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Best Tape That Sticks to Fabric (Complete Guide)

Best Tape That Sticks to Fabric

Finding the ideal tape to stick securely to fabric can be a real challenge with the wide variety of fabrics and tape types available. From delicate silk to heavy denim, there are so many options, it’s hard to know where to start. In this comprehensive guide, we will thoroughly walk through the key factors to look for when picking out a tape for any fabric application.

We’ll provide an in-depth examination of the different adhesive types, tape backings, and widths so you understand how they perform on fabrics. You’ll learn the specific tapes that excel at sticking to all the most common fabrics like cotton, denim, leather, silk, vinyl and more. We have researched specialty tapes made for techniques like hemming, sewing, and crafting too.

Read on for the definitive guide to choosing, applying, and removing tape from fabrics. If you want tape that bonds quickly and holds tight, avoid damage, and leaves no sticky residue behind, this guide has the answers. Let’s get started learning all about the best tape for every fabric scenario.

What to Look for in Tape for Fabrics

Choosing a tape that will create a strong, lasting bond with fabrics starts with understanding the tape’s construction and properties. Key factors like the adhesive formula, backing material, and width all determine performance. Here’s what to consider:

Adhesive Strength and Type

The adhesive is arguably the most important factor when it comes to tape’s ability to stick to fabric. A tape won’t function if its adhesive can’t adhere firmly to the material. There are several main adhesive types, each with their own level of strength and fabric suitability:

Acrylic Adhesive

  • Description: Acrylic adhesive is a synthetic rubber-based glue made from polymers. It has high tack and excellent staying power on porous surfaces like wood, paper, and fabric.
  • Fabric suitability: Acrylic adhesive sticks firmly to structured, woven fabrics like cotton, denim, canvas, twill, and polyester. It bonds aggressively to the weave.
  • Examples: Duct tape, gaffer’s tape, masking tape

Silicone Adhesive

  • Description: Silicone adhesive uses silicone polymers to create a tacky, flexible glue. It remains sticky when stretched and leaves no residue.
  • Fabric suitability: Silicone bonds very well to smooth, slippery synthetics like vinyl, plastic, nylon, silk, and synthetic leather.
  • Examples: Gaffer’s tape, fabric repair tape

Hot Melt Adhesive

  • Description: Hot melt adhesive is applied hot, then sets as it cools. It creates a strong, permanent bond.
  • Fabric suitability: Ideal for porous wovens like cotton, denim, canvas where it sets between the weave. Withstands frequent movement.
  • Examples: Duct tape, gaffer’s tape, masking tape

Water-Activated Adhesive

  • Description: These adhesives use water to turn dry glue into a tacky bonding agent. They create a lighter bond than other adhesives.
  • Fabric suitability: Works well on delicate, sheer fabrics like silk that would be damaged by stronger adhesives. Also good for temporary bonds.
  • Examples: Washable tape, scrapbooking tape

As a general rule, acrylic and hot melt adhesives found in tapes like duct, gaffer’s and masking tape will provide the strongest, most secure bonds for woven fabrics. Silicone offers better grip on synthetics and won’t leave residue. For fine silks and prints, look for gentle water-activated glues.

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Tape Backing Material

The backing material the adhesive is coated onto also affects a tape’s fabric adhesion. Common backing materials include:

  • Paper – Paper backings like crepe paper masking tape conforms well to fabrics.
  • Plastic – Plastic polyethylene film in tapes like packing tape is stiff and won’t flex with fabrics.
  • Foil – Aluminum foil is also rigid but reflective for special effects.
  • Cloth – Cloth backings found in gaffer’s tape moves naturally with fabrics.
  • Foam – Cushiony foam in double-sided tape is good for irregular surfaces.

For taping most fabrics, prioritize flexible, conforming materials like paper, cloth, or foam. Avoid plastic films that don’t bend easily.

Width

Tape comes in a range of widths from 1/4 inch up to 2 inches or even more. Wider tapes will naturally provide more sticking surface and stronger bonds. But thinner tapes have uses too:

  • 1/4″ to 3/8″ width – Good for wrapping thin ribbons and trims, small mends, crafts.
  • 1/2″ width – All-purpose mending and bonding for most lightweight to medium-weight fabrics.
  • 3/4″ to 1″ width – Preferred for heavy canvas, denim, upholstery where maximum strength is needed.
  • 2″+ widths – Best for taping large tears, or covering wide areas. Can reinforce seams.

Match the tape width to the size of the material and application. Wide heavy-duty tapes will overwhelm delicate fabrics. Narrow tapes won’t cover repairs on heavy canvas.

