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Duct Tape | 10 Surfaces It Will Not Stick to

Duct tape can be used for all kinds of tasks, from patching holes in a pinch to getting rid of warts! The stuff is thick, very sticky, and strong. However, even the best duct tape isn’t compatible with all surfaces. Here, I’ve compiled a list of ten surfaces duct tape won’t stick to.

Duct tape will not stick well to surfaces that are:
  • Dirty
  • Fibrous
  • Rough or porous
  • Uneven
  • Wet
  • Hot
  • Cold
  • Waxy
  • Plastic (certain kinds)
  • Painted or coated

1. Dirty Surfaces

As with any job where you are attaching something to a surface, a good rule of thumb is to make sure the surface is clean and dry first. You wouldn’t paint over a grease-splattered wall, would you?

Just like paint won’t properly bond to dirty walls, duct tape will not stick well to dirty surfaces. The adhesive layer on the duct tape will adhere to the layer of dirt or grime but potentially not to the surface below it.

The adhesive on duct tape is not meant to penetrate through multiple layers. The duct tape will most likely separate from the surface after a short period of time, along with a thick layer of dirtiness attached to the adhesive on the back.

Make sure to wipe down potentially dirty surfaces before attaching duct tape to ensure a proper seal. Also allow the surface to completely dry before applying the duct tape.

Some surfaces may not look dirty at first, but any layer of dust, dirt, grease, etc., will prevent duct tape from working properly, so it’s best to clean it anyway.

Examples of surfaces that should be cleaned before applying duct tape include:

  • Tents/tarps
  • Cars (for temporary repairs)
  • Tables
  • Floors
  • Sporting equipment
Surfaces that should be cleaned before applying duct tape

Duct tape may well be the best option for the surface you want to use tape on, but no tape will adhere well to a dirty surface.

2. Fibrous Surfaces

Duct tape cannot stick properly to fibrous surfaces. Fibrous surfaces are porous and are made up of small fibers that can break off from the main body of the surface. This prevents the duct tape from bonding to the object.

Instead of being one solid object, a fibrous surface is made up of millions of tiny fibers. When duct tape creates a bond with said fibers, this bond may be stronger than what is keeping the actual surface together.

Any stress on the duct tape will result in it detaching from the surface, most likely taking a layer of fibers with it.

Fibrous surfaces can be naturally occurring or synthetically made. 

Examples of natural fibrous surfaces that duct tape should not be used on include:

  • Linen
  • Cotton
  • Unfinished wood
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Hemp

Examples of synthetic fibrous surfaces that duct tape should not be used on include:

Synthetic fibrous surfaces that duct tape should not be used on

Acrylic packing tape is best for use on corrugated cardboard boxes. With light pressure, it creates a strong bond to the corrugated surface. It can also be easily removed by hand after the box has been shipped.

Instead of duct tape, you may want to try fabric tape for the textiles, such as cotton, polyester, linen, etc., listed above.

3. Rough or Porous Surfaces

The adhesive layer on duct tape is neither thick enough nor fluid enough to be used on rough or porous surfaces.

Rough objects have a textured surface. Duct tape will only stick to the higher parts of it. 

Even on objects that look relatively smooth from far away, take a close look to see what the actual texture is like. Even objects with a fine texture may not be suitable for duct tape.

Similarly, porous materials have small holes that prevent duct tape from adhering to the entire surface. 

In some porous materials, such as brick, you can see the holes in the material. In others, such as paper, the pores are microscopic.

Make sure to double-check whether a surface is porous or not before attempting to use duct tape.

Some examples of rough or porous surfaces include:

  • Brick
  • Concrete 
  • Stucco 
  • Rough/untreated wood
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Sponges
  • Some rocks

Not many tapes adhere well to porous and rough surfaces—it’s not unique to duct tape. It is advised to use a primer to seal off holes first so that when the tape is applied, it can create an airtight seal. 

Gorilla tape boasts that it is able to stick to wood, stone, stucco, brick, metal, and vinyl all on its own. This strong tape may be your best bet if you can’t (or don’t want to) go through the trouble of priming your surface first. 

Just be aware that once this tape goes on, it’s not coming off without a fight!

Gorilla Black Duct Tape, 1.88" x 35 yd, Black, (Pack of 1)
  • Heavy duty and double thick, Gorilla Tape offers over-the top results; It's like duct tape on steroids
  • Great for indoor or outdoor use and made to stick to Rough, uneven, unforgiving surfaces like wood, stone, stucco, plaster, brick and more
  • Double-Thick adhesive; grips smooth, Rough and uneven surfaces
  • Tough, reinforced backing; the tight weave contributes to the heft, but Gorilla tape can still be ripped by hand

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

4. Uneven Surfaces

Similar to rough surfaces, duct tape cannot stick well to uneven surfaces either. The thin adhesive layer on duct tape will only make contact with the higher points of the surface, creating a weaker bond.

