and strength began to be investigated. Early tapes offered nothing, but research and development of synthetic materials offered more. Initially, the fibers of the fabric were used to make duct tape, which was used by the military to repair airplanes, rifles, and jeeps. Unlike the medical tapes used at the time, duct tape is waterproof, and after World War II it was used in residential construction to connect heating and air conditioning ducts. The industry also saw the potential of duct tape and researched its tensile strength. The result is a plastic-based tape commonly known as packing tape. In addition to being waterproof, it also offered unprecedented durability, making it one of the most versatile bands in the world.

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