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

Posted by Tape Jungle on 07/26/2019

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.

Two pressure-sensitive tapes that have very similar qualities are gaffer tape and duct tape 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. 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.

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 a 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. 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.

Difference 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 than can be removed without damaging the surface that lies beneath it.

The adhesive from duct tape will leave behind some residue when removed. Depending on the circumstances, that residue can damage 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 tape is 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 reflective 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.

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.

Looking for tape? No problem. Here at Tape Jungle, we have a wide selection of both gaffer tape and duct tape. Contact us or leave a comment if you still have questions or need some additional assistance placing an order.