Duct tape isn't just duct tape anymore. As with coffee, there's an expanding—and confusing—variety of tapes available. Home centers that used to carry one or two types now carry five or six. Online suppliers carry even more, including all the tapes shown below. Here are the subspecies of duct tape that we think are the most useful.
Classic is the standard stuff you need for standard jobs. It's priced at $4 or less, so you can afford to keep rolls in strategic locations—toolbox, shop, cars—and be ready for anything. But, despite its name, don't use it—or any type of “duct” tape—on ducts. Metal foil tape is a far better choice for ductwork.
A duc-tape repair can be effective but ugly. Though transparent tape isn't invisible, it blends in for a better-looking fix. The version shown here, Tesa 4665, is also UV-resistant, so it doesn't crumble in sunlight. Duck Tape Clear and Scotch Tough Transparent are other examples. Prices start at about $6.
Duct tapes are not created equal. Some have thicker, stronger adhesive and tougher backing. One way to identify these premium tapes is the size of the roll: You'll get a similar length of tape, but the roll will be fatter because of the thicker material. Price is a good guide too; heavy-duty tapes cost about twice as much as standard duct tape. Gorilla Tape (shown here), Intertape Armour Tough and Scotch Tough Extreme Hold (about $10) are a few examples.
Super-sticky adhesive is what makes duct tape so handy. But it also leaves a gooey mess when you pull up the tape. That's why clever chemists have come up with removable formulas. For about $9, you get the holding power without the residue. Duck Removable (shown here) and Scotch Tough No Residue are two brands.
Just because duct tape is practical doesn't mean it has to be plain. You'll find quite a few patterns and colors on store shelves, especially at craft stores. For an amazing selection of colors, patterns, logos and more, go to duckbrand.com. College logo tapes cost about $10. Coming soon: NFL team logos.
Can't find your flashlight in the dark? Make it glow with duct tape. IPG's FireFly tape works just like other glow-in-the-dark items; it gives off a greenish glow after being exposed to light. It comes in plain off-white or a zebra pattern for about $8.
Unlike most double-sided tapes, this is true duct tape, complete with the strong adhesive and tough mesh. Like others, it has a peel-off backing. Don’t remove the backing until it's stuck in place—it will stick to your finger and itself and you'll end up with a wad of useless tape. Duck Double Sided and Shurtape Double Sided are two brands (about $7).
If you've used duct tape outside, you know that after a few months in the sun, the backing turns flaky and falls off, leaving a gritty residue. No duct tape is completely immune to UV sunlight, but Scotch Tough Heavy Duty All Weather (about $9) will last about three times as long, according to the manufacturer.