Best Tapes for Common Fabrics

Best Tapes for Common Fabrics

Now that you understand the key qualities to look for, let’s examine smart tape choices for popular fabric types.

Cotton

From t-shirts to upholstery, cotton is one of the most widely used fabrics thanks to its breathability, soft hand, and durability. Cotton’s woven structure offers tape adhesive plenty to cling to. However, dyes and prints on cotton can be damaged by harsh adhesives. Recommended tapes include:

Duct Tape

Duct tape’s heavyweight hot melt adhesive bonds ferociously well to natural fibers like cotton. It can handle frequent movement and tension on cotton clothes and upholstery. For temporary bonds, the adhesive residues can leave marks.

Masking Tape

Gentler than duct tape, masking tape has a light crepe paper backing that conforms smoothly to cotton’s surface. The light-duty hot melt glue peels up cleanly after use. Safe for delicate cotton prints and clothing repairs.

Gaffer’s Tape

Gaffer’s tape combines the adhesive power of duct tape, with easier, residue-free removal. The natural cloth backing moves fluidly with cotton. Gaffer’s tape excels at sticking to cotton while preventing damage.

Denim

Rugged denim and canvas are woven tightly from thick cotton threads. Their heavyweight construction demands an equally strong tape adhesive and backing that can flex with the fabric. Look for heavy-duty tapes like:

Hemming Tape

Iron-on hemming tapes are coated with a heat-activated adhesive that fuses the tape into denim fibers for permanent, sew-free hems that withstand washing. Perfect for jeans and denim jackets.

Duct Tape

Duct tape anchors firmly into the dense weave of denim. It remains flexible despite denim’s rigidity. For temporary repairs, duct tape bonds tenaciously to denim’s rough surface.

Gorilla Tape

For the ultimate in sticking power on extra heavy denim, turn to Gorilla tape. Its double-thick hot melt adhesive clings fiercely to surfaces. The durable cloth backing won’t restrict denim movement.

Silk

Luxurious silk has a perfectly smooth finish that repels many adhesives. Silk’s delicate nature also prohibits harsh glue. Tapes for silk should have light, non-damaging adhesion like:

Textile Tape

Cloth tapes designed specifically for silk and fine fabrics. Gentle acrylic medical adhesive won’t pull or damage silk’s fragile threads. Bonds retain flexibility without stiffness.

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Masking Tape

Masking tape’s low-tack hot melt glue is one of the few that lightly sticks to silk’s slippery surface. Yet it peels up residue-free after use.

Washi Tape

This decorative Japanese tape is made from translucent rice paper. The water-activated glue forms loose bonds ideal for embellishing silk without wrecking the expensive material.

Leather

Natural leather has oils that can inhibit adhesion and cause tapes to peel up. Synthetic leather is prone to damage from overly sticky glue residue. For leather, stick to tapes like:

Gaffer’s Tape

The silicone adhesive in gaffer’s tape helps it grab onto leather’s slick surface, without leaving a gummy mess behind. Bonds keep flexibility to work with leather’s pliability.

Duct Tape

Duct tape has the brawn to adhere to challenging leather. It sticks confidently to slippery faux leather. Just be prepared for some adhesive residue upon removal.

Double-Sided Carpet Tape

This extremely sticky tape excels at bonding slick leather permanently for projects. Not designed to be removable, but provides an unparalleled strong grip.

Vinyl

From shiny faux leather to transparent raincoats, vinyl’s plastic coating needs special adhesives that can stretch and resist plasticizers. Avoid tapes that could scratch or leave residue. Pick vinyl-safe options like:

Gaffer’s Tape

A favorite of upholsterers for vinyl furniture, gaffer’s tape sticks neatly and removes cleanly thanks to its flexible cloth backing and silicone adhesive. Leaves vinyl in flawless condition.

Double-Sided Tape

Thin foam double-sided tape can make gentle contact with lightweight vinyl items like raincoats and tablecloths. The thin adhesive prevents stiffness or distortion of the vinyl surface.

Washi Tape

Decorative washi tape adds colorful patterning to vinyl without risk of damage. The lightweight paper backing and repositionable glue is perfectly suited for vinyl’s fickle surface.

Specialty Tapes for Fabric Projects

Beyond everyday repairs, there are tapes made to assist with particular fabric craft, sewing, and construction techniques. Having these on hand expands your abilities to use tape on fabrics:

Hem Tape

Iron-on adhesive tapes create instant no-sew hems on curtains, pants, and skirts. Once fused to fabric, the bond withstands repeated washing and wearing. Can be reheated to make adjustments.

