Electrical tapes are helpful in multiple electrical wire works. It is primarily used to insulate materials that conduct electricity. But when you run out of it, you would wonder what else you can use that works like this tape.
Electrical tape is designed for electrical applications and provides insulation, protection, and durability. Several substitutes for electrical tape can work as a temporary fix. Some primary substitutes are wire connectors, shrink tubings, and tapes like silicone tape, friction tape, duct tape, etc.
There are some terrible substitutes too. This guide shares both good and bad substitutes for electrical tape. We will also share some information about the electrical tape and its benefits.
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Introduction to electrical tape and its Purpose
Electrical tape is a coated adhesive that contains insulating properties.
The tape mainly insulates objects that carry electricity to avoid electric shocks.
The electrical tape does not burn by overheating and is a non-conductive material. So you can safely adhere to the electrical wiring.
There are different types of electrical tape – vinyl, rubber, varnished cambric, and mastic.
Electrical tape can protect your electrical wiring from corrosion caused by moisture.
Electrical tape is also resistant to some acids that can damage electrical wires.
The wires will remain safe when you wrap them with the tape.
The electrical tapes are sometimes also used to color code the wires of the same colors or identify the wire voltages.
However, the electrical tape should not be used permanently or during some major wire repairs. It only secures the wires for a short time.
So, any damage to the tape can lead to electrical shocks and fire hazards.
4 types of electrical tape
Electrical tape has various varieties. The four common types of electrical tape include:
1. Rubber electrical tape
Rubber is a famous electrical tape used in several projects for go-to water sealing, mechanical padding, and shaping.
The rubber tape doesn’t have adhesion because it can stick to itself tightly and, thus, is ideal for terminating or splicing high-powered wires.
2. Vinyl electrical tape
Vinyl electrical tape is commonly used for wire insulation and various other purposes.
The tape is durable, good in abrasion resistance, and flexible.
You can keep out moisture from your wires by using these wires.
But the wire cannot always help the wires to be safe in difficult situations.
3. Mastic electrical tape
These electrical tapes are found in the middle of the tape as a spongy substance.
The tape is widely used for tricky repair, for example, covering awkward spaces in the wires that got exposed with a less flexible tape.
The tape is an excellent insulator and is highly water-resistant. It further makes it ideal for outdoor usage.
4. Varnished cambric electrical tape
This electrical tape is woven cotton tape coated with a varnish that gives the tape exceptional properties.
The varnish makes an excellent insulator and is strong enough to be used on multiple works, for example, covering sharp corners that can cut the other electrical tapes.
9 Close substitutes for electrical tape and how to use them
Electrical tape has always been the first option for all house owners regarding minor electrical wire repairs.
But what to do if you run out of supply in your house or the local shops?
Don’t worry. In this section, I have shared a list of 9 substitutes, which I prefer as the best alternative to electrical tape.
1. Wire nuts or connectors
Wire connectors fall first on the list of electrical tape substitutes and my favorite.
Wire connectors are plastic on the outside but metal on the inside.
The connectors connect two bare wires, allowing electricity to flow safely through these wires.
These connectors are an excellent substitute for electrical tape.
Sometimes, people use both connectors and electrical tape for extra safety.
To use the wire connectors:
- Strip around ½ inch of insulation from both the wire ends.
- Hold the two bare wire ends together. Do not twist the wires with each other.
- Bring the wire connectors, put the wires inside, and start twisting them. A spring inside the wire connectors will make the wires spin and tighten the connection.
- Continue twisting the wires until they wrap and coil inside the connector.
- If the wires need more twisting, remove them, strip a few more inches of insulation, and twist again.
- Gently tug the wires and see if they are staying or coming out.
For extra safety and secure connection, wrap a tape for 2-3 overlaps.
2. Heat-shrink tubing
My next best substitute on the list is heat-shrink tubing.
As the name suggests, heat shrink tubing is a tube that will shrink to a smaller size after receiving some heat.
To use the heat in the shrink tubing:
- Choose a heat-shrink tube that is 1-2 inches bigger than the wire diameter so that it fits the wire after shrinking.
- Thread the wire you want to insulate through the tube.
- Slide the shrink tubing into the wire and bring it to where you want to shrink it.
- Apply heat to the tube with a hair dryer or a heat gun for 30-45 seconds.
- As the tube heats up, it will shrink to the wire size and create a tight fit over the wire.
Heat-shrink tubing has low conductivity and can even be waterproof if the tube shrinks and seals the wire appropriately.
It is the best substitute where the concern is about reliability and durability.
The shrink tube is mainly made of Polyolefin and can endure a temperature of around 275°F.
Some manufacturers use PVC or polyvinyl chloride to make the tubing.
But, it does not have the same temperature endurance as Polyolefin.
