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Adhesive or Water-Activated Tape: Which is Better?

In 2020, there were 131 billion packages shipped worldwide, according to Pitney Bowes. They expect that to double by 2025. Not only is that a lot of boxes, it’s a lot of tape that holds them closed, protecting the products inside until they reach consumers.

Shippers and consumers want packaging tape to have several qualities—tamper-evident, able to withstand the environment and demands of transportation, looks nice, and is easy to use.

Most shippers use one of two different types of tape—plastic, pressure-sensitive adhesive (PST), or water-activated (WAT). If it’s only about cost and nothing else, then PST will win out. Those who take a closer look at both types and aren’t driven solely by price could end up choosing WAT.

Basic Qualities for Each Type of Tape

PST can be used to describe both moving and shipping tapes. Shipping tape is used on packages that will be shipped to consumers and is thicker and stickier than moving tape. It also comes in varieties that are used in cold temperatures or ones that are quiet when rolled across a package. They can be clear, colored, and printed with company branding.

To apply PST, a tape gun is used to unroll the tape against the package, followed by pressure from fingers or hands to ensure it sticks to the box.

Water-activated tape is usually made of white or tan Kraft paper but can come in other colors as part of branding, such as Amazon’s navy blue. It comes in various widths and thicknesses and utilizes a starch-based adhesive. Some also contain filaments that take the tape from strong to superhero strong.

This type of tape is applied using a dispenser that cuts the tape to a programmed length and applies the perfect amount of water to make sure the adhesive activates and bonds to the surface it’s applied to.

Reasons to Choose Water-Activated Tape

  • Can be used for automated sealing
  • Increased strength and performance
  • Tamper-resistant
  • Works better for heavy packages
  • Can be custom branded
  • Works well in environments with dirt, dust, and oils
  • It is recyclable
  • It has a long shelf life

Why Pressure-Sensitive Tape Might be Better for You

  • UV Light Resistant
  • Can be used on boxes with branding
  • Seals fast
  • Can be used on different types of surfaces, such as plastic and ceramic, in addition to paper

Study Results

A recent study by SGS North America studied both tapes, and the highlights of their testing showed that sealing productivity was 21 percent higher with WAT and 8 percent less tape was used with WAT.

Regarding integrity, they said, “In each climate setting, cartons sealed with WAT remained intact and prevented tampering; cartons sealed with PST were not secure and were easily accessed without revealing any signs of tampering.”

SGS also found WAT to have greater strength. They noted, “Results demonstrated WAT’s noteworthy bonding ability. When the WAT was removed from cartons, it also removed 80% of the carton’s fibers. PST bonded poorly and was easily removed from the carton without showing any evidence of the tape’s removal.

No matter which tape is best suited to your packaging operations, Pinnacle Packaging is here to help you. For help with this and all your packaging needs, call Pinnacle Packaging at (773) 235-6060.


About Us

Pinnacle Packaging, Inc. offers our customers the best product selection, fast delivery, all at great prices. We are proud to offer over 20,000 quality products from well-known and trusted brands like 3M, Sealed Air, Tape Logic, Rubbermaid, Ivex, and many more. Our mission is to be the single source answer to all our customers’ packaging needs.

Through the years we have established a reputation with our customers of providing fast, reliable, and professional service. Our high level of responsiveness to our customers’ needs keeps them coming back.