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Packing Tape 101

Packing Tape Information

A Guide to Packing Tape

Packing Tape/Packaging Tape- Considered a pressure-sensitive tape used in a wide variety of applications, commonly used for sealing boxes and packages for shipments. The most common widths are two to three inches wide and made from polypropylene or polyester backing. Other pressure sensitive tapes include:

Transparent Office Tape- Commonly referred to as "Scotch tape" is one of the most commonly used tapes in the world. Used for a variety of applications, including sealing envelopes, repairing torn paper products, holding light objects together, etc.

Gaffers Tape- A heavy fabric or plastic tape. They are commonly used in the entertainment industry to hold down cables and chords. The adhesive leaves little residue and removes cleanly from objects.

Duct Tape- Has a plastic-coated fabric backing and a strong adhesive. They are often used by people who need a versatile and robust tape that can be easily torn by hand.

Masking Tape- Used for painting and protecting surfaces that should not be painted. Usually consists of a paper backing and an easy to remove adhesive.

Electrical Tape- Commonly made of vinyl, it is designed to stretch and conform to irregularly shaped surfaces. Used to help wrap electrical wires to protect them from the elements.

Double-Sided Tape- Has an adhesive on both sides, used for attaching two surfaces.

Filament Tape- Has fiberglass filaments embedded to increase the strength and integrity of the tape.

Spike Tape- A thinner version of Gaffers tape used to mark a place where people need to stand or where equipment needs to go.

Image of packing tape

The History of Scotch Tape

Richard Drew was an engineer for 3M in the mid-1920s. He began to develop a tape in 1925, a two-inch-wide tan tape with a pressure-sensitive backing. The intention was to provide auto painters with tape to help them cover items that are not to be painted. When Drew was testing the tape to see how much more adhesive was needed a painter became frustrated and told Drew to "Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!" The Scotch name was applied to the entire line of 3M tapes after that.

Image of a roll of Scotch tape

The first tape that Drew invented was composed of oil, resins, and rubber. When the adhesive is applied to its backing, it must be in a liquid state to spread. These days, chemists use a chemical or physical process to transform the resin into a bonding agent. The method used depends on the desired strength of the bonding agent.

The next crucial Scotch invention was in 1932 when the first handheld tape dispenser was invented. It was composed of cast iron and weighed almost 7 lbs. After that, in 1937, the "snail," Scotch's iconic tape dispenser, was created.

Since the invention of the handheld Scotch tape dispenser, Scotch tape has become an iconic part of the American culture. Often it is used as a general term for people desiring a transparent adhesive tape. U.S. Packaging & Wrapping is proud to offer Scotch Brand tape along with Tartan Brand tape, both 3M adhesive tapes.

Common Packing Tape Terms

It is essential for companies using packing tape to choose the proper tape and strength when deciding a tape to seal their cartons and boxes. The wrong choice of tape can cost companies money, time, and disrupt efficiency. Standard terms used to help describe tape are listed below.

Tensile Strength- Measures the force required to pull something to the point where it breaks. Click here for a blog post about tensile strength.

Backing Material- Material of a tape the adhesive is applied to. Common tape backing materials are vinyl, cloth, and polypropylene.

Elongation- How far a tape can stretch before it breaks. Elongation is commonly measured in a percentage of stretch, and tensile strength is measured in pounds.

Core Size- The inside roll diameter of a tape.

Length- The length of the tape on the roll. Commonly measured in meters, yards, or feet.

Width- The width of the tape on the roll. Commonly measured in millimeters or inches.

Thickness- How thick tape is. It is commonly measured in mils (milli-inch), which is one-thousandth of an inch or 25.4 microns.

Packaging Tape Rolls

What to Consider when choosing a packing tape?

  1. Weight of the package

    Heavier loads tend to put more stress on packages. For heavier loads, strong and wider packing tape is recommended.

    Weight of Package Recommended Tape
    Less than 15 lbs. Scotch 371 Packing Tape or Tartan 302 Packing Tape
    15-40 lbs. Scotch 372 Packing Tape
    Over 40 lbs. Scotch 375 Packing Tape
  2. Stability of Package Contents

    Contents that shift within a package tend to cause more stress on the center seal and a stronger wider tape should be considered.

    Stability of Contents Recommended Tape
    Stable; Not Shifting Scotch 371 Packing Tape
    Normal; Minimal Shifting Scotch 372 Packing Tape
    Unstable; Excessive Shifting Scotch 375 Packing Tape
  3. Value of Package contents

    When the content of a package is considered valuable, and stronger wider tape should be used to ensure a safe seal and delivery.

    Value of Contents Recommended Tape
    Inexpensive Scotch 371 Packing Tape or Scotch 375 Packing Tape
    Moderate Scotch 372 Packing Tape
    Expensive Scotch 375 Packing Tape 2" or 3"
  4. Length of Package

    Wider stronger tapes are ideal for long packages with heavy content. If the package does not contain heavy contents, a 2-inch tape may be used.

