We’ve all asked ourselves at one point, “Is duct tape waterproof?”
If you’re like me, it’s probably because you’re standing over damaged boat, roll of duct tape in hand, wondering if you should use it for a makeshift repair.
So is it waterproof?
No. It’s water-resistant.
Duct tape can certainly come in handy for a variety of purposes, but you should avoid using it on boats. Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at what makes this type of tape so unique.
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Understanding Duct Tape
I’ve used duct tape to make wallets, patch holes in my tent, seal gaps in a doorframe–seriously, what can’t this stuff do? Well, as we’ll come to find out soon, it can’t make your boat waterproof.
It’s made from a layer of polyethylene film, a middle mesh layer, and a bottom layer of rubber-based adhesive.
The outer polyethylene film is designed to repel water, giving the tape its water-resistant quality. The middle layer, often made of a cloth mesh, provides strength and durability, allowing the tape to withstand stress without breaking. The final layer features a rubber-based adhesive that allows the tape to stick to nearly any surface.
Types of Duct Tape
Not all duct tapes are created equal.
There’s the standard roll of tape we’re all familiar with, the heavy-duty industrial-grade versions used in construction, and even versions labeled as waterproof duct tape. (Spoiler: they aren’t waterproof.)
Exposure to high temperatures or direct sunlight can degrade the adhesive to degrade; even exposure to water, despite the tape’s water-resistant nature, can compromise the adhesive’s ability to stick properly.
And while it can adhere to wet surfaces, make sure you’ve dried the surface before applying the tape.
Is Duct Tape Waterproof? (Quick Answer: No)
Nope. Duct tape is not waterproof.
There’s a common misconception that states the contrary, but it’s wrong. The claim “duct tape is waterproof” oversimplifies things–yes, the top layer of duct tape repels water, but that does not make the tape waterproof.
Because the rubber-based adhesive on the bottom layer breaks down over time with continuous exposure to water.
Water-resistant implies that duct tape can resist the penetration of water to some degree, but not entirely. This makes it appropriate for temporary solutions and emergency repairs where water exposure is minimal. But in cases of prolonged water exposure, the tape’s water-resistant qualities diminish.
Duct Tape Water Resistance and Kayak Safety
As someone who has spent countless hours on the water, I can attest that duct tape does come in handy on a boat. My most recent roll of tape has seen its fair share of use, from quick-fixes on fishing rods to securing loose gear.
But when it comes to boat safety, it’s important to approach the use of duct tape with caution.
There’s a reason you might see duct tape tucked into a boat’s emergency kit. It’s flexible, easy to handle, and sticks to nearly any surface, making it a useful tool for temporary solutions.
But that’s all it should be used for–temporary fixes. The adhesive will break down over time, especially when exposed to water, high temperatures, and excessive humidity.
Are you trying to mount a trolling motor on your kayak with duct tape? Bad idea. (To learn more about how to properly mount a trolling motor, check out our comprehensive article, “How to Mount a Trolling Motor On a Kayak”.)
Relying on duct tape for long-term repairs on a boat is a bad idea.
While duct tape can provide an initial solution, it will not withstand long-term exposure to water.
So it’s best to avoid using duct tape for substantial boat repairs.
Tapes in a Pinch and Preferred Solutions: Gorilla Tape and Epoxy
We’ve tried everything to fix our kayaks, and if we had to pick a tape for a short-term fix, we’d use Gorilla Tape. (This isn’t a sales pitch–it just works!)
Gorilla Tape is thicker and stronger than your average roll of duct tape. For quick fixes on a variety of surfaces, Gorilla Tape might be what you need in a pinch.
However, even as a heavy-duty tape, Gorilla Tape carries the same limitations as regular duct tape. Although it sticks well initially, exposure to water, sun, and extreme temperature changes will gradually destroy its adhesion.
While it might seem like it’s best to use duct tape in certain situations, it’s important to remember these are just temporary solutions.
If you’re trying to waterproof something as important as a kayak, we strongly recommend epoxy. Unlike any type of tape, epoxy creates a solid, water-resistant seal.
Epoxy is way better than duct tape when it comes to long-term kayak repairs. For a detailed guide on how to use epoxy for boat repair, check out this informative article.
Proper Ways to Make Duct Tape Stick and How to Store Duct Tape
The first step when you apply duct tape is to make sure you have a clean surface. Dirt, dust, and moisture can prevent the tape from sticking properly.
Make sure the surface is dry before applying the tape.
It’s a good idea to use a sander to smooth rough surfaces before the application of the tape. A smoother surface allows the adhesive backing to make a solid connection, improving the durability of the repair.
Wrinkles can also cause duct tape to lose its stickiness, so always aim for a flat, wrinkle-free application.
Storage is another aspect that often gets overlooked. Duct tape’s durability can degrade under extreme temperature changes. It’s best to keep it stored away from sunlight.
Yes, duct tape is incredibly useful, but it’s best to use epoxy when waterproofing a kayak due due to duct tape’s limitations.
Its versatility makes duct tape a staple in any toolkit, and its adhesive properties make it a handy temporary solution–just remember that its adhesion and durability break down when it’s exposed to water and heat; be mindful of these factors when you use duct tape.
Despite its limitations, we love duct tape. Who doesn’t?
Is duct tape waterproof?
A: Duct tape has three layers that prevent water from penetrating through the tape, but even with this, it’s only water resistant, not waterproof.
Can duct tape prevent water from entering through surfaces like cracks or gaps?
Yes, but it isn’t a long-term solution. Don’t rely on it to make your kayak waterproof.
Is true duct tape made from actual ducts?
Duct tape, including standard and high-quality industrial grade duct tape, is made of three layers: a polyethylene material top layer, a mesh second layer, and a synthetic rubber adhesive bottom layer.
What is the best way to use duct tape in extreme weather conditions, and what are its potential limitations?
Standard duct tape is designed for use in a many situations and can stick well to clean surfaces, even in excessive humidity, but exposing duct tape to extreme temperatures or leaving it in sunlight can also cause wrinkles to form and compromise its adhesion. Duct tape isn’t fully water-resistant or heat-resistant, so avoid keeping it exposed to the elements like extreme heat, marine layers, or even thick fog.
What type of duct tape is best for boat safety?
Industrial-grade duct tape is often recommended for boat safety as it tends to be more durable, but we don’t recommend using duct tape on your boat unless it is all you have on hand and you’re faced with an emergency situation.
Photo 2 by Santeri Viinamäki