Quick Fix?

When you find a leak, but can’t fix it properly right away, what can you do? Do you let it drip, or do you jury-rig it? You don’t want to waste the water or allow a leak to damage your home, but sometimes your choices are limited.

Well, while we usually recommend fixing something properly the first time – it really does save you time, money and frustration in the long run – sometimes the quick and dirty fix actually works. Please note, we never recommend a makeshift repair anywhere you can’t get to easily or if you’re unlikely to get back to it soon. In those cases, call your plumber right away so no further damage is done. Depending on what caused the leak, there may be more of an issue than the drip you can see.

That being said, we recently added a product to our inventory that’s good for a quick fix, and a whole host of other things.

A variety of colors of silicone repair tape

Rescue Tape is a silicone self-fusing tape designed to be a versatile tool in your gotta-fix-it-now toolbox. According to the manufacturer:

You can repair leaks on plumbing and hoses in a flash, use to insulate electrical wiring or as shrink wrap, wrap tool handles, and much, much more.

Sounds great, right? We thought so and checked this stuff out. The idea of Rescue Tape is nothing new – we’ve seen silicone repair tapes on tv, at the box stores, on auction sites, you name it. And we’ve seen the reviews. People seem to love it or hate it. We’re going to try to explain why.

While we’re simply not able to test all of the claims (like whether or not it insulates up to 8,000 volts per layer), we did reproduce a few common things that might prompt the use of silicone tape.  

Example of rescue tape used on a hose connectionThe results? We successfully stopped a leak on an outdoor garden hose  connection. We wrapped a greasy pipe and kept it from leaking when pressurized to 80psi. When we cut the Rescue Tape away after wrapping, the layers looked like they had all fused together; it was one chunk of silicone! As a bonus, it didn’t leave any sort of residue.

Our team members are very creative and found all sorts of other uses for it. How about, instead of painting tool handles to make them stand out, wrap them with Rescue Tape for a nice grip and a distinctive look (You there! Where are you going with my bright-orange-handled tools!)? Baseball bat handles, wagon handles, door handles, and basically anything you can wrap this around (pencil grips anyone?). One team member wrapped their child’s scooter handles when the original foam handles ripped off. So far, so good! How about the backyard swing set? Wrap the chain in silicone tape for a pinch-free swinging experience. So many uses, so little space to write about them all…

Using this stuff is pretty straightforward – you stretch it out and wrap it around whatever needs to be fixed. The catch is how much you need to stretch it and how to wrap it around. We’ve found that most of the issues result from not stretching enough and/or failing to wrap enough.  Also, it doesn’t stick to other stuff, so this is no good to use as weatherstripping for your car doors. The tight layers of fused silicone are what work together to fix things. This means that an uneven surface will probably allow a leak to continue since there’s stuff the silicone can’t seal around (though we didn’t actually test it on uneven surfaces). However, if you’re trying to even out a rough surface, say for a nicer splinter-free grip on an old wooden handled shovel, that would work much better.

First, you have to stretch this stuff out so that it pretty much is half the width it is when relaxed. Trying to do this and get it to stay while you’re trying to wrap a hose can really makes you feel like you need a couple more hands, but trust us, you can do it.

Then you need to overlap the tap by at least half its width so you’re basically creating a double layer as you wrap. Go back and forth over your original wrap a couple of times, still stretching the tape for all you’re worth, and keep going until you get to the the manufacturer’s recommended 3-5 layers and 3-5 inches to either side of what you’re trying to fix.

Things to watch for: uneven, gritty, or bumpy surfaces can have the tape wrapped around it, but it might not stop a leak. Greasy surfaces are okay per the manufacturer, but grease (or anything else) between layers of tape is a definite no-no as it will prevent the silicone from sealing to itself. Clean hands are your best bet when working with this product.

Also, extreme water pressure may prove to be a problem. One team member used this on his leaky garden hose. He successfully wrapped the leak with about five layers, but he has 130psi at his home. The end result: “It made a really impressive bubble before it popped!” Needless to say, we recommend a pressure regulator, but that’s another issue altogether.

Here’s what the manufacturer has to say about what will work:

There are no guarantees how long a repair will last. There are many factors which contribute to a proper repair, including but not limited to the surface, the environment, the quantity of tape used, and the amount of tension Rescue Tape is stretched to. Because conditions and methods of use are beyond the manufacturer’s control, neither manufacturer nor seller will assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this product. Rescue Tape is not designed to be a permanent repair; however, many of our customers have reported that they have made long-lasting permanent repairs.

Our conclusion? Well, like we said, it’s a great quick fix for some stuff. It won’t replace properly soldered connections for our peace of mind (really, what does?), and really high water pressure will put it to the test, so this is not recommended for industrial repairs. But, our hose fix at the warehouse is still leak-free months later, which is more than plenty of time to find a new garden hose. If applied properly, it’ll even probably keep your kitchen p-trap from leaking until your landlord’s slower-than-molasses-in-January handyman gets to it. So, yeah, we like it and several of us have rolls in our toolboxes. Tell you what, next time you order something, toss in a roll of silicone tape to keep near your plumber’s emergency number.… or your child’s sports equipment.

Your turn: What’s your favorite quick fix?

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