Duct tape, or duck tape, is cloth- or scrim-backed pressure sensitive tape often coated with polyethylene. There are a variety of constructions using different backings and adhesives. One variation is gaffer tape designed to be cleanly removed, while duct tape is not. Another variation is heat-resistant duct tape useful for sealing heating and ventilation (HVAC) ducts, produced because standard duct tape fails quickly when used on heating ducts. Duct tape is generally gray or black but also available in other colors.
In 1942 Revolite, then a division of Johnson & Johnson, originally developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on ammunition cases during World War II.
The first material called “duck tape” was long strips of plain cotton duck cloth used in making shoes stronger, for decoration on clothing, and for wrapping steel cables or electrical conductors to protect them from corrosion or wear. For instance, in 1902, steel cables supporting the Brooklyn Bridge were first covered in linseed oil then wrapped in duck tape before being laid in place. In the 1910s, certain boots and shoes used canvas duck fabric for the upper or for the insole, and duck tape was sometimes sewn in for reinforcement. In 1936, the US-based Insulated Power Cables Engineers Association specified a wrapping of duck tape as one of many methods used to protect rubber-insulated power cables. In 1942, Gimbel’s department store offered venetian blinds that were held together with vertical strips of duck tape. All of these uses were for plain cotton or linen tape that came without a layer of applied adhesive.