Is Duct Tape REALLY Flammable?


We use duct tape for so much in DIY and general repairs because it is such a strong and reliable way to hold things together. Just tear it, stick it in place, and know that you have a tough water-resistant seal in place. We expect duct tape to be able to do it all, but should we also expect it to survive a fire? Is duct tape actually flammable?

Duct tape is not considered to be flammable. Duct tape is praised for its high melting point and the way that it holds up to extreme conditions. However, there is a part of the tape, the mesh, that in certain conditions can be flammable.

The confusion here revolves around the structure of the material and the way that the components react to heat and fire. So, let’s take a closer look at the following points to see what we need to know about this tape. Beyond that, we can also look at some alternative options to see if they are more fire-resistant.

  • What parts of duct tape are flammable?
  • How likely is it that duct tape will burn or melt?
  • What is fire tape?
  • Do firefighters use duct tape or other types of tape?

Why is duct tape flammable?

The flammable part of duct tape is actually just one small component. That is why it is so easy to assume that duct tape isn’t flammable at all.

There are three parts to duct tape that allow for its strength and ease of use. There is a strong rubber adhesive that is essential for bonding with different materials. That part can melt but isn’t flammable.

There is a polyethylene coating on top for strength and flexibility, as well as that grey shine.

Again, this could melt but won’t burn. The final piece is the mesh that provides greater structure and strength for the body of the tape. This is fabric, potentially something as simple as cotton or polyester. As a result, this part is flammable. 

How likely is it that duct tape will burn or melt?

It is important to remember that when we talk about duct tape burning or melting, and the flammable nature generally, this is in extreme cases. Duct tape is sold as heat resistant for important tasks.

But, this only works up to temperatures around 140F (or 60C). That is well above any normal room temperature and more than the higher temperature in the height of summer.

So, duct tape shouldn’t degrade or show signs of damage unless in extreme situations or fires. 

When the tape does reach these temperatures, you will find that the adhesive will begin to degrade and the mesh will burn away. The rubber content of the tape also means that you could see melting and a loss of structure.

The result of this is that the tape will stop being as effective for holding items in place. The grip will begin to loosen and the tape could melt away entirely in excessive temperatures. Therefore, there will be times where duct tape may not be the best choice. 

Still, the extreme temperatures involved do mean that most people will have no problem using duct tape to make repairs. It is unlikely that temperature will go beyond 140 degrees Fahrenheit outside of industrial settings.

So, you should be able to use the tape with confidence away from hot appliances and open flames. 

Is Gorilla Tape® flammable?

This is a common question when it comes to finding the strongest most reliable form of tape around.

A lot of people love to use Gorilla Tape® because of its strong adhesive. It is designed to be twice as strong as ordinary duct tape and many users wouldn’t be without it.

The problem is that we could overestimate its properties as a fire-resistant material. Gorilla Tape® is really strong and may take longer to degrade in high heat. But, this is still duct tape at the core – it just has a fancy brand name.

There is still a strong fabric mesh in the construction that is flammable. It could be a better choice in extreme temperatures but isn’t going to be immune to fire. 

Is gaffer tape flammable?

Again, there are some strong similarities between a gaffer and duct tape in terms of the flammable nature of the materials.

There is also the fact that gaffer is weaker than duct tape – most of the time.

So, it might not hold up as well under stress. The quality of tapes can depend on the brand, so a low-grade duct tape from a lesser company may not be as good as high-grade duct tape from a reputable company. 

Are there any types of tape that aren’t flammable?

The flammability of tape comes down to the type of material used. If there is cloth or any sort of paper included in the material then it could catch fire. It is rare to see this outside of tape used in craft projects.

Washi tape, for example, is a thin paper tape that would ignite quickly, and masking tape wouldn’t survive too well either. It wouldn’t help matters if either was on a cardboard roll. 

But, other common tapes such as scotch tape and packing tape aren’t flammable. That is because they are purely plastic and adhesive.

There may be a melting point in a fire but they won’t catch fire themselves. This has led to many people using strong packing tape around Christmas lights in the attic as a safety precaution.

What is fire tape?

You may have also seen the term fire tape around and wondered what this means. Fire tape is a brilliant invention for constructing homes and other buildings.

Also known as Flame Fighter Tape, this self-adhesive material helps make drywall and internal structure more fire-resistant. The application is simple but can make a big difference to the safety of the home.

It takes a long time to burn and should help improve the structural integrity of a building during a fire. This is game-changing and potentially lifesaving for high-rise buildings like apartment and office blocks.

Do firefighters use duct tape?

Many firefighters choose to carry duct tape with them while working. Choices in types of tape can depend on the situation and the individual firefighter.

For example, some forums or blog posts may insist that no firefighter would use duct tape because of the flammable component and the size of the roll.

But, others would argue that there are plenty of uses for duct tape away from the fire and around the station. It is also easy enough to transfer duct tape onto a more convenient pocket-sized holder. 

What types of tape do firefighters use? 

Whether firefighters choose to use duct tape or not in general activities or for fixing tools, there is no doubt that tape in various forms is important.

Firefighters need to be able to rely on the right type of tape for quick repairs and hacks for equipment. High visibility reflective tape has its uses in low-light conditions.

Then there is the plastic boundary marking tape to stop people from getting too close to a dangerous area during an incident. Some types of tape are better than others for general use and the following stand out. 

Electrical tape:

Electrical tape is a common choice because it is simple, accessible, and great for various applications.

Electrical tape is primarily used in electrical devices where you want to protect or bundle wiring. It has great insulation properties, stretches really well, and isn’t flammable.

So, a small roll is great for minor repairs. There is also the benefit of it being pretty waterproof.

Friction tape:

Some firefighters prefer to use friction tape because of the texture. It is just as good for dealing with repairs and creates a strong bond.

However, the problem with electrical tape is that you get a very smooth finish so repaired tools and other items could slip out of your gloves. The rougher texture of friction tape makes this less likely. 

Military tape:

Finally, some firefighters talk about the benefits of high-end military-grade tape. They appreciate the strength and low risk of this material. The downside for civilians is that it is hard to come by. 

Is duct tape safe to use?

The most important thing to take away from this is that while duct tape, Gorilla tape, and gaffer tape all have the same flammable element, it takes a lot for them to burn.

Duct tape could melt at high temperatures, but it takes a lot for that to happen.

Temperature about 140 could see changes in the structure of the rubber adhesive and plastic coating where the bond begins to fail. There are other tapes that aren’t flammable at all if you feel they are safer for your needs.

But, there is no reason to stop using duct tape unless you know you will be around open flames. 

Mike Pertz

I’m Mike, I’m a full time firefighter/paramedic/diver for a department just west of Cleveland, Ohio and the founder of FirefighterNOW. I’m also a columnist for FireRescue1. If you’re reading this blog my guess is you are interested in the fire service. There's information on fitness, gear, interviews, tests and more. I hope you find what you're looking for.

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