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Thread seal tape (also known as PTFE tape, Teflon tape, or plumber's tape) is a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film tape commonly used in plumbing for sealing pipe threads. The tape is sold cut to specific widths and wound on a spool, making it easy to wind around pipe threads. Thread seal tape lubricates allowing for a deeper seating of the threads, and it helps prevent the threads from seizing when being unscrewed. The tape also works as a deformable filler and thread lubricant, helping to seal the joint without hardening or making it more difficult to tighten, and instead making it easier to tighten.
Typically the tape is wrapped around a pipe's thread three times before it is screwed into place. It is commonly used commercially in applications including pressurized water systems, central heating systems, and air compression equipment.
Temperature Range: -268°C to +260°C (-450°F to +500°F). PTFE is completely stable up to +260˚C (500˚F). Decomposition is slow up to 400°C (750°F). Decomposition will occur on contact with open flames.
There are two US standards for determining the quality of any thread seal tape. MIL-T-27730A (an obsolete military specification still commonly used in industry in the US) requires a minimum thickness of 3.5 mils and a minimum PTFE purity of 99%. The second standard, A-A-58092, is a commercial grade which maintains the thickness requirement of MIL-T-27730A and adds a minimum density of 1.2 g/cm3. Relevant standards may vary between industries; tape for gas fittings (to UK gas regulations) is required to be thicker than that for water. Although PTFE itself is suitable for use with high-pressure oxygen, the grade of tape must also be known to be free from grease.
Thread seal tape used in plumbing applications is most commonly white, but it is also available in various colors. It is often used to correspond to color coded pipelines (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand: yellow for natural gas, green for oxygen, etc.). These color-codes for thread sealing tape were introduced by Bill Bentley of Unasco Pty Ltd in the 1970s. In the UK, tape is used from coloured reels, e.g. yellow reels for gas, green for oxygen.
- White: used on NPT threads up to 3/8 inch
- Yellow: used on NPT threads 1/2 inch to 2 inch, often labeled "gas tape"
- Pink: used on NPT threads 1/2 inch to 2 inch, safe for potable water
- Green: oil-free PTFE used on oxygen lines and some specific medical gasses
- Gray: contains nickel, anti-seizing, anti-galling and anti-corrosion, used for stainless pipes
- Copper: contains copper granules and is certified as a thread lubricant but not a sealer
Thread seal tape is appropriate for use on tapered threads, where the sealing force is a wedge action. Parallel threads may not seal effectively with or without tape, as they are intended to be sealed by a gasket.
Thread seal tape is also commonly used in the stretching of body piercings, through a process known as taping, because it is inert and safe for this use. The wearer wraps a layer of tape around a plug and uses the jewellery, adding another layer every few days, thus gradually stretching the piercing.
Overuse or misapplication of thread seal tape may be a hazard. Excess application of tape can prevent mating threads from fully engaging, reducing the shear point of the threads. Combining thread seal tape with a pipe dope compound can also overload threads. Also, internal overhangs of loose material may constrict a joint or slough off and form a foreign body that could jam a valve seat. Therefore, use of tape as a thread sealant is generally not considered appropriate in fluid power (hydraulic) systems.
Use of names
Familiarity with the Teflon brand of fluoropolymers has led to the name becoming a generic trademark, and the practice of any PTFE-based thread seal tape being referred to as "Teflon tape". Chemours, owner of the Teflon trademark, no longer manufactures any thread seal tape, but objects to this practice.
Most references to "plumber's tape" nowadays refer to thread seal tape; however, the original use in the plumbing trade describes a strap of material with holes in it used for supporting pipes and fixtures.
- Cauldwell, Rex (Sep 2, 2008). Taunton's Plumbing Complete: Expert Advice from Start to Finish. Taunton Press. p. 38. ISBN 9781561588558.
- Doran, David (Jul 24, 2013). Construction Materials Reference Book. Routledge. p. 274. ISBN 978-1135139216.
- "MIL-T-27730A, 15 Apr 1964, and Notice 1, 17 Jul 1994, and Notice2, 9 Feb 1998" (PDF). Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG). United States General Services Administration (GSA), via National Institute of Building Sciences. 1998.
- "A-A-58092, 7 Jan 1997" (PDF). Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG). United States General Services Administration (GSA), via National Institute of Building Sciences. 1998.
- BS-7786:2006 Specification for unsintered PTFE tapes for general use
- "Thred Taper, automatic tape application machine".
- Assembly Magazine. 1 June 2000. Missing or empty
- "Automated teflon-tape wrapping". Machine Design. April 2002.
- Hedrick, Dale. "Ear Lobe Stretching FAQ". Onetribe. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- "History of Plumber's Tape". Chemours. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
- Real Teflon Brand
- "Pipe Fitting Accessories - Plumbing & Sanitation - Plumber's Tape - Galvanized". Downwind Marine. Archived from the original on 26 April 2018. Retrieved 28 December 2018. Example of the original strapping "plumber's tape".
- Media related to Thread seal tape at Wikimedia Commons