Choose the Right Packaging Tape and Tape Dispensers

Grainger Editorial Staff

Your company has probably invested significant time and resources into the kinds of packages to use, how your packages should look, and the right material for every kind of shipment. Packaging for products is an extension of your company name and brand, so presentation and first impression is of high importance. But all of that investment in packaging won't matter if packages arrive to your customers damaged or have signs of tampering.

The purpose of packaging tape is to keep shipments secure and to help prevent damage or theft during shipping. There are several categories of packaging tape designed with properties for specific applications. Knowing first what category of tape you need for the job is a great start. From there, you can take into consideration the other factors involved such as type of packaging material, e.g., recycled cardboard; package weight; shipping conditions, such as humidity; and shipping distance, as well as the volume of packaging your company does on a regular basis.

Here's a quick look at some of the more common types of packaging tapes, general properties, and how they are used. In many cases, the type of tape listed comes in standard, light or heavy duty versions.

Tape thickness is measured in a unit called a mil, which is equal to one-thousandth of an inch. Most of these tapes are available in short lengths for hand with dispenser application, or longer machine lengths. For simplicity, this table lists standard versions of more commonly used packaging tapes. Whether you choose standard, light or heavy duty, short or machine length will depend on your application, budget and the volume of packaging you do at your facility.

 Tape Thickness Tensile Strength Application
Standard Acrylic 1.6 - 2.5 mil 17 - 50 oz/in Clear acrylic won't yellow and is used to seal white or colored boxes.
Standard Rubber 2.3 - 2.5 mil 30 - 55 oz/in Resistant to heat, chemicals and abrasion. Bonds quickly.
Standard Hot Melt 1.9 - 3.1 mil 32 - 55 oz/in Sticks instantly to boxes and mailers for immediate seal and resists tearing and splitting.
Standard Duty Strapping 4.4 - 5.7 mil 150 - 175 lb/in Economical alternative to plastic or metal tapes used for strapping heavy boxes together.
Messaging  -- 27 - 35 lb/in Includes preprinted information such as handling instructions and shipping and receiving messages.
Label Protection 3.1 mil 35 lb/in Protects labels from moisture, oils, solvents, and other liquids. 
Standard Water-Activated Kraft 6.5 - 8.2 mil 80 - 84 lb/in Strong securing properties, made with reinforced fiberglass.
Standard Tamper-Evident 1.9 - 2.6 mil 22 - 26 lb/in Features messages to check contents if seal is broken.

Packaging Tape Dispensers
Another important consideration when it comes to shipping and packaging is the labor involved. If your company does a high volume of shipping, it's likely you have an automated system for packaging and use machines to apply packaging tape. Most all of the tapes listed above come in machine lengths for this purpose. However if the packaging and shipping function stays mostly in company mail rooms, you're doing considerably less volume. In these cases, shorter length tapes that can be applied by hand alone or with a hand-held dispenser make the most sense. The table below shows some of the more common types of manual dispensers.

Dispenser Type Maximum Tape Width Maximum Core Tape Diameter Maximum Tape Roll Diameter
Handheld  1-3 in 3 in 4 3/4 - 6 1/4
Tabletop 1-18 in 1-3 in 5 1/4 - 11 in
Bench Top 1-2 in 3 in 5 3/8 - 9 in

Tape dispenser machinery, including bag-sealing and case-sealing machines, as well as electric water-activated kraft tape machines, offer additional options for higher-volume, automated packing needs. 

There's a lot to consider when it comes to packaging, and choosing the right tape to protect your packages is every bit as important. If this is a function that happens in high volume, then the right tape is critical to your company's bottom line. Spending more than is necessary or using the wrong tape can also contribute to waste and potentially additional expense.

It's a good idea to re-evaluate the types of packaging materials and tapes your company is using. Grainger offers packaging materials and tapes for nearly every application. 

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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