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Is Duct Tape Actually Used for Sealing Air Ducts?

William Shakespeare's Juliet famously asked, "What's in a name?" to argue that it doesn't matter what you call something: It is what it is. But Juliet never had to repair air-conditioning vents. If she had, she might have learned what a scientific study found out over 20 years ago: Duct tape doesn't work on ducts. In fact, according to the results of the testing done at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, of the 33 types of sealants tested on the leaky joints on a wall of joined ducts, duct tape was the only one that "failed reliably and often quite catastrophically." The study included numerous varieties of duct tape, as well as materials such as injected aerosol sealants and plain old clear tape. Although duct tape came in last for sealing leaking ducts, it remains a popular tool for a huge range of other uses, from sealing bags and removing lint to killing warts and constructing your own wallet.

The tale of the duct tape:

  • Duct tape was developed by Johnson & Johnson as a way to better seal ammunition packages and repair equipment during World War II.
  • Duct tape is sometimes called "duck tape" because of its ability to repel moisture, just like the feathers on a duck's back.
  • The amount of duct tape sold every year could stretch beyond the moon or wrap around the Earth more than a dozen times.
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