To start, we’ll answer the obvious question. Yes, there is a difference between good duct tape and bad duct tape. Quite a big difference, as it turns out. Our favorite is Gorilla Tape (available at Amazon for $4.89), a durable and easy-to-use tape that gets the job done head and shoulders above the competition.
That humble, ubiquitous little roll of grey (or black) tape can be found in everyone’s toolbox, garage, or junk drawer for good reason. For nearly a century it’s helped bind together and patch over pretty much every repair job you can think of, transcending its original wartime purpose to become something of almost cult-like reverence: If you can’t fix it with duct tape, well sir, it just can’t be fixed.
We put seven of the top-selling duct tapes (plus two intriguing plastic tapes) through a series of lab tests to determine which was strongest, most durable, most waterproof, and easiest to work with. We got wet and dirty while we were doing it, but we got some answers, too.
Here are the best duct tapes we tested, in order:
- Black Gorilla Tape, 12 yd
- Duck Tape, Max Strength, 35 yd
- Gaffer Power PowerSteel Duct Tape
- Sticky Ass Tape
- IPG Anchor 36 DUCTape
- Duck Tape, Original Strength, 60 yd
- 3M General Use Duct Tape (2929)
Black Gorilla Tape, 12 yd
Gorilla Tape easily topped our list of duct tapes thanks to its incredible holding power and durability. While it’s certainly not the cheapest duct tape in this roundup, it’s also not the most expensive. And because it’s so strong, you’ll need to use less of it for each task.
At 17mm thickness, with a reinforced backing and extra-thick coating of adhesive, it takes the “gorilla” idea pretty seriously. It aced the water test, holding back a serious leak for more than five minutes while cheaper tapes failed in seconds. The Gorilla Tape was also among the strongest duct tapes in our adhesion strength test, second only to Gaffer Power. (In truth, both took a backseat to the astonishing holding power of FiberFix [#fiberfix], but that’s not really a duct tape.)
And yet despite all that power, the Gorilla Tape also proved to be one of the easiest to tear and to handle. Its sheer weight kept it from flopping around and sticking to itself—truly the bane of the cheaper tapes.
If you need it taped and you need it to hold, get the Gorilla.
Avg. cost per foot* = $0.13
*based on our purchase price at the time
Duck Tape, Max Strength, 35 yd
Sometimes a classic can be improved upon. While Duck Tape-brand Classic duct tape fell short in our testing, the heavier-gauge Duck Tape MAX proved to be a powerful yet affordable alternative to Gorilla Tape. It's strong enough for light-to-moderate tasks (the adhesion strength was only average compared to other tapes in this roundup) but it's considerably weather-resistant, making it a good choice for small outdoor jobs. We also really liked how it handled. You can rip a piece off easily, but it's not flimsy and doesn't leave loose edges.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.09
What is duct tape, anyway?
Duct tape (or “duck tape” as it was originally called, according to no less a person than William Safire) has a long and storied American history. Originally designed for World War II shipping purposes, both the material design and the name itself changed many times over the twentieth century. In the 1980’s, the “Duck Tape” brand finally took off and a genericized “duct tape” was applied to anything off-brand.
National treasure Kevin Bacon saved the lives of his fellow astronauts on the Apollo 13 mission using duct tape (though in real life they referred to it as “American grey tape” at the time). Entire publishing empires, such as The Duct Tape Guys, have been created around the multitudinous uses of duct tape. In short, it is a beloved American icon.
True duct tape has a woven fabric or scrim, with colored polyurethane on one side (typically grey or black) and adhesive on the other. It should be easy to rip by hand and is usually expected to have high adhesion (“stickiness”) strength. The fabric imbues duct tape with a good deal of flexibility, while the rubber-based adhesive will stick to a variety of surfaces, including wood, masonry, and irregular surfaces.
The thread count and thickness of the tape can, at a glance, indicate the quality. However, our tests found that the thickest tapes were not necessarily the strongest.
What is duct tape not good for? While water-resistant to a degree, most duct tapes are not truly waterproof (boy, did we find that out the hard way!). They’re also not great for actual duct repair, due to the extreme temperature variance. (Try foil tape for HVAC repairs instead.)
How We Tested
Duct tape is expected to pitch in on lots of different kinds of repair jobs, so we devised a series of simple, replicable tests focusing on adhesion strength, water resistance, weather resistance, and ease of use.
In addition to seven popular duct tapes, we also tested two plastic-based tapes that are frequently advertised alongside—or as an alternative to—traditional duct tape: FiberFix and Gorilla Crystal Clear Tape. We just really wanted to see how they performed, but because they’re so different we’re not ranking naming either of them as Editors’ Choice recommendations.
Duct tape’s primary function is to hold fast to whatever you’re taping together, so we put grip strength to the test and weighted it heavily in our scores. An eight-inch piece of duct tape was applied evenly across two pieces of one-inch-thick pine board. A person stood on top of one board while the other board was pulled—horizontal to the tape’s surface— slowly and evenly using a hand winch. The force was measured using a crane scale.
