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What Is Plumber's Tape?

Plumber's tape—which comes in both Teflon and metal forms—is used to seal against leaks, as well as mechanical support.
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  • Written By: John Sunshine
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 07 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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There are two common types of tape that are referred to plumber's tape. The first should more accurately be called Teflon® tape, and the second is more correctly referred to as metal strapping. In both cases, the product is most commonly used by plumbers.

The plumber's tape that is more properly called Teflon® tape is used to seal pipe threads against leaks. It is a thin, white tape that fills in the gaps between the pipe threads and also acts as a lubricant for the pipe threads when tightening the fittings together. This type of tape is not adhesive and cannot be used to stick items together.

When using the Teflon®tape, there are some basic steps that should be followed. The plumber should start by wrapping the tape around the threads at the end of the pipe. He should not wrap tape beyond the end of the pipe, or small pieces of tape may break free and eventually clog the system. The plumber should put a couple of loops of tape around the end of the pipe, then proceed to wrap all of the threads, overlapping half the tape's width each time.

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The plumber should always wrap the tape in the same direction that he will tighten the fitting onto the pipe. If the tape is wound in the opposite direction, it will unwind when the fitting is screwed onto the pipe. The tape should be kept tight as it is wound onto the pipe so that it sinks into the threads. If the plumber changes his mind and unscrews the fitting, the tape should not be reused, but removed and a new piece used.

The other type of plumber's tape is really a type of strapping. This is a flexible, metal strip with a regular series of holes running the length of the "tape." It is generally used to provide mechanical support for piping. Non-plumbers have often found much more creative uses for this product, however.

Both types can be purchased from any plumbing supply store. A plumber should be sure to get the type that is required. Since the two are very different in function and look, confusion should be easily avoided.

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Discuss this Article

anon335716
Post 4

I have been a tradesman for 20 years and never heard someone refer to Teflon tape as plumber's tape. It is always called Teflon tape or thread tape regardless of whether or not it actually contains Teflon. If someone asks for plumber's tape, metal strapping with holes is what is being discussed.

With that being said, I have seen the occasional new kid return from a trip to the truck with Teflon tape when asked for plumbers tape. Always fun to watch.

anon242189
Post 3

For your information, PTFE tape is not Teflon. Check with DuPont.

anon85699
Post 2

I have recently heard that there is a regulation governing the number of turns of PTFE tape to be applied when making a pipe joint. My practice has always been to make three to five turns and have been unable to find any advice to the contrary. Can you help please?

elsewhen
Post 1

FYI... I think its ok to use the teflon tape when your fingers are wet - it doesn't seem to affect the seal that is created. (but it is easier to wrap the tape neatly around the pipethread when your fingers are dry)

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