The lower points on the surface form air pockets with the duct tape. This prevents an airtight seal from forming, so the duct tape is very likely to fall off in a short period of time. 

Duct Tape | How Long Will It Last Under Various Conditions?

Some examples of uneven surfaces that are not suitable for duct tape include:

  • Stone
  • Asphalt
  • Brick 
  • Plaster 
  • Stucco
Some examples of uneven surfaces that are not suitable for duct tape include

Scotch Rough Surface Painter’s tape is specially formulated to stick to rough surfaces. Its adhesive will stick to rough surfaces like brick and concrete for up to five days, so this is a great option for temporary projects. The tape is easily removable and does not leave a residue behind.

Scotch Painter's Tape Rough Surface Extra Strength Painter's Tape, Green, Tape Protects Surfaces and Removes Easily, Rough Surface Painting Tape for Indoor and Outdoor Use, 1.41 Inches x 60.1 Yards, 1 Roll
  • READY. SET. PAINT!: 1 roll of 1.41 inches x 60.1 yards green Scotch Rough Surface Extra Strength Painter's Tape, designed with a very strong adhesive for performance on rough, non-damageable surfaces...
  • DAMAGE-FREE PAINTING PREP: Colorful painters tape can stay on exterior surfaces for three days and up to five days on interior surfaces, and it removes easily without leaving a sticky residue behind
  • CONQUER ROUGH SURFACES: Specially designed tape features a strong adhesive that bonds aggressively to brick, concrete, stucco or rough wood and is recommended for use with or on lacquer coatings
  • TACKLE INDOORS AND OUTDOORS: Resists UV rays, sunlight and moisture so you can use it as an indoor or outdoor tape

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

For a stronger hold, try using outdoor stucco duct tape on these surfaces. This tape has a thicker layer of adhesive so that it can make contact with more levels of the surface.

Shurtape PC 667 Specialty Grade, Outdoor Stucco Duct Tape, 48mm x 55m, Red, 1 Roll (100526)
  • Specialty grade, outdoor cloth duct tape
  • 14-day UV-resistant
  • Easy to tear
  • Removes cleanly

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Depending on how uneven your surface is, however, outdoor stucco tape may not be thick enough either. You may have to use a primer to even it out first or choose a different adhesive, such as liquid glue or sealant.

5. Wet Surfaces

While duct tape is water-resistant after it adheres to a surface, it cannot be attached to a wet surface to start. 

Tape loses its stickiness when adhesive molecules become wet. The water forms sort of a barrier between the tape and the surface, thus preventing an airtight seal.

Duct Tape for Vapor Barriers | Does the Science Work?

The polyethylene coating on duct tape allows it to be water-resistant for a short while, but over time, water will permeate through the adhesive layer and degrade it. In a short while, the duct tape will separate from the wet surface. 

If possible, completely dry the surface off before attaching duct tape. If the surface cannot be fully dried or will get wet again, duct tape is probably not the best option for you.

Wet surfaces to avoid using duct tape on include: 

  • Showers
  • Sinks
  • Plumbing Pipes
  • Boats and other watercraft
  • Windows
  • The exterior of your home

Crystal Clear Gorilla Tape is made with a stronger adhesive layer and waterproof backing. It is more suitable for wet surfaces, although this tape will also perform better in dry environments.

Gorilla Crystal Clear Repair Duct Tape, 1.88” x 18 yd, Clear, (Pack of 1)
  • Crystal Clear Gorilla Duct Tape is a heavy-duty, all-purpose tape that is weatherproof, air tight, crystal clear, and can be torn by hand
  • Crystal Clear Gorilla Duct Tape is ideal for thousands of uses and sticks to almost everything—the uses are virtually endless
  • It can be used for patching smooth surfaces, it sticks to rough & uneven surfaces and can even be used to seal and protect surfaces
  • This tape is UV and temperature resistant making it great for repairs both indoors and out; does not yellow outdoors

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Butyl tape is another superior option for wet surfaces. Butyl tape is a synthetic rubber adhesive that is flexible enough to form an airtight and watertight seal with most surfaces and is often used on rubber roofing, aluminum on the exterior of RVs, wood, cars, and boats.

