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From a near-zero customer base Manco eventually controlled 40% of the duct tape market in the US.According to etymologist Jan Freeman, the story that duct tape was originally called duck tape is "quack etymology" that has spread "due to the reach of the Internet and the appeal of a good story" but "remains a statement of faith, not fact." She notes that duct tape is not made from duck cloth and there is no known primary-source evidence that it was originally referred to as duck tape.The product now commonly called duct tape should not be confused with special tapes actually designed for sealing heating and ventilation (HVAC) ducts, though these tapes may also be called "duct tapes." To provide laboratory data about which sealants and tapes last, and which are likely to fail, research was conducted at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Environmental Energy Technologies Division.Their major conclusion was that one should not use duct tape to seal ducts (they had defined duct tape as any fabric-based tape with rubber adhesive).There are two commonly produced tape widths: 1.9 in (48 mm) and 2 in (51 mm). Duct tape is commonly used in situations that require a strong, flexible, and very sticky tape.Some have a long-lasting adhesive and resistance to weathering.Racer's tape comes in a wide range of colors to help match it to common paint colors.In the UK, it is usually referred to as "tank tape" in motorsports use.

Another variation is heat-resistant foil (not cloth) duct tape useful for sealing heating and cooling ducts, produced because standard duct tape fails quickly when used on heating ducts.

A specialized version, gaffer tape, which does not leave a sticky residue when removed, is preferred by gaffers in the theatre, motion picture and television industries.

Duct tape, in its guise as "racer's tape", "race tape" or "100 mile an hour tape" has been used in motorsports for more than 40 years to repair fiberglass bodywork (among other uses).

The Revolite division of Johnson & Johnson had made medical adhesive tapes from duck cloth from 1927 and a team headed by Revolite's Johnny Denoye and Johnson & Johnson's Bill Gross developed the new adhesive tape, designed to be ripped by hand, not cut with scissors.

Their new unnamed product was made of thin cotton duck coated in waterproof polyethylene (plastic) with a layer of rubber-based gray adhesive (branded as "Polycoat") bonded to one side.