The average plumber has dozens of tools in his box: wrenches, screwdrivers, spare washers and bits of pipe. He will use all of them at any given time, but the one piece of kit he won't be able to do without is a roll of PTFE tape. PTFE tape is commonly known as 'plumber's tape', and for a very good reason. This stuff is incredibly useful. However, as useful as PTFE tape is, you do need to use it correctly or it won't be able to do its job.
What is PTFE Tape?
PTFE tape is a polytetrafluoroethylene film made into a tape. It makes an excellent lubricant and can be used to tighten the seal on a pipe, which is why it is so useful in plumbing situations. Most plumbers use PTFE tape on metal-to-metal screw thread joints. Rather than risking ruining the thread on the joint by tightening it up too much, putting some PTFE tape on before you tighten the nut gives you a much better seal whilst protecting the thread.
What is PTFE Tape Used For?
You can use PTFE tape anywhere there is a compression joint between two sections of pipe. Compression joints on brand new pipe work should be fine without PTFE tape, but older pipework is more likely to weep when things are moved around, i.e. you are changing a radiator over. This is why PTFE tape is commonly used when fitting taps and radiators. Use of PTFE tape, plus a thin coat of plumber's jointing compound, will ensure a nice tight seal and prevent leaks.
How to Use PTFE Tape?
There is a right way and a wrong way to use PTFE tape. The right way is to wrap it clockwise around the thread of the joint. The easiest way to remember which way to wind the tape is to hold the pipe in your left hand and apply the tape with your right hand. Wrap the tape over the thread/tap or whatever else you are using it for, and unroll the tape away from your body. If you are left handed, do it the opposite way so that you hold the joint with your right hand and unwrap the tape towards your body. This means the tape will tighten in the right direction and not unravel when you tighten the nut. Wrapping PTFE tape three times around the joint is enough—any more than that and you risk overloading the thread with tape.
How to Apply PTFE Tape?
Consequences of None or Not Enough PFTE Tape
Unusual Uses for PTFE Tape
Although PTFE tape is normally used in plumbing situations, it can be used elsewhere. One unusual use for PTFE tape is in piercings. Because the tape is inert and won't cause a reaction in the body, some people use it to stretch piercings. Wrapping tape around the plug will force the hole to enlarge.
PTFE tape is readily available from all good DIY stores. PTFE tape is inexpensive, but something that is definitely worth keeping in your toolbox for when you do some plumbing work or fit dual fuel heated towel rails.