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Gaffer Tape vs. Duct Tape: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Tape Jungle on 10/16/2020

Gaffer Tape vs. Duct Tape: What’s the Difference?

There are hundreds of types of adhesive tapes and no two are completely alike. Picking the right type is as important as the quality of the material itself. So if your application calls for tape, make sure you’ve got the right tape for the task at hand.

Both gaffer tapes and duct tapes are types of pressure-sensitive cloth tapes for bonding to rough and textured surfaces. Any cloth tape is an adhesive tape made with a cloth backing to make it durable and flexible. The tape is useful for various purposes such as waterproofing, splicing, bundling, sealing walls, electrical, and plumbing.

These two pressure-sensitive tapes have very similar qualities but they differ in very important ways that may not be obvious at first glance. By the end of this post, you’ll have a much better idea of which type is best for your application.

What Is Gaffer Tape?

gaffer tape rolls

Gaffer tape also referred to as “gaff tape” or “gaffer’s

tape” named for the entertainment and production industry professionals who depend on it, is a pressure-sensitive tape with a durable cloth backing. The adhesive is designed to be low-residue so it can be removed cleanly and easily and applied to a wide range of surfaces, temperatures, and environments.

  • Premium Cloth Gaffer Tape (67665), also has a pure cloth backing which eliminates the glare from flash photography.
  • Standard Cloth Gaffer Tape (67680) has a low-gloss polyethylene coating which makes it more durable to foot traffic yet still comes off easily with minimal residue.

What Is Gaffer Tape Used For?

It’s commonly used in theaters, photography sets, and video production areas for taping down cables and wires. Used for Color Coding and Social distancing

Whether you’re trying to prevent people from tripping, or you want to hide cables from your audience and camera, gaffer tape will get the job done.

In fact, this tape is so popular for professionals in this niche that it’s become a slang verb. Whenever cables need to be taped on a stage or set, crews will say that they need to be “gaffed” or “gaffered” down.

While these are some of its common uses, gaffer tape is not limited to the entertainment industry. You can use it for other purposes, like setting up a temporary booth or table at a trade show or fair.

Some people attempt to use gaffer tape on the skin to attempt slight body modifications, as decoration, or to hold clothes in place but then wonder if gaffer tape is safe on skin? Because this is definitely one of the strongest tapes, but it may irritate even non-sensitive skin.

What Is The Difference Between Premium Cloth Gaffer Tape And Standard Grade Gaffer Tape?

The difference is all about the backing. They both work great to secure your cables and come off easily but the Premium Cloth Gaffer Tape (67665) has pure cloth backing so unless your application requires flash photography you can save money by going with the Standard Grade Gaffer Tape (67680).

The polyethylene coating on Standard Grade is also more durable so ideal for heavy foot traffic and general wear and tear.

What is Duct Tape?


duct tape rolls

Duct tape is known for being strong and versatile. This multi-purpose tape can be found in most homes, offices, garages, and other buildings across the world. Duct tape is made from cloth as well, but it’s coated with polyethylene resin. The rubber-based adhesive paired with the fabric backing is what gives duct tape its strength and versatility.

The origins of duct tape stem from sealing and waterproofing purposes. Its silver color was designed to match metal that needed to be repaired. However, as time passed, duct tape quickly evolved to be much more versatile.

What Is Duct Tape Used For?

If your job requires strength and durability, duct tape is a top option for you to consider. As the name implies, it’s commonly used for ductwork repairs. However, this tape has seemingly no limitations.

Some people wonder if duct tape is used instead of electrical tape. The answer is no. Electrical tape is specifically manufactured and designed to cater to the needs of electricians. Duct tape does not offer the same fire-resistant property that is generally found in electrical tape making it a poor substitute in electrical wiring applications

According to NASA, duct tape has even been used by astronauts to repair equipment in space. Keep in mind that this strong adhesive will leave residue behind if and when it gets removed. So it’s best used for jobs that are semi-permanent or permanent.

