Ah, tape… where would we be without it?
Whether you work an office job, you’re a student in school, college or university, or you simply need to quickly hold something together for the time being, tape is the tool that we will all need to use at some point.
It is highly versatile, depending on the variant that you use, and while it is definitely something that we take for granted, you can guarantee that you will find yourself rummaging through your cabinets to find even an inch of the sticky substance from time-to-time.
Unless you have some readily available on your desk at all times, it may feel like you never know where to find some tape when you really need it, forcing you to have to buy some more. Luckily for us, it’s not expensive.
Tape can be made up of many different materials, such as plastic, paper, or cloth: it all depends on the type of tape, and what it is being used for. There is, seemingly, a type of tape for every occasion and necessity.
If you’re reading this article right now, there may be a fairly specific question on your mind: what happens if tape catches on fire? Is it flammable? Does this versatile substance pose a fire risk in your own home?
Well, let’s find out together. Keep reading to find out if your trusty office appliance really is flammable.
What Is Tape?
Starting from the basics, let’s look into the history of tape, and what it is made out of.
Tape was first invented, and used, by a surgeon named Dr. Horace Day. He created the appliance back in the year 1845, and he originally used it as a bandage to patch up his own patients.
At this time, the product was made up of strips of fabric bonded to a rubber adhesive. Dr. Day named his new invention, ‘Surgical Tape’. However, these fabric strips weren’t very useful as they kept slipping off of his patients’ wounds.
The product was updated by a man named Earle Dickson in 1921, who decided that it would be better to attach gauze to the tape, and to then coat the near-finished product with crinoline, to create greater friction between the product and the patient’s skin.
This item would later be known as a ‘band aid’.
As the years went on, these inventions inspired the creation of masking tape and cloth tape, both used by builders, auto painters, and for manufacturing products.
Fun fact: duct tape was actually created during World War II, due to soldiers requiring a sturdy, waterproof tape that could quickly and easily repair equipment.
It was a while until tape became a household item, and as a result, there are several types of tape that are used to this day.
While we mostly use the tacky, plastic tape, using it for minor tasks such as wrapping up parcels, there are so many other kinds of tapes that are used for many different tasks.
Dr. Horace Day would probably not believe it if he were to know, now, what his invention eventually led to.
How Many Types Of Tape Are There?
As we previously mentioned, there are several types of tapes that are readily available for purchase and usage by the average buyer. Here is a list of the many types that you have probably used, or at least heard of, in your lifetime.
When most of us think of the word ‘tape’, adhesive tape is probably the variant that first comes to mind: the plastic, sticky stuff that we use to tape up Christmas presents.
Sold in separate rolls and sometimes being presented in a tape holder, adhesive tape is the most commonly purchased tape.
While this version looks very similar to adhesive tape, there is one big difference: it is double-sided. This tape is usually used for craft projects, such as scrapbooking, as it acts fairly similar to glue, holding items in place.
Duct tape is also used by a large part of the population, but for different purposes. This tape is waterproof, and a great deal stronger and more flexible than adhesive tape.
It can be used to temporarily fix leaky pipes, as well as being useful for creating DIY wallets and purses. This is a pretty versatile product.
Another name used for this product is ‘painter’s tape’, as these are the people that often use this kind of tape. It can be easily used to mark off areas while painting, thanks to its paper-thin, easily tearable material.
This is, essentially, the stronger, more durable upgrade of duct tape.
Mainly used by electricians - hence the name - it is highly stretchable and portrays long-lasting insulation qualities, making it perfect to use by taping around electrical wires, bare or covered, without fear of being electrocuted.
Cloth tape is often used for medical purposes, often found in hospitals or clinics. It can be used to secure bandages, gauze, and splints, and is strong enough to hold these in place for long periods of time. While this tape is secure while being used, it is also easily tearable.
This is the tape that you would use while sealing up a parcel. Its appearance causes it to appear to be a larger version of adhesive tape, but it is a great deal stronger, being able to hold packages together and ensure they will remain safely shut throughout their journeys.
While it is difficult to tear, it can be easily cut with a knife or a pair of scissors.
If we are being picky on this list, decorative tape is technically just a colorful, decorated version of some other kind of tape, from adhesive to masked. What makes it different, however, is the patterns and/or glitter on its surface.
This tape is used for arts and crafts, or making pretty much anything look prettier.
Each of these different types of tapes may look different, and even perform different tasks, but overall they achieve a similar effect: they are all sticky, and hold the ability to hold certain materials together.
It is essential to know which tape is used for which activity before you purchase your own: you wouldn’t want to get yourself into trouble by taping up someone’s broken arm with a roll of electrical tape.
Which Types Of Tape Are Flammable?
So, enough changing the subject: let’s return to the original question. Is tape flammable?
Of course, we know at this point that this question isn’t straightforward. This is because there are so many different types of tape that it would be impossible to use them all for a collective example. Instead, let’s look into which types of tape are flammable.
Let’s start with masking tape. Due to the fact that it is partly made of paper and silicon, it will likely, eventually, light up if you were to try to light it on fire. However, the sticky adhesive would slow down the flames.
The same goes for cloth tape: the fabric that it is made of should make it extremely flammable, but the stickiness would mean that it would take a while to light up.
Duct tape may be the most flammable tape on the whole list. This is because the main component of the item is plastic, which usually is extremely easy to light on fire.
However, the plastic is coated with polyethylene, which is not flammable. It all depends on how cheaply it was made.
Lastly, decorative tape is a tricky one to decipher due to it being made out of several different types of tape. Depending on which tape it is made out of, it may or may not be easily set alight. Either way, there is no tape that is highly flammable.
All of the mentioned above may catch on fire if deliberately set alight, but otherwise, it may take some time to create a fully blown fire with these chosen items.
Which Types Of Tape Aren’t Flammable?
So, if the tapes above were technically labelled ‘flammable’, what does this mean for the remaining items?
Adhesive tape and double-sided tape are very similar, and so both would react very similarly in the face of fire. How would they react, you ask? Well, despite them both having that plastic-like texture, they are not considered to be flammable at all. They can, however, melt.
Electrical tape was created specifically to be used with all types of electrical wires, and other components that may be prone to sparking at some point. Due to this, it was very important to ensure that the tape would not be flammable, as it would cause a lot of problems if it was.
Lastly, we have to discuss the flammability of packing tape. In normal scenarios, it will not catch on fire: it can resist pretty high temperatures and survive the ordeal. However, it may melt and burn if pushed to its limits.
So, is tape flammable? The answer is as simple as it was written in the title: sometimes. It all depends on which tape is being exposed to high temperatures, and whether you are deliberately trying to set them alight.
Generally, most tapes are pretty resistant to fire, but that doesn’t mean you should test these theories yourself.
Overall, your best bet is to keep all your tape away from flames if possible. While it may be tempting to try your own experiments at home, it is just not worth the risk.
Just use each individual tape for their own uses, and stay away from fire!