XFasten Butyl Sealing Tape, Black, 1/8-In x 3/4-In x 30-Foot Plumbers Putty Tape, RV Sealant Tape, Butyl Rubber for Boat Sealing, EDPM Butyl Tape RV
  • VERSATILE BUTYL PUTTY TAPE. Butyl tape RV is a versatile sealing solution commonly used in construction, automotive, and marine applications.
  • RELIABLE RV WINDOW SEALANT. It is made of a synthetic EDPM rubber material resistant to water, chemicals, and extreme temperatures, making it a reliable choice for sealing joints and seams.
  • COMPATIBLE WITH VARIOUS SURFACES. Butyl sealant tape is easy to use, as it can be applied by hand and adheres to various surfaces, including metal, wood, concrete, and plastic.
  • WATERTIGHT PLUMBERS PUTTY TAPE. This type of RV sealant tape offers excellent adhesion and creates a watertight seal that helps prevent leaks and drafts.

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

6. Hot Surfaces

Duct tape is not suitable for hot surfaces. Depending on the adhesive used on certain tapes, it will react differently to temperature changes in its environment.

The rubber-based adhesive on duct tape has a hot temperature limit of 140 °F. Once the tape reaches this temperature, the adhesive will begin to soften and release from the surface.

For this reason, don’t use duct tape on surfaces such as:

  • Dryer and appliance vents
  • Hot areas of your car (i.e., engine)
  • Ovens 
  • Roofing 
  • Ductwork

It may seem counterintuitive that duct tape cannot be used on ductwork, but it is pointless and sometimes dangerous to do so. When the ducts heat up, the duct tape will soften, and the adhesive bond will weaken.

This can quickly lead to leaks, which ups your energy bill and causes hot and cold spots in your home.

Heating the tape can also release toxic fumes into the air.

Some tape varieties are specially formulated for high heat. High-temperature tape uses a silicone-based adhesive instead of a natural rubber-based one because silicone is able to handle much higher temperatures—up to 500 °F! 

Bertech High Temperature Tape, 1 Mil Thick, 1 Inch Wide x 36 Yards Long, Polyimide Film with Silicone Adhesive
  • HIGH TEMPERATURE ENDURANCE: Reliable with a unique combination of electrical, thermal, chemical, and mechanical properties that withstand extreme temperatures of -73°C (-100°F) to 260°C (500°F)
  • DURABLE MATERIAL: RoHS- and REACH-compliant tape is made using a soft coating of polyimide film with a silicone adhesive that leaves no residue
  • MULTI-PURPOSE: Used in a range of industries including aerospace, automotive, consumer electronics, industrial, solar photovoltaic, and wind energy applications
  • DIMENSIONS: 1-inch-wide and 36-yard-long tape has a 1-mil-thick film and 1.5-mil-thick adhesive

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Foil tape is another great option to use on areas such as duct seams and insulation. This tape has a strong adhesive backing that withstands up to 400 °F direct heat and 2000 °F radiant heat. The foil backing of the tape is also equipped to handle high temperatures without melting or burning.

A-Team Performance - Heat Shield Tape - with PSA Ultra-Lightweight Self-Adhesive Heat Resistant Heat Reflective Thermal Tape 1.5" x 15' - Roll Adhesive Backed Heat Barrier
  • Lightweight Insulating Tape — Uses woven glass fiber heat resistant matting and one mil aluminized materials making it an ultra-weightless cool tape
  • Reflective Solution — A thermal insulating roll tape convenient for application on cables, hoses, wires, fuel lines, and other surfaces. It can also be used to wrap wirings, seal air boxes, cover...
  • Withstand Radiant Heat — It can sustain and screen off direct heat of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and radiant heat of up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Efficient Application — The strong adhesive back composite makes application quick and easy with a guaranteed long-lasting seal

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

7. Cold Surfaces

Similar to its performance on hot surfaces, duct tape is not ideal for cold surfaces either.

When the adhesive on duct tape is subjected to cold temperatures, it begins to harden. The adhesive loses its stickiness and separates from the surface. 

After an extended time in cold temperatures, the duct tape will freeze and turn brittle. It is then more likely to separate from the surface or crack, which ruins the airtight seal.

The negative effects of cold weather on duct tape will become noticeable around 40 °F. Colder temperatures will speed up the process of weakening the adhesive on duct tape.

Duct tape should not be used in cold temperature areas such as:

  • Refrigerators and freezers
  • Outdoors during cold seasons
  • Winter sports gear (skis, snowboards, helmets, etc.)
  • AC units
Duct tape should not be used in cold temperature areas such as

Instead of duct tape, look for a specially formulated low-temperature tape.

