If you’re like a lot of people, you slap some electrical tape on wiring problem areas around your house. You intend to get back to those problem areas later, although later can mean a few days or a few months sometimes. In the meantime, if that electrical tape is exposed to heat, will it melt?
Electrical tape is heat-resistant and can handle temperatures upwards of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for the heat resistance is due to what electrical tape is made of, which is rubber adhesive and PVC.
In this article, we’ll discuss further how heat-resistant electrical tape is, whether it can melt, and how likely electrical tape is to catch on fire. If you use electrical tape often, then this is one article you’re not going to want to miss!
How Heat-Resistant Is Electrical Tape?
Electrical tape is a type of pressure-sensitive tape that’s intended for insulating electric conductors, mostly wires. The tape is often made of vinyl, which is a good insulator and has a nice degree of stretch.
The adhesive of electrical tape, as mentioned in the intro, will be rubber or rubber-based.
Given the purposes of electrical tape, you’d assume that the tape must resist heat rather well. Well, yes and no.
To meet standards, the electrical tape must be nonflammable up to at least 175 degrees. The tape may be heat-resistant to around 200 degrees. The estimate is sometimes on the higher side, up to 221 degrees.
Why the discrepancy? The heat resistance of electrical tape varies depending on the manufacturer. Also, not all electrical tape is produced using identical materials.
That said, the difference between 175 degrees and 221 degrees isn’t overly steep.
Can Electrical Tape Melt?
In everyday scenarios, the wires that electrical tape is insulating shouldn’t get overly hot.
The wires might be warm to the touch if they’re connected to an item that’s been running on high for a while such as a fan or a motor, but they’re not hot.
Let’s say though that the wires happened to overheat. Their temperature surpasses 200 degrees, which means the electrical tape is now exposed to very hot conditions.
Will the electrical tape begin to melt? Yes, it can.
Remember, electrical tape is only heat-resistant and nonflammable at 175 to 221 degrees. When it’s exposed to higher heat than that, its performance begins to suffer. The adhesive can come right off!
What sticks to the electrical wire will melt. This creates a potentially dangerous issue where the PVC melds to the wire. The wire should immediately stop working, which means that whatever electronic item the wire powered will fail as well.
You’d have no choice but to replace either the wire or the entire electronic.
Much more dangerously, as PVC melts, it releases noxious fumes that are dangerous to breathe in.
The fumes are dioxins, which are synthetic chemical compounds.
Immediately upon inhaling the dioxin-laced fumes, you may develop a headache. If you get out of the room and away from the fumes of the melting PVC right away, then you might not experience any more severe health effects than that.
Yet if you linger too long trying to peel what’s left of the tape from the wires, you could put your health at severe risk.
Prolonged dioxin exposure may cause immune system damage, development and reproductive health issues, hormone imbalances or disruptions, and even cancer.
Can Electrical Tape Catch Fire?
Remember, electrical tape is nonflammable only until its temperature threshold is surpassed. At that point, the flammability of the tape is much higher. Should another flammable item be in the vicinity of the melting electrical tape, a fire can spread.
The wire that the tape has melted on could begin sparking, which would also lead to a fire.
Between that risk and the dioxin fumes, you should not stick around once you see electrical tape melt!
What’s the Best Heat-Resistant Type of Tape?
You still have projects around the house that could benefit from a layer or two of tape, but you’re now afraid to use electrical tape. Fortunately, you have plenty of other options that are a lot more heat-resistant.
Here’s an overview.
Glass cloth tape or glass tape is a type of cloth-backed tape that’s designed mostly for fixing joint issues on roof trims and decks.
This type of tape is celebrated for its flame retardancy, abrasion resistance, excellent adhesion, and temperature resistance up to 1,022 degrees.
Bio-Soluble Fiber Tape
How about an eco-friendly type of tape?
Bio-soluble tape has heat-stop properties. Intended for hot piping systems (mostly on board ships), bio-soluble fiber tape is increasingly replacing the use of ceramic fiber tape on ships.
Hot piping systems can get incredibly hot, but bio-soluble fiber tape can handle it. Its heat resistance is up to 2,192 degrees!
Favored for its durability and insulation capabilities, it seemed only a matter of time before fiberglass was used to make tape. Some fiberglass tape like from the manufacturer ZetexPlus is coated with vermiculite, a mineral that expands when it’s warmed.
Like bio-soluble tape, most fiberglass tape can withstand temperatures of over 2,100 degrees. You wouldn’t have to worry about this type of tape melting!
Although its use in maritime operations has lessened, ceramic tape is still a great product if you want heat-resistant tape. It features narrow woven ceramic fibers reinforced with alumina-silicate.
Often used to seal areas where high temperatures are a risk, ceramic tape is also favored for covering bolt holes and tadpole gaskets. Its temperature resistance is over 1,900 degrees.
Electrical tape is a common household product, especially if you’re handy with electrical wires. The PVC and rubber tape can only withstand temperatures up to around 200 degrees. After that, the tape can melt and become flammable. It also releases toxic fumes.
If you’re looking for heat-resistant tape, try ceramic, fiberglass, bio-soluble fiber, or glass tape. These tapes can individually handle temps over 1,000 degrees, so you won’t have to worry about them melting!