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The History of Duct Tape

Duct tape was originally named “Duck” tape and originally only came in green, not silver.

Duct tape was originally invented by Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel division during WWII for the military. The military specifically needed a waterproof tape that could be used to keep moisture out of ammunition cases. This is why the originally Duct tape came only in army green.

As to why it was originally called “Duck” tape by the soldiers isn’t entirely known. It is commonly thought that because it was green and shed water, like a duck, the soldiers took to calling the tape “Duck” tape. An alternative theory is that they called it thus because it resembled strips of cotton duck. Which one is true or if it was a combination of the two, isn’t known, but in either case they called this new tape “Duck” tape.

Soldiers began noticing it wasn’t just good for waterproofing ammunition casings, but also worked great for repairing things. They began using it for repairing jeeps, guns, and aircraft. Due to its waterproof nature, strength, and built in adhesive, they even began using it as a temporary means to close up wounds in emergencies; this is fitting because the closest predecessor of duct tape was also a Johnson & Johnson product used as medical tape.

So how did “Duck” tape eventually come to be known as “Duct” tape and be sold primarily silver in color instead of army green? When the soldiers of WWII came home, they brought “Duck” tape with them. Shortly after their return, the housing market was booming. Some manufacture then got the bright idea to start selling it as a means to connect heating and air conditioning ducts; this idea caught on among home manufacturers and they started using it in many of the new homes being built. To allow for this usage, the tapes primary color was switched from green to silver, so that it would match the ducts. Soon the tape began being referred to as “Duct” tape instead of “Duck” tape.

Ironically, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Environmental Energy Division concluded that you should never use Duct tape to seal ducts. Their tests showed that under typical duct conditions, duct tape becomes brittle and will fail quickly. Duct tape also can catch on fire or just smolder and produce toxic smoke. Because of this, it’s usage on ducts has been prohibited by the state of California as well as in building codes in most of the U.S.

Words of Wisdom: “One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.” –G. Weilacher

Bonus Facts:

  • In March 2003, three people died of suffocation after following Homeland Security’s suggestion of creating a “safe” room from chemical warfare by sealing up all windows and doors with thick plastic and duck tape.

  • Duct tape was famously used to create a fix for the failing Apollo 13’s carbon dioxide filters. Ed Smylie, who designed the scrubber modification, said later that he knew the problem was solvable when it was confirmed that duct tape was on board: “I felt like we were home free. One thing a Southern boy will never say is, ‘I don’t think duct tape will fix it.'”

  • NASA also used Duct tape during the Apollo 17 mission to repair a damaged fender on the lunar rover, which was critical to keep lunar dust from the rover’s rooster tails from damaging the rover.

  • Duct tape is composed of three layers. The top layer is a plastic, polyethelyne; the middle layer is a fabric mesh; the bottom layer is a rubber-based, pressure sensitive adhesive. It was originally manufactured simply by pressing these three layers together.

  • A Walmart store in Springfield, Missouri sells more Duct tape per person than any other place in the world. Springfield, Missouri is also considered the “Duct tape capital of the world”.

  • The original military green colored “Duck” brand tape is still sold and manufactured by Manco, a division of Henkel.

  • Duct tape is now primarily manufactured by over eight different companies, the largest distributor of which is “Duck” brand Duct tape, manufactured by Shurtape Technologies in Hickory, North Carolina.

  • Gorilla Glue brand Duct tape uses a variation on the standard Duct tape sold by other manufacturers. In order to make it stronger, they use two offset layers of fibers, instead of one layer. They also added more adhesive.

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~ From Daven Hiskey, February 20, 2010,

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