The foil tape mentioned above is great for low temperatures as well as high. This makes it optimal to use on ductwork because ducts may contain hot or cold air, depending on the type of duct and season.

Cold-temperature packing tape is a great choice to use for shipping packages. Even if your package is shipped in cold conditions, this packing tape will prevent the box from opening on its own. The tape is still lightweight enough to be pulled off by hand once the package is shipped.

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8. Waxy Surfaces

Duct tape should not be used on waxy surfaces. Just as wax repels water, it also repels the adhesive from duct tape.

Another way to look at it is that the wax forms a barrier that the adhesive on duct tape can’t penetrate, so a strong bond cannot be formed.

Examples of some waxy surfaces that duct tape should not be used on include:

  • Wax finished wood
  • Waxed cars
  • Wax paper
  • Waxed flooring

Very tacky tapes, such as Gorilla tape, may be able to create a bond with the waxed surface. However, it will not hold for as long as it would if the surface was unwaxed.

You must remove the waxy layer from the object’s surface before applying tape. The case is the same for other tapes as well, as the waxy layer will repel nearly every type of adhesive. 

Measures, such as roughening up the surface with sandpaper or treating it with a primer that is compatible with both the surface and the tape, will help create a long-lasting hold.

9. Certain Plastics

Like me, you might at first imagine that duct tape would stick to all plastic surfaces. After all, they are typically smooth and nonporous. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Duct tape will not stick to certain plastics such as Teflon® and polyethylene.

Materials like Telfon have low surface energy. This prevents the duct tape adhesive from spreading out to form a strong bond with the surface.

Before giving up on duct tape, however, try wiping down the plastic with some rubbing alcohol. This may get rid of the plasticizers that are preventing a strong bond from forming. 

Plasticizers are chemical additives that increase a plastic’s processability during production and flexibility during use.

Unfortunately, these chemicals act similarly to wax in that they repel the adhesion of duct tape.

Some common plasticizers that may be found on plastic surfaces include:

  • Phthalates
  • Citrates
  • Benzoates
  • Chlorinated Paraffins
  • Bio-based plasticizers such as castor oil, palm oil, epoxidized soybean oil (ESBO), epoxidized linseed oil (ELO)
Common plasticizers that may be found on plastic surfaces include

Once again, Gorilla Tape may solve your issues here. The strong rubber-based adhesive sticks to most plastics, including polyethylene.

Representatives from 3M recommend silicone adhesives to be used with Teflon. The silicone interacts better with the low-energy surface compared to the natural rubber adhesive on duct tape.

10. Painted or Coated Surfaces

Finally, painted or coated surfaces are not ideal for duct tape.

The adhesive on duct tape is not fluid enough to permeate through the paint or sealant.

Instead of bonding with the actual surface, the duct tape will only bond with the layer of paint or sealant—it will likely be a very strong bond, but in a way, this is worse.

Instead of holding the surface together, it is more likely to tear off with the paint or top coat in tow.

Purposely removing the duct tape will also most likely take some of the paint or finish with it, no matter how careful you are. Or conversely, the duct tape could leave an aggravating sticky residue behind.

High-quality paints and top coats may be less likely to peel away with duct tape.

Painted or coated surfaces that duct tape should not be used on include:

  • Walls (drywall)
  • Finished wood furniture and flooring
  • Painted furniture
  • Cars

It is better to use a lightweight tape on painted surfaces. This prevents the tape from ripping off paint or even chunks of the drywall.

Painters tape, or gaffer’s tape, is the best option. This tape is specifically designed to be taken off of surfaces such as painted walls. It has a low tack (aka light adhesive) so that it can be removed without damaging your project or leaving residue behind.

ScotchBlue Original Painter's Tape, 0.94 Inches x 60 Yards, 3 Rolls, Blue, Protects Surfaces and Removes Easily, For Indoor and Outdoor Use
  • READY. SET. PAINT!: 3 rolls of 0.94 inch wide ScotchBlue Original Painter's Tape, a multi-surface solution for preparing to paint your living or working environment
  • DAMAGE-FREE PAINTING TAPE: Adhesive tape can stay on surfaces for up to 14 days, and it removes easily without leaving a sticky residue behind
  • CONQUER MOST SURFACES: Specially designed blue tape for smooth or lightly textured walls, trim, baseboards, tile and glass
  • TACKLE INDOORS AND OUTDOORS: Resists UV rays, sunlight and moisture so you can use it as an indoor or outdoor tape

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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