MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - When the Flex Tape infomercial comes on TV, you can't take your eyes off of it. It's one outrageous claim after another about the "...strong, rubberized waterproof tape."
One of the claims is so crazy, we couldn't handle it (more on that at the end of this story). But for the other claims Bruce Bates, master plumber of Conway Services, built us a laboratory of PVC, plastic, steel and acrylic--all to test Flex Tape's commercial claim it "can instantly patch, bond, seal, and repair" most surfaces.
"We put together a few mock-ups to see if this stuff really works," Bates said.
We started with the infomercial's claim that Flex Tape is so strong, you could lift a 45-pound disc weight with it without it tearing or losing its grip. What the TV spot doesn't show you is the host has his end of the tape wrapped around a wood handle for a better grip. We did the same after we applied the tape to the disc weight, being careful to smooth out any bubbles or creases. Sure enough, I lifted that weight with a single strip of Flex Tape: up, down, up, down. I basically got a few sets in of a work-out.
Then we tried the spot's bucket test: a standard plastic bucket with a 1-inch hole cut out of it and plugged. After we filled the bucket with water, we sliced and peeled a swatch of Flex Tape, then pulled the plug. Bates slapped the Flex Tape swatch smack over the hole as water gushed out of it. After smoothing out the creases, Bates saw that the tape had bonded the bucket. "That's not bad," he said.
The spot's host showcases Flex Tape sealing a leak as it is applied underwater. We filled a 9-gallon acrylic clear container with water. Like our bucket, it had a 1-inch hole, plugged. We pulled the plug, and as water poured out of the hole, Bates applied a swatch of white Flex Tape to the hole from the inside -- underwater. Sure enough, the tape sealed the hole shut.
"That is impressive," said Bates. "Obviously, the weight of the water helps to hold it in place, but it's impressive. You don't see compounds or materials that are going to work underwater like that."
Our only difficulty with Flex Tape was with a PVC pipe under 65 pounds of pressure, the standard household utility water pressure according to Bates. He cut a 2-inch rectangular hole in the pipe and pumped it full of the pressurized water. After applying Flex Tape as directed, wrapping it around the hole and the pipe with a 2 1/2-inch overlap, it first appeared the tape had sealed the leak. But eventually, the water burst through the tape's edges.
"Let's try it without pressure in the line," Bates suggested. Without pressure in the line--and with two wrap-around applications of Flex Tape--we sealed the leak. "Alright, the leak stopped. Call a plumber quickly because this is only a temporary relief at best."
Flex Tape's literature and labeling does not claim that the product is a permanent fix. It only claims the bond "...will increase with time and pressure," which it did not do under water pressure. But its labeling clearly discloses, "Flex Tape should be used as a temporary emergency repair."
Remember, I wrote there was a Flex Tape infomercial claim that we couldn't handle. That was the one in which the host cuts what appears to be an aluminum V-hull boat in two, seals its back together inside and out with Flex Tape, adds an outboard motor and takes it for a spin on a lake without sinking. Our crew was close to scoring a boat for that test, but it would have run us about $4,000.
That's a demo for another day...