PTFE tape is often referred to as plumbers tape or Teflon tape due to its ability to seal a wide variety of threaded fittings like valves, nipples, and gauges – and its strength to keep them free from leaks.
The tape can be incredibly versatile. It’s no surprise that it can be found in tool boxes and tool cribs throughout the globe – meeting the need of many different applications. But what exactly is PTFE tape?
What is PTFE Tape?
PTFE, which stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, is commonly used in applications that involve sealing pipes and tubes used for things like water, gas, or air. In certain situations, it can even act as a lubricant for pipes by preventing any water or air leakages. PTFE-based thread seal tape even holds up very well on high-pressured lines, keeping them perfectly sealed.
It was first trademarked as “Teflon,” by DuPont in 1945 after being discovered by accident by a chemist in 1938. A batch of gas spontaneously polymerized resulting in a wax-like solid. Through a little testing, they discovered that it didn’t dissolve in various solvents, it could withstand high and low temperatures, and it wasn’t touched by corrosive acids. It quickly became known as the slickest substance.
Over the years, PTFE has been used to create nonstick cookware, as well as in space and medical applications. It has also become the best-known gap filler or sealant when applied directly to pipes, allowing the flow of gas or liquid.
Properties of PTFE Tape
PTFE has some special qualities. After all, it is designed to stop the flow of high-pressure water. Let’s take a look at what makes it the perfect solution for many different applications.
- High temperatures. PTFE tape has to be able to withstand high temperatures if it is found in hot water applications or in industrial environments.
- Pressure Resistant. There are some applications that involve high pressure. And PTFE tape has to be able to stand up to them. This is why it is able to be used in some of the most integral applications throughout the world.
- Non-reactive to other metals. PTFE tape can come in contact with many different chemicals and substances while it works. Things like acids, solvents, and various gasses won’t have an impact on the tape and its ability to perform its job.
- Malleable. The tape is filling in the tiny gaps and it needs to be able to do so very carefully. As it gets wrapped around the pipe, it needs to be able to bend easily and not harden. PTFE is the perfect fit as it adheres to the threads without question.
- Hydrophobic. PTFE tape is hydrophobic which means that it repels water. What better tool to use in plumbing and other applications that involve coming into contact with water – especially when you need the confidence that it won’t be negatively impacted by it?
- Non-corrosive. These tapes are always non-corrosive. Regardless of the application they are used in, you don’t have to worry about them getting ruined or damaging the threads they are attached to. As a matter of fact, they prevent corrosion.
Where is PTFE Tape Used?
There are many different applications and places in which you will find that PTFE plays a vital role. These also fall across many different industries, too. You may even be surprised just where you will find it.
PTFE tape may be used in homes – in kitchens, bathrooms, outdoor water taps, and so forth. They can also be found in the appliance industry, fire protection, food and beverage, fluid control, medical equipment, HVAC systems, water irrigation, and more.
They can be used for things such as:
- Water pressure systems
- Hydraulic systems
- Air flow systems
- Fire protection systems
- Fluid power systems
You will find PTFE throughout your house and the surrounding areas wherever a leak may be possible.
Types of PTFE Tape
There are six different types of PTFE tape that are color-coded to reflect their purpose and intended use. You always want to make sure you are using the right color tape for the right application.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of tapes available, as well as their function.
- White tape. This is the tape that is most commonly used – your basic thread seal tape. In fact, it is the original color for PTFE. It works well for basic plumbing jobs, such as residential watering needs in the faucets, outside water hoses, or even gas connections for cooking.
- Yellow tape. This high-density tape can be safely used for different gases, such as propane, natural gas, or butane fittings. It is designed to be able to be screwed and unscrewed multiple times without risking its seal.
- Pink tape. This tape is ideal for high-pressure water pipe situations or potable water lines.
- Green tape. Green tape is used for oxygen. This may be used in small personal medical cylinders or even for oxygen welding lines.
Wrapping PTFE Tape
In order to use PTFE tape to prevent leaks, the part has to be wrapped perfectly. Remember, you are looking for a watertight seal. Proper placement and technique are crucial to achieving leakproof fitting. Furthermore, having to remove the tape and start over can be a waste of time and extremely frustrating for the operator. Especially if there are many fittings to rework.
Here are some steps to wrap a part perfectly every time.
- Step One: Always start with a pipe with ends that are kept dry and free from any dirt or debris. The PTFE tape needs a clean surface to adhere fully.
- Step Two: Starting at the thread that is second from the end of your pipe, gently place it down and hold it there in place with your finger.
- Step Three: Now that you have your pipe in place and ready to go, it is time to start wrapping it. Here is the key – you must wrap it in the opposite direction of how it will turn. And, at the same time, you want to make sure that the tape is snug and wrapped tightly against the threads and you wrap and move down the pipe.
- Step Four: Continue wrapping the tape around the pipe about 3 to 5 times, give or take depending on how thick it is. Not wrapping it enough – or wrapping too much can both lead to leaky situations.
- Step Five: Your final stretch of tape should remain tightly pulled as you place it down onto the pipe. When you are finished, the tape should be wrapped in a way that you see the grooves clearly.
Make sure you work through this process slowly and diligently in order to get the results you are looking for. The tiniest wrong move can have you trying to peel off the PTFE tape (which seems impossible) and start again.
If you think that this sounds like a tedious process, it is. And it is tough to get consistent results, too.
New Technology to Streamline Taping
With new technology, it is hard to understand why anyone would still manually wrap their pipes today – especially when they are in a production-driven industry.
Ready for some good news?
Investing in a Thred Taper will automatically wrap the tape around your pipes for you. Not only does this remove your frustration, but when you have a lot of customers waiting or you have a lot of projects piling up, it is the fastest, most effective way to wrap PTFE tape. Meet your demand in record time.
The Thred Taper is a machine that can consistently wrap PTFE tape over and over again. It can even wrap a day’s worth of tape in just one hour. Since streamlining business is the name of the game, perhaps it is time to leave manual tape wrapping in the past and invest in the future.
The Wrap Up
PTFE tape is a widely-used sealant and lubricant that helps seal off gas, water, and air through pipes. And, it can be easily found in all different industries throughout the world. Keep in mind that there are several different types that each fulfill a specific function in order to yield consistent results every time.
Wrapping PTFE tape can be quite tricky and requires time and patience. Though, innovative technology is available to boost the number of wraps you are able to do each day – which can greatly increase productivity.