Differences Between Gaffer Tape And Duct Tape

As you’ve probably realized so far, gaffer tape and duct tape are very different. Let’s take a closer look at some characteristics that you need to take into consideration when deciding between duct tape and gaffer tape.

Adhesive

Gaffer tape utilizes a non-permanent adhesive that can be removed without damaging the surface that lies beneath it and only leaving a light residue. The adhesive from duct tape will leave behind a gummy rubber-based adhesive when removed. Depending on the conditions, that residue can damage or gum up application surfaces and would need to be cleaned after finishing a job.

Tearable

Whenever you’re buying tape, you need to know if special tools are required to cut it.

Most duct tape can be torn by hand. But other duct tapes are made with added reinforcement, making it difficult to tear with your hands alone.

So in some cases, you’d need scissors or a similar tool for making cuts. Gaffer tape can always be torn easily with your hands. There is no need to use a scissor or knife to make cuts, so it’s great for working on the fly.

Flexibility

Duct tape is easy to stretch. Its flexibility is perfect for situations when the tape needs to conform to an irregular surface.

Gaffer tape does not stretch so easily, and it’s much less flexible. So gaffer tape is better for scenarios that require the tape to keep its shape.

Finish

If you need a tape that won’t reflect or show up in camera lighting, then the Premium Cloth Gaffer Tape (67665) is what you are looking for. It blends in well with floors and backgrounds and can be purchased in many different colors but the most popular, of course, is black.

While duct tape also comes in different color options, it always has a shiny, glossy finish.

Resistance

Duct tape is resistant to water and weather, but it’s not heat-resistant. Under high heat, the duct tape adhesive can slide or even dry up. Gaffer tape is much more resistant to heat, so it can withstand the high temperatures from hot lights.

While gaffer tape is usually resistant to moisture, Premium Cloth (67665) does not have a polyethylene backing like duct tape or even Standard Grade Gaffer Tape (67680); so it’s not waterproof.

Strength

Which is stronger duct tape or gaffer tape? Gaffers tape is true cotton cloth and derives its strength from a tight weave of cotton fibers. Duct tape is a vinyl tape with fiber reinforcing. It is not true cloth.

Both will give a stronger bond than either paper or vinyl-only tapes so consider the following scenarios for the tape you need:

  • Temporary, such as securing a cable to the floor. You may not want the most aggressive adhesive available in which case Gaffer Tape is the best product for this application, because it is strong enough to give you lots of holding power, yet the adhesive is not so strong that it is going to damage the surface it is attached to.
  • Permanent, such as for repair or attachment, then you should consider the most aggressive adhesive available, even if it may leave an adhesive residue or damage the surface it is attached to. Duct Tape is the winner here as it has a more aggressive adhesive that may damage a surface when it is removed, but if you do not plan on removing the tape, then this should not be a concern.

Price

Gaffer tape is usually more expensive than duct tape because it is manufactured in smaller quantities, has more exacting specifications, and is marketed for professional use. Here at Tape Jungle, we have a wide selection and great prices on both gaffer tape and duct tape. Check out our Premium Cloth Fluorescent Gaffers Tape (67665F) for labeling and unique duct tape options like Camouflage Cloth Duct Tape (67180)

Gaffer Tape or Duct Tape? The Final Verdict

So what’s better—gaffer tape or duct tape?

It’s not a matter of one being better than the other. Each has its place in your toolbox depending on the situation. Next time you’re unsure which tape to use, just refer to this guide as a reference.

Why are we the authority when you’re looking for tape? We offer over 300 types of adhesive tapes and packaging supplies for every industry and application. Our experts have more than 20 years of experience; we can help you find the right tape for your application 95% of orders ship within 1- 2 business days (converted items can take 1-4 business days).

Contact us or leave a comment if you still have questions or need some additional assistance placing an order.