PVC can tolerate temperatures up to 220°F. However, PVC costs less than Polyolefin and comes in various colors.
So, if you need the tube to match the wire color, you can choose PVC.
Additionally, PVC is pliable, resistant to abrasions, and available in a fire-retardant variety.
The heat-shrink tubes are also made with PTFE, OVDF, FEP, silicone rubber, and elastomeric.
You can use these materials depending on the tube’s surroundings and the materials they may come in contact with.
3. Friction tape
Friction tape is made of cloth coated with rubber adhesive.
I have seen these tapes used in sports to wrap the grips of sports items like racquets or handles.
Friction tape is known to be used by electricians in the old times.
But over time, electrical tape replaced it.
The tape provides sufficient insulation to the exposed electrical wires as the electrical tape.
The sticky tape on both sides can secure the wires tightly with a few wraps.
You can use it like you use electrical tape for the exposed wires.
4. Cold-shrink tubing
The cold-shrink tubing is like the heat-shrink tubing.
The only difference is that you do not need to apply heat to shrink the tube.
The tube is made of formulated silicone rubber.
The tube is pre-stretched and compressed onto a removable plastic core.
Once you remove this plastic core, the tube will contract, shrink tightly to the wire, and make secure insulation.
The tubing can protect the wire from moisture, dirt, debris, and other environmental elements responsible for wire damage.
The best thing about this tube is that you can even apply it to places where you cannot apply heat when you use heat-shrink tubes.
Be it heat or cold shrink, always choose the tubing size according to the wire size.
Usually, it needs to be 1-2 inches bigger than the wire diameter because it will match the wire size after shrinking.
Here are the steps to use the cold shrink:
- Buy a shrink tube with the proper size.
- Thread the wire into the tube and bring the tube to the place where insulation is needed.
- Remove the plastic core from the center of the tube.
- Once you do that, the tube will expand, conform to the wire, and tightly seal the exposed parts.
- Check the sealing properly and see that every exposed part is covered.
- Remove the excess tubing and test the wire.
5. Silicone tape
Silicone tape is another substitute for electrical tape.
It will make a tight and durable seal for the exposed wires indoors and outdoors.
The tape is flexible, waterproof, and contains resistance to high temperatures.
You can apply silicone tape in two ways:
Use it as a sealant for the wire connectors.
- Turn off your breaker and clean the housing of the wire with a wet rag.
- Use a 7/16 wrench to tighten the connectors.
- Then, apply the silicone sealant to secure the wires and connectors properly.
- The sealant will come in a tube and be applied with a small brush.
- Let it dry, and you are done.
Directly apply the tape to the wire.
- Hold the wire ends appropriately, cut off some tape length, and wrap it around the exposed conductor.
- Stretch it around three times or more, as needed, to make a strong bond.
- The tape will need at least 24 hours to fuse.
You can also apply the tape over soldered joints, male and female spade connectors, butt connectors, and other connections.
6. Kapton tape
Kapton tape is versatile and can be used for various purposes.
You can use the tape as a solder mask. It is durable, strong, thin, lightweight, and can withstand high temperatures.
Kapton tapes are often used for splicing wires for flexible printed circuit boards.
The wire has a suitable adhesive and does not go off when the wires become slightly hot.
Since it will work as a substitute, using the wire for small household appliances is better.
To use the Kapton tape safely:
- Turn off the breaker of the appliance or device whose wire you want to fix.
- Hold the wire firmly at the place where you want to fix it.
- Cut off the tape at the desired length and wrap it around the exposed wire parts.
- Make sure the tape covers the entire exposed parts. If needed, make 2-3 wraps.
- Smoothen out any curves, wrinkles, and bubbles.
7. Teflon tape
Teflon tape is also known as PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) or plumber’s tape.
The tape is a professional strength adhesive tape used for various applications.
Usually, the tape is used for ductwork and piping.
But you can use it for electrical purposes, like repairing minor wire damages.
Its hydrophobic and low friction feature makes this tape suitable as a substitute for electrical tape.
The tape also has high heat resistance, which makes it ideal for electrical wires where the insulation needs to endure high heat.
PTFE is manufactured as heat-shrink tubing to be placed over the wire and then shrunk by heat.
However, avoiding these tapes for primary wire insulation that carries high voltage is better.
To use the tape:
- Turn off the breaker and clean the wire ends.
- Start applying the tape over the exposed wire parts and wrap it as needed by the wire.
- Make 2-3 overlaps or wraps to make a tight seal.
- Secure the wire connections, turn on the breaker, and test the wire.
8. Duct tape
Duct tape is affordable and readily available in the markets.
You can use duct tape as a substitute for electrical tape because of its non-conductive and insulative features.
It is a strong cotton fabric having a crisscross pattern on the threads.
However, some experts do not recommend them as an excellent alternative to electrical tape because the cotton fabric can easily catch fire once it reaches a flash point of 200 degrees.