While duct tapes aren’t necessarily billed as waterproof, most people expect that they can be used for temporarily patching a leak. We took a garden hose and drilled nine 1/16th-inch, evenly spaced holes down the length. A six-inch length of tape was wrapped around each hole, which allowed for about three layers of tape. We then put a spray head on the end of the hose and turned on the faucet. Performance was measured in how long the tape could hold back the water without leaking. We expected the test to last for hours, but actually called it after five minutes when all but two tapes had failed.
A three-foot length of each tape was put on a sheet of plywood and left outside to endure high heat, humidity, and torrential downpours for four weeks. If it wasn't already falling off after that time, we tested how much adhesion strength remained.
Ease of use
Handling tape has to count for something, so we scored how easy and cleanly the tape was to rip. Points were lost for ragged bits of string or excessive difficulty in pulling a piece off the roll. We also scored how easily a three-foot length of tape twisted and stuck to itself when waved around.
Other Duct Tapes We Tested
Gaffer Power PowerSteel Duct Tape
Where To BuyClick for price Amazon Buy
The Gaffer Power brand may focus on gaffer tape, but they also make duct tapes, including the Powersteel, billed as the "strongest tape on the market. Guaranteed." Our tests verified that claim. It was a full 30% stronger in our adhesion tests than the next best duct tape. Only the Fiber Fix beat it (but since that's not really duct tape we're putting it in a separate category). Powersteel was very close to Gorilla Tape in our scoring, but proved to be harder to tear off from the roll. It also didn't last as long as Gorilla in our garden hose leak test.
Powersteel will cost you, but it's got performance you can count on.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.20
Sticky Ass Tape
With a name like Sticky Ass, of course it's going to catch some attention. The good news is that it lives up to the hype. This tape is indeed sticky as hell. In fact, it's quite difficult to pull off the roll. Once in place, however, it holds firm. Among true duct tape, Sticky Ass finished second in our adhesion tests (just behind Gaffer Power). It also proved to be extremely weather resistant.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.12
IPG Anchor 36 DUCTape
IPG's duct tape proved to be average in most respects, which is of course, perfectly suitable for most uses. But it's not the strongest, the easiest to work with, or the most weather resistant. And it failed the leaky garden hose test in less than a minute. It's a fine tape, but you don't have to spend much more to get something substantially better.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.08
Duck Tape, Original Strength, 60 yd
We expected a bit more from the classic Duck Tape-brand duct tape. In all fairness, it handles well and is good for light duty, around-the-house jobs. But it's just not up to rigorous or outdoor tasks. Classic Duck Tape is not nearly as adhesive as our top-ranked tapes and it fared poorly in our weather resistance tests—just about ready to fall off the wood after four weeks outside. Surprisingly, it did very well patching up a leaky garden hose, but we suspect that the patch would last hours rather than days.
If you're needs are light and your budget is minimal, Classic Duck Tape will do you fine. Just don't cry "fowl" (see what we did there?) if the tape fails more quickly than you expected.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.05
3M General Use Duct Tape (2929)
This cheap 3M tape is the kind most commonly found in convenient marts, campus stores, and dollar stores. It's the one you'll probably find if you need duct tape in the middle of the night and a hardware store is too far or closed. It's also, sadly, absolute garbage.
We're not writing this to pick on 3M. The company makes some great products. But the "General Use 2929" is a best-seller, we really wanted to test its performance. At only 5.8mm thick, we didn't expect much. But even so, it leaked hose water within seconds, was practically falling off the wood after four weeks outside, and has an annoying tendency to flop around and stick to itself. Do yourself a favor and avoid it.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.06
Plastic Tape Alternatives We Tested
There are dozens, perhaps a hundred, different kinds of tape in this world. Two of them caught our eye because they were routinely appearing adjacent to duct tapes as alternatives. We were curious, so we tested them alongside the duct tapes. Here's what we found.
FiberFix 10X Tape
FiberFix is marketed as a kind of "super tape" that is 10X stronger than traditional duct tape. That proved to be an exaggeration in our tests, but we did get some remarkable performance out of it. The adhesion strength tests were just off the charts—45% stronger than Gaffer Power, the strongest duct tape in our roundup. FiberFix also aced the leaky garden hose test and the weather resistance tests.
However, it's not a duct tape and there are some noticeable trade-offs. You cannot tear FiberFix by hand. In fact, it comes with a little razor blade tucked inside the roll. It's also nearly impossible to pull cleanly off a surface. Once it's on, it's on.
FiberFix is an interesting and useful tool to keep in your kit, but it's not truly a substitute for duct tape. Use when applicable.
Avg. cost per foot = $0.15
Gorilla Crystal Clear Tape, 18 yd
It looks like packing tape but tears by hand like duct tape. Plus it's in the same family as our top-rated Gorilla Tape. We had to try it out.
Unfortunately, Gorilla Crystal Clear proved to be a pretty poor substitute for duct tape. It was the only tape to snap in half during our adhesion test. And despite being billed as working underwater, it utterly failed the leaky garden hose test. Within seconds of pressurizing the hose, water somehow found a way out, drenching the test lab (and the tester). And yet despite the poor performance, it's also the most expensive tape in this roundup. When it comes to Gorillas, we're sticking with the classic.
Avg. cost per foot= $0.25
Dave Kender is the Editor in Chief of Reviewed and has had an unusually strong affinity for duct tape since childhood.
If you're shopping for home fix-it items, check out our guide, The Best Work Gloves.