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Everything You Need to Know About:

Packing Tape

By: Michael Gertin

Next to shipping boxes themselves, packing tape is critical to the safe storage and transportation of goods. At first glance, it may seem like there are few (if any) differences between different kinds of tape – if it’s adhesive it must work, right? Well, actually - wrong.

In fact, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a type of packing tape for your shipping or storage operation. Tapes can differ in their material, strength, thickness, width, level of adhesion, and even ease of use. Neglecting to consider one or a number of these factors can result in loss of time, damage to packages, compromised storage of goods, and even physical harm should a package open suddenly on or near someone.

Here is a quick overview of the different forms of packing tape, their properties, and applications for their use. First, let’s examine the two most popular materials used in the creation of tape.

Paper or Plastic?

While there may exist other forms of packing tape, paper and plastic materials are far and away the most common and most popular forms on the market today. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so let’s review a few of the key differences:

Plastic Packing Tape

Plastic tape is made from either the thermoplastic polymer polypropylene – also known as poly pro tape – or from polyvinyl chloride – also known as PVC tape. These polymers are so popular because of the wide range of colour options, their durability, resistance to dirt, and low overall cost.

Plastic packing tape uses either a heat-activated or pressure-sensitive adhesive which, although strong, will never offer quite the amount of adhesive support that paper-based tape offers – but more on this in a moment. Plastic tape is far more common than paper packing tape, it is lightweight and inexpensive, and does not require any specialty equipment to use. Further, plastic packing tape is compatible with most high-speed case sealing devices, meaning you can radically improve the speed and productivity of your workflow when plastic tape is paired with an automatic or semi-automatic case sealer.

Plastic Packing Tape

As mentioned before, the biggest disadvantage to plastic tape is its adhesive strength in comparison to paper tape. This is not to say that plastic tape is weak, it is simply easier to remove than paper tape; unlike paper tape which bonds to the paper surface you attach it to, plastic tape can be peeled off. Overall, plastic packing tape is versatile, inexpensive, common, and offers good (but not the best) adhesive strength.

Poly Pro or PVC?

There are a few differences between poly pro and PVC tape to consider for your operation, but the major difference comes down to strength. The short of it is that PVC is stronger than poly pro, but you shouldn’t always go for the stronger tape simply because it is stronger – this can lead to wasted material, and higher material costs.

For any packages weighing between 0 and 25 pounds, poly pro is enough to get the job done. However, any packages over 25 pounds, PVC tape is your best choice. Always make sure you are choosing the correct strength for your job, and don’t go too strong if you don’t have to!

Paper Packing Tape

Paper tape, sometimes referred to as water-activated or gummed tape, is made from, you guessed it, paper! This makes paper tape the ideal choice for environmentally conscious users as it is fully recyclable.

Paper tape uses a water-activated adhesive which requires the use of a gummed tape dispenser – although technically it is possible to use a sponge, or some other kind of wet substrate to activate the tape, this would be incredibly tedious and would drastically slow your packaging operation. Dispensers also have the dual benefit of dispensing tapes in set lengths, so you don’t have to do any cutting of your own. Because this tape forms a paper-to-paper bond with the case it is being used to seal, it makes the packaging tamper-proof; it is impossible to remove the tape without damaging the box, making it obvious when there has been an attempt at tampering.

Amazon Paper Packing Tape

Recognize this brand? Amazon almost exclusively uses gummed tape for their packaging.

As mentioned previously, water activated paper tape holds a better seal than plastic tape because of the bond that is formed between the tape and the paper surface. Note though – this tape can only be used when sealing paper boxes or containers. Paper tape cannot bond with non-paper material so if you are sealing plastic bins, for example, then plastic tape is your best bet.

Reinforced or Non-Reinforced?

As with plastic tape, there are two distinct types of paper packing tape with two very different levels of adhesive strength. These are (cleverly named) reinforced and non-reinforced.

Non-reinforced paper packing tape relies on the paper-to-paper bonding adhesive discussed earlier and is sufficient for packages weighing up to 40 pounds. Reinforced paper tape uses the same paper-to-paper bond but has a series of fibreglass strands which run the length of the tape itself. This adds additional strength to the tape and allows for sealing of any packages in the 40 to 60-pound range.

Don't Forget the Branding

Okay, so you’ve decided which type and strength of material works best for your packaging operation, but your tape-buying journey shouldn’t end there.

Today, both paper and plastic tapes are printable, meaning you can add custom branding to not only your corrugate shipping box but also the tape that seals it. Amazon offers perhaps the most famous well-known example the effectiveness of branded tape; every Amazon package that leaves their warehouse is branded with the company’s logo, and it makes for some instantly recognizable packages on your neighbours’ doorstep! Gertex offers custom tape-printing services, which you can read more about here.

Signed, SEALED, and Delivered

Choosing the right kind of packing tape can ensure your packages are secure through both shipment and storage. It can also help you reduce wasted material cost; why pay more for reinforced gummed tape if you only ever ship packages that weight 10 pounds or less?

We hope the information contained in this blog you will help you make more informed purchasing decisions for your packaging and shipping operations. Enhance the efficiency of your workflows and increase customer satisfaction by using the right tape, every time.

Gertex’s packaging experts can help you find the ideal packing tape solution for your business needs. For a full overview of our tape products, click here, and for more information on our case sealers click here.

Contact us today for a free assessment by filling out the form here!

Michael Gertin
Vice President and Co-Founder