The fabric will dry out over time when it touches the electrically charged wires and even conflagrates, mainly when you use them for the high-voltage wires.
Duct tape will work for low-voltage wires or wires in low-moisture areas.
Use duct tape only for indoor purposes, minor repairs like chargers and wires for light appliances, and low-voltage wires.
The duct tape is applied the same way as you use the electrical tape:
- Hold the wires firmly in place.
- Cut a part of duct tape and wrap it around the wire to insulate the exposed parts.
- Wrap the tape 2-3 times for proper insulation and cut the excess part.
The application method is the same as electrical tape.
9. Liquid electric tape
The tape comes in a liquid form and is mainly used in boats, wet areas, and screws with loosening risks.
You can use it instead of electrical tape in the electrical wires.
It is a paintable form of tape. You can easily control the liquid and make it reach every odd place the regular tapes cannot cover.
However, using it for minor purposes in low-voltage wires is better.
It is challenging to resemble electrical tape layering because you need to put multiple thick coatings as you layer the other tapes.
Apply the liquid electric tape over the exposed wires with the following steps:
- Clean the wires properly and remove all the remaining dirt and debris.
- Shake the liquid bottle very well to mix all the properties inside it.
- Hold the applicator 1-inch away from where you want to apply it.
- Apply a thin layer of tape on the exposed wires and cover them completely.
- Wait for 10-15 minutes to let the liquid dry out.
- If you still see the exposed wires, apply another layer and wait.
- Repeat this until you cannot see the wire, and ensure the exposed parts are adequately sealed.
- Once you are satisfied with the insulation, turn on the power and test the wires.
The process is lengthy because you have to wait 10-15 minutes after applying every coating. So, I discourage using it.
3 tapes to avoid as electrical tape substitute
There are many tapes to use, but the above nine are the most commonly used and best alternatives to electrical tape.
House owners usually use the ones mentioned in the list.
But, it is crucial to learn about tapes that you must not use as an electrical tape alternative so that you never experiment with them.
This section shares some tapes that I discovered to be the worst substitutes.
1. Foil tape
Foil tape is a kind of tape that is widely used in various repairs.
The tape suits place needing moisture, chemicals, and flame protection.
But, the material of the tape is aluminum which conducts electricity.
Applying it over bare wires will make it carry electricity, and touching the tape will shock you badly.
2. Scotch tape
The next on our list is the scotch tape.
Scotch tape is an adhesive backing but has no electrical insulation properties.
So, without proper insulation, the wire will shock you when it is live.
3. Masking tape
The last is the masking tape. It is the worst substitute.
The tape is mainly used for several DIY projects because it does not leave residue behind and is easy to remove from the surface.
It also has high heat resistance.
But it does not have insulation or waterproofing properties like scotch tape.
The only use of masking tape for electrical purposes is as color coding for wires that are not bare.
Safety considerations while using electrical tape and its substitutes
Dealing with electrical tape safely is essential to secure all wire connections.
So, here are some warnings and safety tips for you while dealing with electrical tape and its substitutes safely:
- Do not work with any live systems. Check all the outlets and devices and see that they are all plugged off, even if the breakers are off.
- For extra safety, turn off the breaker and confirm that the power is off using voltage testers or multimeters.
- When you use electrical tapes or any other alternatives above, use them only over the bare wires, and remove the excess from the insulating part of the wire. Wrapping wire over them will become too hot, and the insulating properties prevent the hazard. Excessive insulation can create heat and become flammable, therefore starting a fire.
- Whatever substitute you use, make sure it is usable and meant to be used as an alternative to electrical wires.
- Tapes are not always ideal for high-voltage wires or permanent repairs. Using them for minor or temporary repairs is better.
- Avoid working around wet areas or with wet hands.
- Wear protective gear before dealing with these substitutes and the electrical wires.
If you have reached here, you have learned the best substitutes for electrical tape. Since there are several options, use any if you run out of electrical tape. Experts recommend using them for minor or temporary purposes, no matter how good the substitute is.
These alternatives may not work as efficiently as the electrical tape is designed for electrical purposes and is UL-listed.
So any substitute from the above list should be for temporary usage, minor repairs, and low-voltage wires. Whenever you get your hands on electrical tape, use it.
Can I use electrical tape or any of these substitutes for outdoor purposes?
Electrical tape has insulating properties and resistance to heat and contains waterproofing and weatherproofing due to its coating. Hence, you can use electrical tape for outdoor purposes, but the substitutes may not work well. For example, duct tape can degrade faster.
What is the shelf life of electrical tape?
The electrical tape lasts for 5 years. They are strong, durable, and do not degrade quickly. That is why they are certified by the UL to be used for electrical purposes.
Reference: Electrical Tape Wikipedia