In use, the tape is wrapped around the exposed threads of a pipe before it is screwed into place. The tape is commonly used commercially in pressurized water systems, such as central heating systems, as well as in air compression equipment and thread joints with coarse threads. One of the defining characteristics of PTFE is how good it is at defeating friction. The use of PTFE tape in tapered pipe threads performs a lubricating function, which more easily allows the threads to be screwed together, to the point of deformation, which is what creates the seal.
Thread tape is appropriate for use on tapered threads, where the sealing force is a wedge action. Parallel threads may not seal effectively with or without tape, as they are intended to be sealed by a gasket.