Packing & Shipping Tips | Water Activated Tape

How to Choose the Right Tape for Your Needs

By: Better Packages on April 25th, 2018

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How to Choose the Right Tape for Your Needs

Some people believe that any tape will do when it comes to sealing a carton. “If you use enough of this tape, the package will stay closed,” or so the thinking goes. However, the reality is that in a company’s shipping department, the decision on what kind of tape to use is critically important. Why?

There are several factors to consider, including:

Ultimately, the kind of tape a company chooses to use says a great deal about its focus on its employees, customers, and reputation.

Is your company making the right statement with its selection?


Plastic Pressure-Sensitive Tape vs. Water-Activated Tape

The two primary types of tape that your shipping department or packers have to choose from are plastic pressure-sensitive tape (PST) and water-activated tape (WAT). In order to decide  which is best suited for your company’s needs, it is important to look at the characteristics of each.


Also called plastic tape, poly tape, or packing tape, PST is a petroleum-based product that has a dry adhesive applied to a clear film. The adhesive sticks to the surface of a package when it is placed there and pressure is applied. The degree of initial adhesion is affected by how textured and clean the surface is, as well as how much pressure is applied. Continued adhesion varies based on environmental conditions such as heat and humidity.


Sometimes referred to as gummed tape, reinforced gummed tape (when fiberglass is embedded), paper tape, or Kraft tape, WAT is made primarily of white or natural color paper and starch-based adhesive. When water activates the adhesive and the tape is applied to a carton, the adhesive penetrates the surface of the carton and forms a permanent bond. WAT's bond remains intact in virtually all environmental conditions, as well as dusty and dirty settings.   


When to Use Plastic Pressure Sensitive Tape

PST may be the right choice under certain circumstances. For example, it might be all you need if:

  • A strong seal is not necessary
  • You are not concerned about rip-and-replace thefts from your packages
  • You need tape that is transparent
  • Your packages will not be exposed to changing environmental conditions

When to Use Water-Activated Tape

WAT is the best tape choice if you need: 

  • A strong, permanent, tamper-evident seal on your cartons
  • Tape on which you can  print your company branding.
  • Tape that maintains its integrity in all environmental conditions
  • A fast, efficient, one-strip seal rather than multiple strips
  • To increase packer productivity by using an electric tape dispenser
  • Tape that protects package handlers from injury due to seal bursting
  • To ensure that packers avoid repetitive stress injury resulting from using a handheld tape gun
  • Fiberglass reinforcement for extra strength
  • A cost-effective sealing solution
  • Tape that is proven more effective in controlled studies 
  • Packages that have a neat, professional appearance

Small Investment. Big Dividend.

Despite the many ways that WAT is superior to PST, many companies continue to use PST. One likely reason is that they already own several handheld tape guns and are reluctant to spend money on a better sealing solution.

However, electric water-activated tape dispensers and the tape itself are both affordable and cost-effective. This is especially true when you consider the many additional costs of using tape that doesn’t meet your needs—from product damage and theft to the negative impact on your reputation and lost sales.

If you have questions about water-activated tape and electric water-activated tape dispensers, we are always happy to answer them. Contact us at your convenience.