Duct tape is seen as the be-all, end-all fixer-upper solution. It's that one tool you have to keep around the house no matter what. You never know when you're going to need it. Remember when Homeland Security told us to keep duct tape around, just in case we needed to tape plastic over our windows to protect ourselves from biological terrorist attacks? That might've been a little extreme.
Despite its broad utility, duct tape can't really do everything. A new competitor called FiberFix has surged in popularity in the past year, making its way into 1600 stores across the US. Home Depot and Lowes both carry the material. A college student named Spencer Quinn and his cousin, a mechanical engineer, made FiberFix, and they're advertising it as a material 100 times stronger than duct tape. It can do things duct tape can't.
Quinn says that FiberFix is actually more than 100 times stronger than duct tape, though one test they performed only seems to show a 20x difference. Smithsonian Mag writes: "To test their invention’s properties head-to-head with duct tape, the two used BYU’s engineering lab, where they subjected both to what’s called a three-point flexural load test, in which two pieces of wrapped galvanized steel were placed under a hydraulic press to measure how much weight they could withstand. FiberFix’s score? 2,000 pounds. Duct tape? 100."
FiberFix uses a resin that activates after it's been dipped in water. Once tightly wrapped around an object, it bonds into an incredibly hard material. Quinn uses a broken shovel as a prime example. After the handle has been wrapped with FiberFix, the shovel is usable again, able to take the impact and physical stress of digging. It's heat, cold, and water resistant.
But for all its strength, FiberFix can't do everything duct tape can. The material is meant to be a single-use repair tool, because once it's exposed to water, it quickly hardens. If you try to cut it into separate pieces, your scissors will get covered in resin. And the bond is so strong, FiberFix isn't really removable. in other words: Don't wrap the stuff around your arm, or you're going to lose a serious amount of skin getting it off (each box comes with a pair of gloves to keep the resin off skin, even though it's non-toxic).
Ironically, even though FiberFix's advertising takes a shot at duct tape, the two cover pretty separate use cases. FiberFix is strong enough to actually repair things that we would often try, and fail, to patch up with duct tape. But duct tape still wins as a flexible tool--temporary, removable, cuttable, and skin-safe, as long as you don't mind losing some hair.