Gaffer Tape vs Duct Tape: Difference and Comparison

Gaffer tape and duct tape are two of the most popular tools we use in our houses, workplaces, and craft shops.

These are frequently required when we need to connect items such as wires, cables, or anything that has been broken down and must be repaired.

There are instances when using one over the other is the superior option. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Gaffer tape is a cloth-backed adhesive tape primarily used in film, television, and theater industries, while duct tape is a general-purpose tape with many uses.
  2. Gaffer tape is designed for easy removal without leaving residue or damaging surfaces, while duct tape is known for its strong adhesive and durability.
  3. Duct tape is less expensive than gaffer tape, making it a more popular choice for everyday use.

Gaffer Tape vs Duct Tape

Gaffer tape contains artificial adhesives and is made of cloth-like material. it is used to cover cables, wires, etc. It does not leave a glue-like residue when it is removed. Duct tape is a plastic tape that is used in industries as it is water resistant. It leaves glue-like residue when removed.

Gaffer Tape vs Duct Tape

Gaffer tape, commonly referred to as gaff tape or gaffing tape, is a tough, firm pressure-sensitive tape made from cotton fibre with excellent adhesiveness.

It is most commonly used in theatrical, cinematography, movies and tv production, and commercial staging.

In actuality, when wires are attached to a stage or other structure, either to reduce hazards or to conceal them from the vision of the audience, they are described as “gaffed” or “gaffered,” and that’s how the tape got its name.

Duct tape, commonly known as duct tape, is pressure-sensitive tape with a fabric or scrim backing and a polyethene coating.

Duct tape has also been used to fix fibreglass exteriors in racing for almost forty years and has various applications in aerospace, defence, and other sectors.

Unlike other tapes, duct tape features a fabric covering that offers mechanical rigidity while allowing it to be readily ripped and attached to a broad range of surfaces.

It has been well known for its flexibility and long-term sturdiness.

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparisonGaffer tapeDuct tape
AdhesiveGaffer tape may be removed without harming the surface and leaving just a faint residue. Duct tape leaves a sticky rubber-based adhesive behind such residue may harm or gum up the surfaces.
FlexibilityGaffer tape is less flexible and does not stretch as easily.Duct tape stretches easily.
ResistanceGaffer tape is moisture resistant, although it is not waterproof.Duct tape is water and weather resistant, however, it is not heat-resistant.
TearableGaffer tape may be readily ripped with your hands.Duct tape is tough to rip with just your hands.
PriceThe cost of gaffer tape is higher.Duct tape is less expensive.

What is Gaffer Tape?

Gaffer tape (also known as gaff tape, gaffa tape, and spike tape for thinner, multi-coloured gaffer tape) is made of thick cotton fibre pressure-sensitive tape with excellent adhesive and tensile properties.

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It is commonly used in theatrical, photography, movie, broadcast, media production, and commercial setup.

Ross Lowell, a filmmaker and the creator of Lowell-Light, created gaffer tape in 1959. Lowell-Light introduced gaffer tape to the industry by repurposing the glue from Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel tape

Although comparable to duct tape, gaffer tape differs in the substance of the covering, which itself is made of fabrics rather than vinyl or any other plastics, and the adhesion, which is more resistant to heat and simpler to withdraw without damaging the object to which it is applied.

It comes in a variety of thicknesses spanning from 14 in (6 mm) to 4 in (102 mm). Gaffer tape is tough but can still be tugged by hands, avoiding any need for cutting equipment.

It can also be easily shredded into smaller sections as needed.

When artificial glue is separated, it tends to leave very little, if any, residue and does not damage most materials.

It is more costly than duct tape since it is produced in small volumes, adheres to stricter guidelines, and is developed for industrial use.

Gaffer tape is available in a variety of shades, including vivid and custom colour schemes, however, matte black has been the most common.

The matte texture of the tape stops it from reflecting any light, permitting it to merge in with a regular stage floor.

gaffer tape

What is Duct Tape?

Duct tape (originally termed “duck tape” since it was initially made of cotton duck fabric) is a pressure-sensitive tape with a cloth backing.

There are numerous constructions that employ various arrangements and adhesives, and the term “duct tape” has become generic to refer to a variety of cloth tapes with varying uses.

Johnson & Johnson customized surgical adhesive tapes to Stoudt’s specifications, and troops dubbed the substance “duck tape” because it repelled moisture “like water off a duck’s back.”

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(It was also nicknamed 100-mph tape because it could keep a speeding jeep together.)

Post-World War II, duct tape became popular in the United States as a useful tool for house building.

People were using it to join metal air ducts, so the firm renamed it “duct tape” and updated it with a matching silver powdered aluminium hue. As a result, duck tape was transformed into duct tape.

Contemporary duct tape is made of rayon, nylon, polyester, cotton, or fibreglass mesh fabric to provide strength.

The fabric seems to be a very fine gauze known as “scrim,” which is attached to a reduced-density polyethene backing.

Several dyes produce the low-density polyethene backing colour, and it is powered by aluminium that adds to generating the characteristic grey tint.

The most common tape thicknesses are 1.9 (48 mm) and 2 (51 mm). When tough, versatile, and very sticky tape is desired, duct tape is frequently used. Some are weather resistant and have a long-lasting grip.

duct tape

Main Differences Between Gaffer Tape And Duct Tape

  1. Gaffer tape, commonly known as gaff tape, is a synthetic rubber-based adhesive reinforced with a thick, coated fabric substance. On the other hand, duct tape is reinforced with a waterproof polyethene fabric backing and employs a rubber-based adhesive.
  2. Gaffer tape is matte black in colour. Whereas the backing on duct tape has a reflective/shiny appearance.
  3. Gaffer tape may be removed without leaving any residue or harming the surface to which it was attached. However, duct tape leaves a residue and may harm the surface it is adhered to when removed.
  4. Gaffer tape is intended for short-term usage in industrial, theatre, television, and film staging. On the other hand, duct tape is meant for semi-permanent or permanent use, for instance, construction work.
  5. Gaffer tape is less flexible than duct tape, but it is ideal for circumstances where the tape must retain its form. Duct tape, on the other hand, is highly flexible and simple to stretch for circumstances when the tape must fit into small spaces or hug uneven surfaces
Difference Between Gaffer Tape and Duct Tape

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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8 thoughts on “Gaffer Tape vs Duct Tape: Difference and Comparison”

  1. Really interesting information on the differences between gaffer tape and duct tape. Did you know that gaffer tape was originally repurposed from Johnson & Johnson’s Permacel tape?

  2. The description of gaffer tape and duct tape in this article is both comprehensive and engaging. It’s impressive how the differences in composition contribute to the unique functionality of each type of tape.

  3. Who knew there was such a rich history behind the development of gaffer tape and duct tape? The background information provided here is both enlightening and entertaining.

  4. The evolution of duct tape from its origins as duck tape to its modern-day uses is an intriguing journey. The historical context adds an extra layer of depth to the comparison of gaffer tape and duct tape.

  5. The history and origin of gaffer tape and duct tape are intriguing, and it’s fascinating to learn how their different compositions have contributed to their unique properties.

  6. The practical applications and uses of gaffer tape and duct tape are well-explained in this article. It’s great to learn about the specific scenarios in which each type of tape excels.

  7. The comparison table is really helpful in understanding the key differences between gaffer tape and duct tape. It’s clear that these tapes serve distinct purposes based on their properties.


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