Can tape catch fire?

Every household across the country is likely to have a roll or two of tape lying about. There are many different types of tape, all formulated to serve slightly different purposes.

Is Tape Flammable Sometimes…

You may be wondering whether any of these tapes are flammable or will pose a fire risk to you and your family. 

The different formulations of tapes mean that not all will react in the same way to fire. Some are flammable, whereas others are likely to just weaken in terms of their adhesion. Read on to discover which tapes are flammable and which are not. 

What are the impacts of high temperature on the tape’s adhesive?

Adhesive backing is made from a variety of polymers which give them their viscoelastic nature. This allows them to be sticky and stretchable, but also impacted by fluctuations in temperature.

The adhesive will likely be resin or plastic based, and this will change how temperature affects the adhesion.

Temperature can melt the solid adhesive, changing its state into a liquid, or causing the chemical components to crystallise. The temperature at which the adhesive becomes impacted depends on the manufacturing process.

As temperature increases, the adhesive is more likely to strain and break. This causes the component parts to break down, rendering the adhesion unstable. Over time this will cause the adhesive to crack, breaking the bond. 

Some adhesives will become softened when exposed to heat. This can allow the tape to slide around, which can pose safety concerns in some situations. 

Other tapes, where the adhesive begins to crystallize under heat, become unstable and brittle when exposed to heat. This can also weaken the adhesive bond and cause the elements to become unattached. 

Most adhesives fare better when exposed to extreme cold temperatures instead of extremely hot ones. If you know this may be an issue for your tape, we recommend sourcing one that is formulated to be heat resistant. 

Aluminum foil tape

There are some tapes made using a type of glass cloth backed with aluminum. This has a layer of silicone adhesive on too, and has been formulated specifically for use in extremes of temperature. 

The tape is not flammable and is flame resistant. It is suitable for use in temperatures up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. It is reflective, meaning that it bounces heat back. This makes it perfect for being used as a reflective wrap. 

Duct tape

This is also sometimes referred to as gaffer tape. It is often gray or black in color and is fairly heavy-duty. The manufacturers state clearly that the tape is flammable so you should be careful using it around open flames. 

Duct tape can hold up well to high temperatures. This means that it can safely be used around things that get hot, but not hot enough to catch fire.

The heat is likely to begin to melt the adhesive in the tape over time. This will weaken the bond and you will eventually be required to replace the tape. 

Electrical tape

Electrical tape is your best bet to use on equipment that gets very hot. It is designed for this purpose and the rubber is guaranteed to withstand temperatures of up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature exceeds this then the adhesive will begin to melt. 

Electrical tape is still known to burn if the heat gets high enough.

Gorilla tape

This is a tape that has been designed to be exceptionally strong and weather proof. This makes it very suitable for both interior and exterior uses.

It is made of a durable rubber with an exceptionally thick and strong adhesive backing. It is ideal to be used on typically non-adhesive materials, such as bricks and wood.

The manufacturers have created a safety data sheet for gorilla tape. This explicitly states that gorilla tape is not flammable and will not chemically react with anything either. This means that unless the entire strip of gorilla tape is engulfed in flames, it is very unlikely to set alight. 

Masking tape

This is also sometimes referred to as painter’s tape. This tape is made primarily from paper which is pressed onto the top of a pressure-sensitive adhesive backing. This is designed to be quick and easy to both use and remove. This is what makes it so well-suited to painting projects.

There are varying strengths of masking tape available. The type that you use at home is made from a weak form of paper and will burn relatively quickly when exposed to a flame.

The tape will burn more slowly than a piece of paper as the adhesive contains water, which will slow the burn rate. Once the moisture has evaporated from the adhesive, the tape will burn quickly. 

Masking tape designed for industrial use is thicker and tends to use a plastic substance instead of paper. This is unlikely to burn quickly or effectively.

The plastic used is likely to be silicon-based, meaning that it is safe to use up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Be aware that there is still the possibility for it to set alight. 

Manufacturers state that the tape is non-toxic and flame resistant for up to 30 minutes in temperatures reaching 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The fumes emitted from this are potentially noxious and can irritate your eyes and skin if contacted. 

Packing tape

This is not an easily flammable form of tape. It is not impossible for the tape to catch fire, but it is very unlikely that this will happen. This makes it safe to use around LED lights and other machines that can get very hot. 

We still do not recommend using this type of tape around open flames as the risk is best avoided. 

Scotch tape

The branded Scotch tape is formulated to be flame resistant. This means that it is not flammable and is safest to use around open flames.

There are many knock-off versions of Scotch tape, and it is likely that some of these are flammable. We advise exercising caution unless using the branded tape.

As with all of the other tapes, the adhesive will be weakened as it is exposed to heat. Eventually you will need to replace the Scotch tape to maintain the level of adhesion. 

Despite the fact Scotch tape is fire-resistant, we do not advise using it to quash a fire. It is always preferable to use a fire extinguisher in the case of open flames. 

Washi tape

This is a lightweight and thin tape made from paper. It is primarily used as a decorative border for crafting projects and is not very heavy duty.