Adoption and Uses

After the war ended, American GIs recognized the usefulness of duct tape and brought it back with them. While American soldiers were convinced of the effectiveness and versatility of duct tape, it did not immediately catch on after the war. It was primarily used by heating and cooling technicians to seal ducts. However, duct tape soon transitioned from an industrial and military product to a common household item that was dependable, reliable, and heavy duty. This transition is displayed in a Washington Post article reviewing new consumer items. One of the items listed is Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company’s new pressure sensitive tape [11]. This shows the transition of duct tape from a military tool to its use by the general public. Soon, duct tape became one of the most versatile tools in the household that has been used in space on Apollo 13, made into tuxedos, dresses, other articles of clothing, wallets, slipcovers, and used as a cure for warts.

When duct tape was initially brought back by soldiers, it was hailed as an excellent method of connecting heating and air-conditioning ducts together (HVAC ducts) [12]. The booming housing industry at the time created a big market for duct tape to thrive in. As more and more people began using it, the color of the tape was changed from the Army green when it was used by the military to silver to match the ductwork. This is where the name “duct tape” comes from. This method of sealing HVAC ducts was continued for some time until numerous studies revealed that it does not adequately seal the joints and has a short lifespan [13]. HVAC ducts are subject to extreme heat and cold and it is thought that the heat degrades the glue, causing the backing to separate. Many states have certain standards for longevity and efficiency of sealants, none of which duct tape meets. The practice of sealing HVAC ducts with duct tape has actually been outlawed in several states [14]. Although a brief span as an industrial sealant was the initial cause of its popularity, the practice has since died out.

Duct tape holding together the lunar module on Apollo 13

Duct tape holding together the lunar module on Apollo 13

The true versatility of duct tape is best demonstrated by the Apollo 13 mission, in which duct tape saved several lives and expensive equipment. After take off, an explosion caused extensive damage to the Apollo 13 spacecraft. Critical supplies such as oxygen, water, and fuel were in dangerously low supply. Canisters of lithium hydroxide were normally used to react with carbon dioxide and trap it, making cabin air breathable. The supply of these canisters was cut off so that in order to get back to earth, a makeshift CO2 filter had to be fashioned out of an ingenious combination of hoses, cardboard, plastic bags, and canisters of lithium hydroxide held together with copious amounts of duct tape [15]. Without this ingenious makeshift filter, the carbon dioxide in the cabin air would have risen to poisonous levels before the crew could get home. The loss of several astronauts and millions of dollars of machinery was averted by a combination of quick thinking and the use of household supplies such as duct tape. It was a testament to the durable nature of duct tape .

A later Apollo mission also utilized duct tape, but in a much less life threatening situation. The moon has a rocky surface with a layer of powdery lunar soil. The dust was very fine and gritty, which posed a problem for Apollo 17 astronauts Harrison Schmitt and Eugene Cernan. The wheels and fender of the lunar rover were covered in strips of duct tape in an effort to keep the lunar dust away from the astronauts and their gear [16].

A wart is an unsightly overgrowth of skin that plagues many people. In most cases, they are not harmful, but they can be a pain to get rid of. There are a number of treatments that a doctor can offer such as liquid nitrogen or cutting, both of which are very painful. Duct tape has been shown to be an effective cure [17]. The tape is cut into pieces large enough to cover the affected area and placed there for a period of several months, which may be 45% more effective than using liquid nitrogen [18]. It is thought that this method is effective because the tape deprives the wart of oxygen, limiting its growth. The tape also removes dead skin cells.

Duct tape can be used to prevent glass from shattering during hurricanes

Every year hurricane season brings the risk of huge property damage. Homes and lives can be completely obliterated. This is why many homeowners have taken to using duct tape to prevent glass windows from shattering in the most violent ways, thereby reducing some of the potential damage. Duct tape is placed on the outside of the window in an “X” shape and is then placed around the edges of the window. Broken glass is pushed outward and the glass along the “X” is kept together [19].

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