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Packaging Tape Tips: Choosing Your Carton Sealing Method

Pantero_PackingTape_1_Color2000xWhen it comes to sealing cartons, you've got options. How do you know which type of packaging tape is right for you? Let's take a look at the contenders.

Pressure-Sensitive Packaging Tape

Pressure-sensitive packaging tapes are the most popular option for carton sealing. These tapes have a pressure-sensitive adhesive coated onto a durable backing material, typically a plastic (polypropylene or polyester) film. The tape comes off the roll already sticky and adheres to a surface when pressure is applied.

Pressure-sensitive tapes can be either hand or machine applied. Hand tapes are applied with the familiar packing tape gun or tape dispenser. Machine tapes are applied with a tape machine that pulls the carton though on a belt and seals the top and bottom at the same time.

While packaging tapes can be used for a broad range of applications, their adhesives are optimized for adhering to corrugate or linerboard cartons. The backing materials are also designed to provide the tensile strength required for carton sealing. But not all packaging tapes are the same. There are three types of pressure sensitive packaging tape buyers should be familiar with, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

  • Hot-melt packing tape is the most economical and popular choice for carton sealing. Hot melt tape uses a synthetic rubber adhesive that provides excellent adhesion in application temperatures from about 40°F to 120°F. Hot-melt carton sealing tape is commonly found in clear, tan or white and available for machine or hand application in a range of thicknesses (1.35 mil – 3 mil) for light-, medium- or heavy-duty applications. For sending packages by postal service, we recommend looking for a medium- or heavy-duty tape with an adhesive optimized for use on recycled corrugate, like IPG's Corru-Grip™ adhesive technology.
  • Acrylic packing tape looks similar to hot melt, but offers different performance characteristics. Acrylic tapes maintain good adhesion across a wider temperature range, from 32°F to 140°F. This makes them ideal for use with refrigerated products or cartons that will be shipped or stored in extreme heat or cold. They also resist yellowing over time (a common problem with hot melt) and provide superior clarity. Acrylic is a great choice for cartons that are white or printed because they will not obscure the carton design.
  • Natural rubber packing tape uses a natural rubber adhesive instead of synthetic. These tapes are a bit more expensive, but offer superior adhesion across a range of temperatures and in difficult environments. Natural rubber tape adheres to almost anything and can be used in extreme temperature environments or workplaces that are very humid or have high levels of dust or aerosols in the air. These are the pressure-sensitive packaging tapes to turn to when nothing else works!

Water-Activated Paper Carton Sealing Tape

Water-activated carton sealing tapes (sometimes called gummed paper tapes) work differently than pressure sensitive tapes. These tapes have a paper backing and a gummed adhesive that is dry (not sticky) to the touch until water is applied. Once wet, they form a very strong bond to a corrugate or linerboard carton. Essentially, the tape becomes part of the carton and cannot be removed. Recipients cut through the tape rather than peeling it off to open the package.

Water-activated paper tape has become the go-to carton sealing option for high-volume fulfillment centers. The tape can be used for packages up to 150 pounds—the upper weight limit for ground shipment by UPS or FedEx. Water-activated paper tape is available in different grades for light-, medium- or heavy-duty applications and in either standard or reinforced rolls. Reinforced rolls have a backing made of two layers of paper with fiberglass filaments in between for added strength. Reinforced water-activated paper tape is the best choice for sealing very heavy packages.

Water-activated tape is applied using a specialized tabletop tape dispenser, which may be fully manual or electric. Application with these dispensers is fast and easy.

No matter which kind of carton sealing tape you choose, Pantero has you covered. We carry a broad selection of water-activated and pressure-sensitive packaging tapes for every possible application. Not sure what you need? Contact us for help—we'll steer you in the right direction!

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