Duct Tape: From Air Ducts to Asphyxiation

4 min readJan 12, 2023


“Duct tape can’t fix stupid, but it can muffle the sound.”

Serial killer Robert Leroy Anderson, a South Dakota native, decided to test the “muffle the sound” theory by using duct tape to gag his victims. One of them died after being suffocated by the duct tape used to gag her. There is a book written about all this called “The Duct Tape Killer.”

Look it up.

Knowing this bit of information adds an added layer of creepiness to all of the t-shirts, hats, signs, and stickers that bear the aforementioned slogan. Would people still find it funny if they knew about Anderson and the gruesome details of torture, rape, murder, and dismemberment that his victims suffered? Probably. There is always that one person who responds with “lighten up.”

But why duct tape? The answer is why not? It is durable, it is waterproof, it is easy to find, it is relatively inexpensive, and it sticks to everything using the same physics that allows geckos to stick to walls. Steve Smith, otherwise known as Red Green, of the Canadian show of the same name, referred to duct tape as “the handyman’s secret weapon” Not only can you fix anything with it, except air ducts — that will get you in trouble for a building code violation — as Red Green implied, you can also use it as a weapon. If Robert Anderson had not hung himself in prison, you could probably ask him about it.

Duct tape, as we know it today, started out nameless and was made specifically for use during WWII. Naturally it came in Army Green. After the war, the colour was changed to grey-silver colour we are all familiar with. It was marketed to the general public who were set on doing their own home repairs to fix air ducts.

Since its invention for military use, the company responsible for duct tape has undergone more than one change of ownership, and some of those owners have even changed the name of the company. Today it is owned by ShurTech Brands, LLC and marketed under Duck Brand Duct Tape.

Not for use on ducks.

Duck tape and duct tape are interchangeable these days. Duck tape was given an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1899 as a tape made from duck cloth and a rubber adhesive. The 1965 entry was changed to duct tape and defined as “an alteration of earlier duck tape.” Whatever it is called, it has taken over pop culture, spawned a number of craft books, and comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns including a line with more glitter than Elton John’s glasses.

Over the years Duck Brand Duct Tape has even given the world the kind of joy that only comes from an adhesive that can not only fix nearly everything but also doubles as an arts and crafts medium. Just when you thought duct tape couldn’t get any better, it does. For those that do not like the smell of duct tape adhesive, there are now duct tape scents like Cupcakes, Orange Cream, Bubblegum, Mint, and Grape. Who needs air fresheners when you can make a dozen duct tape roses to freshen the room and possibly cover up the smell of death? Obviously, every duct tape art project should smell as good as it looks!

In 2004, the Mayor of Avon, Ohio declared the company’s headquarters as the “Duck Tape Capital of the World”. That seems kind of silly if you think about it, the headquarters of any business is probably the capital building of that product. Can we say marketing ploy to put Avon, Ohio on the tourist attraction map for its annual Duct Tape Festival? Until then, the most interesting thing about the city was it was once home to the Wyandot, Ottawa, and Erie native American tribes. Any seventh grader who is forced to sit through Ohio History in school can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the more than dozen Native American tribes that once made Ohio their home, and that they did not have duct tape.

Early use of Duct Tape would have been a history changer.

Duct tape has been used for everything from fixing helicopter blades and emergency repairs to spacecraft — it is an official item in NASA spaceflight repair kits — to fashion apparel. Everything from purses and wallets to prom wear and wedding dresses have been made from Duct Tape. In fact, making your prom apparel out of Duct Tape can net you a $10,000 college scholarship. It has even been used as turtle shell bandages.

Gluten free. Do not eat.

It could be argued that Duct Tape is one of the greatest inventions of the history of civilization right next to the wheel. Unlike the selfie sticks, dog umbrella, LED slippers, and the smartphone scent diffuser the fad will never die. The only things that limits the use of Duct Tape is creativity and a prison sentence.




University student working on their MA in English. Book reviewer, creative writer and blogger.