Seam Sealing Tape

Apply activated glue tapes over stitched seams. The waterproof sealant prevents leaks on outdoor gear like tents and rain jackets by bonding seam allowances.

Fusible Interfacing Tape

Interfacing tapes fuse fabric pieces together via heat. Commonly used in sewing for attaching appliques, quilting, and padding areas like collars or pocket flaps.

Basting Tape

This removable double-sided tape temporarily adheres fabric in place for sewing to avoid pinning. Leaves no marks on fabric when removed after stitching.

Tailor’s Tape

Flexible paper tapes printed with inch and centimeter markings. Tailors use them to take body measurements for precise clothing alterations and sewing projects.

Tips for Applying Tape to Fabrics

Follow these techniques when adhering tape to fabrics to get optimal sticking power:

  • Ensure fabrics are clean and dry before applying tape. Oils, dust, and moisture reduce adhesion.
  • For temporary hold, stick to low-tack tapes that can be removed without damage. For permanent bonds, use high-tack adhesives.
  • With porous fabrics, rub the tape in to ensure adhesive penetrates the weave for maximum grip.
  • Smooth tapes down gradually from end to end while applying to prevent trapping air pockets.
  • Once positioned, press firmly along the length of the tape, smoothing out any bumps or creases.
  • When using iron-on tapes, follow package directions for proper heat setting with a dry iron.
  • Test new tapes on hidden areas first to confirm tape won’t discolor or damage the fabric.

Tips for Removing Tape from Fabrics

Taking tape off of fabric requires gentle care, especially on delicate materials. Follow these guidelines:

  • Always remove tape slowly and carefully in the direction it was applied. Never rip tape off fabric.
  • Gently stretch and twist the tape to break the adhesive grip. Pull back at a shallow angle.
  • If tape is heavily stuck, apply heat with a hairdryer to soften the glue and make it easier to release.
  • Replace tape gradually with light tension rather than all at once to avoid damaging threads.
  • After removal, dab any remaining adhesive spots with vinegar or rubbing alcohol to dissolve residue.
  • Launder fabric after removing tape to eliminate any lingering tackiness or glue marks.
  • If tape damages fabric, apply a drop of fabric glue under fraying fibers to resecure threads.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the strongest tape for fabric?

For maximum adhesion to most woven fabrics, duct tape is the strongest choice. The natural cloth backing combined with an extra-sticky hot melt glue gives duct tape incredible grip on fabrics, with bond strength up to 200 pounds.

Does Gorilla tape work well on fabrics?

Yes, Gorilla tape excels at adhering to fabrics. The double-thick hot melt adhesive provides extremely aggressive stick on materials like denim, canvas, upholstery and more. Just beware Gorilla tape bonds so tightly, it can damage delicate fabrics when removed.

What tape sticks best to nylon and other synthetics?

Look for a silicone adhesive tape like gaffer’s tape which securely bonds to smooth, slippery synthetics like nylon, spandex, vinyl and polyester. Silicone glues grab and hold tenaciously on these non-porous fabrics where other adhesives would struggle.

Is it okay to use packing tape on fabrics?

Packing tape is not well suited for sticking to fabrics. The glue is very mild and designed primarily for cardboard and paper. And the stiff, plastic film backing doesn’t flex or conform to fabrics. Specialty tapes like gaffer’s, masking or duct tape adhesive will create much better fabric bonds.

What is the best tape for repairing leather?

Gaffer’s tape is the top choice for taping leather. The flexible cloth backing moves with the leather while the silicone adhesive sticks securely without residue. Duct tape will also bond, but tends to leave a sticky mess on leather. Avoid tape with glue that could discolor or stain leather.

Can I use washi tape on silk?

Yes, washi tape is an excellent option for the delicate surface of silk. Washi tape has a lightweight paper backing and gentle, repositionable water-based adhesive that lightly sticks to fabrics. It adds beautiful colors and patterns to silk without any risk of damage to the fabric.

Conclusion

Finding a tape with an adhesive that securely bonds to fabrics can seem overwhelming initially. But by understanding the qualities that make a tape effective for sticking to materials, you can confidently match tapes to fabric. Consider the tape backing flexibility, adhesive type for the fabric surface, and width needed.

For the best reliability across all fabrics, turn to duct tape, gaffer’s tape or masking tape. To lightly stick delicate silks and synthetics, look to lower-tack options like washi tape. Follow our techniques for clean application and removal. With this detailed guide, you now have in-depth knowledge of the best tapes for sticking smoothly to any fabric project.

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