Electrical tape is a mainstay of most home toolboxes. It comes in various colors, is made from multiple materials, and is used for a plethora of purposes. But is it waterproof?

Electrical tape is not waterproof, yet you can find it with higher degrees of water resistance.  Electrical tape works well for projects with moderate exposure to moisture. For wetter projects, stick to a high-quality all-purpose tape or other sealing solution.

In this article, I’ll explain more about water-resistance levels and what electrical tape is best used for. I’ll also discuss the difference between waterproof and water-resistant and suggest some waterproof alternatives for when electrical tape won’t suffice. 

Electrical Tape Is Water-Resistant, Not Waterproof

Most of us associate electrical tape with the narrow, black vinyl tape and use it as an umbrella term for various products with a similar purpose and function. This is but one varietal. Unless explicitly stated on the package, electrical tape isn’t waterproof. Most electrical tapes are water-resistant, a minor but significant difference determined by chemistry.

Plasticizers Create Malleability

Electrical tapes are typically made of materials that require plasticizers. A plasticizer is a chemical compound used to make rigid materials more pliable and malleable.

Plasticizers Damage Adhesives

Unfortunately, while plasticizers are helpful and necessary for the backing, they harm the adhesive. They will, over time, leach into the glue on the electrical tape and soften it in the same way they soften the vinyl or rubber of the backing.

The softened adhesive will separate from the backing, causing the seal to fail. This process is gradual, but electrical tapes are water-resistant and not waterproof.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

Waterproof and water-resistant are similar in principle. Both provide a degree of protection from weather and elements. Both can withstand a certain amount of moisture. However, there’s a distinction between the two terms, and it’s crucial to understand this difference:

  • Waterproof: Waterproof tapes withstand any amount of water. They can be submerged and still maintain their seal. They’ll also hold a seal against prolonged and steady exposure to moisture.
  • Water-resistant: Water-resistant tapes can maintain a seal through moderate amounts of moisture. They endure humidity and steam. They can also hold up during occasional bouts of water, like mild precipitation.

Since electrical tapes’ primary function is to provide insulation to live wires, for many projects, water-resistant will be sufficient. Water-resistant electrical tapes will hold up to most weather conditions, hold their seal in humidity, and work well outdoors.

A failed seal, however, allows liquid to touch wires, which can lead to sparks or electrocution. And if your project dictates the tape to experience prolonged and consistent exposure to moisture, then water-resistant won’t be sufficient.

Water-Resistance of Electrical Tape Materials

We use electrical tape for a variety of reasons. Different colored tapes mark different levels of voltage, and it’s used to outline distances. But the primary purpose of electrical tape is to insulate wires. Whenever electricity is a concern, we must consider moisture. Moisture permeating live wires leads to shocks, sparks, and fires. Electrical tape provides a degree of protection against water.

Electrical tapes are made of a variety of materials for a variety of purposes. Some have higher levels of stretch, and some are designed to be more durable. The materials used to make them can have an impact on their water resistance.

The chart below will provide some insight into the water-resistance of the prevalent varieties of electrical tape.

MaterialWater-Resistance
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)High. PVC is well suited for insulating in rugged environments.
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)Highly resistant to chemicals and wet conditions, the preferred electrical tape of plumbers. Not great for long periods, and best used over the top of a PVC tape.
Rubber  High water resistance, high level of protection against moisture.
MasticThe highest level of water resistance. Well suited for humidity and steam.
VinylAverage. A reasonable level of resistance and durable tape. The most commonly used electrical tape.
PolyesterAverage. Resistant to chemical corrosion and moderate liquid protection.
Self-AmalgamatingA high level of water resistance. It doesn’t use an adhesive but sticks to itself. It’s often used to moisture seal joints.

The Best Electrical Tapes and Waterproof Alternatives

Good news. There are available options if you need waterproof tape.

Duct tape is waterproof. Use it in addition to electrical tape. It doesn’t insulate, so it cannot be used as an independent alternative.

Additionally, several multi-purpose tapes can be used in place of electrical tape, which is waterproof.

Water-Resistant

There’s a vast array of water-resistant electrical tapes on the market but the Proxicast Pro-Grade Silicone Tape (available on Amazon) is the best weather-proof option. Besides, it’s also available in a variety of colors.

Waterproof

For a great waterproof solution, try Gorilla Crystal Clear Tape (Amazon). This multi-purpose tape is useful for so many problems and can endure a great deal of abuse. It’s weather and temperature resistant and great for indoor or outdoor use.

Another solid contender is T-Rex Ferociously Strong Tape (Amazon). This all-purpose tape is weather  and UV-resistant and extra wide for tackling big tasks.

How Important Is Water Resistance in Electrical Tape?

Water resistance is very important in electrical tape since it’s an insulator and protects live wires from damaging elements. Should moisture come in contact with live wires, it can cause sparks, leading to fires, and electrocutions, potentially resulting in damage or injury.

Fortunately, all electrical tapes provide some degree of water resistance.

Electrical tape is a powerful tool. Still, like all tools, it must be used correctly and for the appropriate purposes to achieve the desired results.

You may also like: Is Duct Tape Flammable?

Conclusion

Electrical tape isn’t waterproof. However, it doesn’t always need to be, as water resistance is often sufficient for most tasks. Always evaluate your project first to determine if water-resistant electrical tape is sufficient.

If it is, figure out which electrical tape best suits your needs. If it’s not, avail yourself of an all-purpose tape. Knowing what you need will help save you time, money, and even injury.

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