Micropore Tape v Duct Tape? And Other (Wiser) Adhesive Medical Solutions
First, if you’re actually confused about the differences between duct tape and 3M’s Micropore tape from a medical standpoint, whew.
You've found this blog just in time.
While duct tape is super-effective for securing many loose items — a veritable reconnection toolkit in roll-form — it’s neither biocompatible nor functional for most medical uses.
Duct tape no doubt enjoys regular uses by hardcore folks out in the bush who don’t have time for proper wound dressing.
As a specific recommendation, Medshop Australia does not recommend using duct tape or any other non-medical adhesive for closing wounds. It’s not only unwise, it may cause harm to the person being taped.
That being stated, there are many uses for Micropore tape, in and out of the clinic, but a few applications for which another tape might serve as a superior option.
What may surprise you to learn is that it’s only one of eight surgical tapes produced by 3M. They each have specific uses, but Micropore wins top billing for most versatile.
In this blog, we’ll take a look at those applications and consider what else might or might not work better in said situation. Any further references to duct tape are purely for the sake of silliness.
Translation: Don’t duct tape the human body, mate.
3M Micropore Tape
If you’re familiar with 3M’s Micropore tape, feel free to skip this and the following sections.
While there are many imposters, there is only one tape that can go by the name Micropore. It’s the one manufactured by the fine folks at 3M.
Some people prefer to call it “paper tape,” but that’s like calling Kleenex facial tissue. It’s a misnomer. The actual paper part of Micropore is made from rayon, like the stuff in your stretchy yoga pants, but it feels more like paper than yoga pant fabric.
There are many types of paper tape, none of which present the properties in Micropore. Like it’s parent-product, paper, as in the stuff you’d use to write a note, Micropore tape is porous.
This porous quality allows it to “breathe” in the conventional sense of the word, but also allows for moisture to pass through. It’s like sticking the paper to your skin.
As such, Micropore tape is as flexible as paper, meaning not much. This limitation makes it hard to use on parts of the body that need to flex and extend much. We’ll get to alternatives for those situations in just a minute.
Another aspect of Micropore tape separating it from traditional paper is that it’s adhesive. The sticky side of Micropore tape adheres to the skin without leaving residue and without causing pain when removed.
The way it sticks then peels off with ease is a big part of the charm, a voodoo quality by most accounts. Not only will it stick to skin, but to plastic, glass, and other tapes.
What is 3M Micropore tape used for?
Most common uses for Micropore tape involve dressing wounds or holding a medical tubing in place.
Because Micropore breathes as well as it adheres, it’s perfect for these cases. It adheres well to moist skin, and not too firmly to dry skin, but sticks long enough to both to make it versatile provided the stress on the tape isn’t too much.
That’s where some of Micropore’s more-capable siblings take over. We’ll come back to a few of them in a second.
In most cases where a wound or tube needs adhering, the benchmark is Micropore until it proves incapable of the task.
One of the reasons this try-first approach to Micropore tape is the user-friendly nature of the product. It comes off about as easy as it goes on, unlike the aforementioned duct tape. That stuff sticks like old medical tape.
Anyone who’s ever had gummy tape from an old first aid kit peeled off a healing wound can attest: the less pulling the better.
3M ranks their tapes on a scale of skin trauma. No surprise that Micropore lands in the top two of the more favourable end, meaning less chance of trauma.
All that aside, the bigger influencer affecting heavy usage of Micropore comes down to expense. Micropore remains one of the most affordable 3M adhesive tapes.
Why use something more costly when a cheaper solution does the job? Especially if it does the job better.
Micropore tape for scars
Search “Micropore” and “scars” in your favourite search engine, and you will land a multitude of results for hacks using Micropore for better healing.
It may be true that a good job of applying Micropore may serve many wounds better than other methods for closing wounds, but 3M won’t like advocate widespread usage for that reasons we wouldn't.
That’s not really what it’s designed to do, but online testimonies insist that casual users find better than acceptable results with closing and healing wounds with Micropore.
That’s a lot of pressure for one surgical tape, likely connected to its popularity. Again, consult a doctor before trying this yourself.
If you try to use Micropore tape to close a serious wound — the definition of which is beyond this blog to define — you could risk serious harm beyond an impoverished recovery.
Micropore tape vs Transpore
In the 3M lineup, the closest substitute for Micropore is their Transpore tape. There are actually two versions of this tape, a wound-dressing version which acts more like Micropore, and a surgical version. The latter is more plastic to the touch.
Similar to Micropore, the dressing version of Transpore uses rayon in the backing, but in this case, they’ve blended it with polyester, leveraging the best of both fibres to make a hybrid.
This makes it slightly more costly but keeps the cost the same neighbourhood as Micropore tape.
Transpore too works well on dry or wet skin, and is even easier to handle than Micropore, with bare hands or gloves as may be necessary. You tear it bidirectionally to better accommodate the needs of a given wound.
The surgical version of Transpore is only polyethylene, clear, and best for securing heavy tubes in place.
Where both Transpore tapes differ, especially the surgical version is with removal. They both stick so well if the wound is sensitive there could be more trauma when removing them.
Micropore vs Durapore
Stepping up the cost a little more one finds 3M's Duropore. Compared to the paper quality of Micropore, and the plastic nature of Transpore, Durapore is silky. It’s not actually made from silk, though.
It’s a strong, tafetta-backed tape, one that also tears bidirectionally. It would be overkill on most wounds as a dressing but works wonders for securing heavy tubes and even holding splints in place.
Coming off the skin, however, Durapore will pull more than Micropore so using it would not be wise unless necessary, especially if it will be directly applied to skin that is dry. It’s also not so effective adhering to moist skin.
For the added cost and adhesion, unless it’s necessary most will try to get away with Micropore before pulling out this tough tape. Once you go above this 3M option, the technical aspects of the option only add to the cost and specificity of use.
General usage in most clinical situations will prevent many medical professionals from even having access to adhesives like 3M’s Microfoam or Medipore tapes. If they do, it’s because they are super clear on when and how to use those fancier tapes.
That would be like arguing in favour of duct tape to close all wounds. There are some ideas that wouldn’t even fly in the darkest corners of the bush.Ahem...