    Length of Carton Recommended Tape
    Under 30 Inches Scotch 372 Packing Tape or Tartan 302 Packing Tape
    Over 30 Inches Scotch 375 Packing Tape
  5. Width of Package

    Commonly a 2-inch tape is ideal for packages up to 24 inches wide. If the contents of the package are not excessively heavy or contain sharp edges. If the package or box exceeds 24 inches a stronger wider tape should be considered.

    Width of Carton Recommended Tape
    Under 22 Inches Scotch 371, 372 Packing Tapes or Tartan 305 Packing Tape
    Over 22 Inches Scotch 375 Packing Tape
  6. Strength of Package or Box

    Heavy board boxes have a higher strength in the box flaps and put more pressure on the tape seal. Tapes with high shear strength adhesives are recommended for these types of boxes. Rough and corrugated boxes tend to have a washboard surface that may require special high tack adhesives. Box strength is commonly measured in two forms of measurements. Below are the two common forms to test box strength.

    Edge Crush Test- Standardized measurement of the compression strength of a column of corrugated board. Results are measured in ECT. A piece of cardboard with a 32 ect means that stood on edge the board can withstand 32 lbs.. per square inch before crushing.

    Burst Test (Mullen Test)- The force of pounds per square inch required to burst the side of a cardboard box. A box with a burst strength of 200 lbs. can withstand up to 200 lbs. per square inch internally or externally before bursting.

    Board Grade Recommended Tape
    Under 32 ECT or 200 PSI Scotch 371 or 313 Packing Tape
    Slightly over 32 ECT or 200 PSI Scotch 372 Packing Tape
    Well over 32 ECT or 200 PSI Scotch 375 Packing Tape
  7. Method of Shipping

    Cartons shipped individually tend to have more pressure placed upon them due to individual handling. Boxes shipped on pallets are generally sent as a unitized load which exerts less pressure on each box. High or low temperatures when shipping should also be considered when choosing a packing tape. Temperatures, sunlight, and moisture all impact the seal of packing tapes.

    Method of Shipping Recommended Tape
    Import/Export Scotch 375 Packing Tape
    Palletized Load Scotch 371 or 313 Packing Tape
    Palletized then Individualized Scotch 371 Packing Tape
    Individual Package Scotch 373 Packing Tape


Frequently Asked Packing Tape Questions

How Thick is Scotch Packaging Tape?

The Scotch brand of Packaging tape is a premium packaging tape made by the 3M Corporation. The thickness can vary based on the model number. A popular packing tape model is the Scotch 142 roll plus dispenser, which is a 3.1 Mil thickness.

Is Scotch Tape Packing Tape?

Scotch is a brand made by the 3M Corporation, which includes packing tape with many other adhesive products.

How Thick is One Mil?

A 1 mil thickness is one one-thousands of an inch. Many economy packing tapes are at least a 1.6 mil thickness. Click on the link for a full mil thickness conversion chart.

What is the Strongest Packing Tape?

The strongest tape by a brand is difficult to determine. The type of adhesive, thickness, and material the tape is made from all contribute to a packing tape's strength. For strength, a thicker hot melt adhesive is the best. Other tapes are stronger but not used for packaging applications.

How Many Rolls Per Case of Packing Tape?

Master packs of tape rolls commonly come from 24 to 36 rolls per case. Tape rolls with dispensers often come in packages of six.

Can You Use Duct Tape on USPS Packaging?

The USPS website does not mention a specific or preferred tape on their shipping instructions page or Frequently asked questions page online. Duct tape is better than many other tapes for shipping. Be sure the tape does not cover any labels, and all ends are pressed down and properly adhered to the package.

Where to Buy Packing Tape?

Packing tape can be bought locally from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other hardware stores. Prices are often higher than buying online, but they are perfect for convenience. Shopping online, you can find many different thicknesses and brands. Buying case packed tape is more affordable but can take longer to have delivered.

Is Packing Tape Waterproof?

Standard packing tape is not waterproof. Many manufacturers make waterproof stretch tape or patch tape for watertight application.

What Packing Tape Do I Need for a 25 lbs. Box?

For heavier boxes, you will need thicker tape. For acrylic tapes, a thickness of 2-2.4 mils thick should hold boxes over 25 lbs. Once weights are more than 60 lbs., a three mil thickness or more will be needed.

What is the Difference Between Acrylic Packing Tape and Hot Melt Packing Tape?

Acrylic packing tape is water or solvent-based tape used in a wide range of packaging applications. A solvent-based tape provides a stronger adhesiveness than water-based acrylic tapes.

Hot melt packing tapes have premium hold and adherence. Most hot melt tapes are thicker than acrylic tapes and require the adhesive to be heated and applied while warm. Hot melt tapes work great with tape machines and the right equipment for application.

Is Packing Tape Safe On Walls?

Packaging tape can peel paint once removed from a wall. Depending on the texture of the wall, the tape will stick and loosen over time. Manufacturers offer options safe for walls, but it is not standard for all packing tapes.

Will Packing Tape Stick to Fabric?

A standard acrylic packaging tape will not stick to fabric for long or with much holding strength. Specialty fabric tapes are available online made for patching fabrics.

What is Packing Tape with a String?

Packing tape with a string is a reinforced packing tape. The string within the tape helps to reinforce. The tape is applied to the package by wetting to activate the adhesive.

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