Can you use duct tape as electrical tape?

Can you use duct tape as electrical tape?

While there are many occasions where substituting one tool for another is acceptable, electrical work is not one of them. Here we look at what you can and can’t use instead of electrical tape.

We have often looked at different types of tape and made comparisons such as Is PVC tape the same as electrical tape? but in this latest guide, we look closely at duct tape and whether it can be used as electrical tape.

What is electrical tape?

An adhesive tape used to protect and insulate wires and cabling that conduct electricity, electrical tape comes in many forms depending on its make up. Although typically made from PVC, electrical tape can also be made from other materials including rubber and cloth.

Qualities of good electrical tape

  • Highly adhesive
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Flame retardant
  • Capable of withstanding high voltage
  • Insulating

What is duct tape?

Like electrical tape, duct tape is an adhesive tape but it is made up of three layers -  a top layer of polythene, and a bottom layer of rubber-based adhesive sandwiched around a middle layer of fabric.

Features of duct tape

  • Adhesive
  • Durable
  • Strong
  • Water resistant (NOT waterproof)
  • Non-conductive

The differences between electrical tape and duct tape

Adhesiveness - although both tapes are adhesive, duct tape is designed to stick to other materials, while electrical tape is designed to stick to itself.

Materials – as mentioned above, electrical tape is manufactured from a single layer material (often, but not always PVC) but duct tape is constructed from layers of different components.

Water resistance, durability and heat resistance – duct tape is prone to degradation on exposure to water or heat, whereas electrical tape is water resistant (not waterproof) and heat resistant. Electrical tape is highly durable with a long shelf life.

Strength – while duct tape is the stronger of the two thanks to its fibrous components, this is not a consideration with electrical work; electrical tape has to insulate rather than withstand any tensile strength.

What happens if you use duct tape as electrical tape?

Duct tape should NEVER be used in place of electrical tape – it does not insulate and will not protect against live current. As duct tape is flammable it presents a fire hazard and, if used instead of electrical tape, it would start to heat up from the electricity and the adhesive would melt. In time, the material the duct tape is manufactured from would ignite and set on fire. Duct tape is a perfectly appropriate general purpose tape and as such should be used for general sealing and repair only.

Safe alternatives to electrical tape

At cableties-online, we would recommend only heat shrink tubing or wire connectors as safe alternatives to electrical tape. Other adhesive tapes lack the essential features necessary for safety and should be avoided. In ‘Is PVC tape the same as electrical tape?’ we look at viable alternatives that are safe to use.

The wide choice of tape available can be confusing but our guide to the different types of tape has lots of helpful advice. If you have any other questions, our experienced sales team is available to help over the phone on 01623 412160 or via email at