Insights

The Different Types of Packaging Tape: Polypropylene vs Vinyl vs Paper

Even though all packaging tape is used the same way, like to seal a box, this does not mean that they are all the same. There are a wide range of tapes out there with different adhesives, properties, and application methods. It is important to recognise the different types so that you can pick the one best suited for you.

If you're looking for a quick overview on the different types of packaging tapes, click here.

Otherwise, continue reading on for an in-depth comparison on polypropylene, vinyl, and paper tape.

The Different Types of Adhesives

Firstly, there are three different types of adhesives available for tapes: Acrylic, Hotmelt and Solvent. Each of these have different properties which make them more suitable for various situations.

  • Acrylic adhesives: work in a wider temperature range than hotmelts (0 to 65°C compared to 3 to 50°C). This adhesive is low cost and great for the majority of standard packaging needs. With it being tear-resistant and having a high initial grab, acrylic adhesives need less pressure in application for best results.
  • Hotmelt: often used in colder weather, hotmelt has a stronger adhesion than acrylics on many surfaces including cardboard and is more resistant to stress. It is best applied with a tape dispenser or applicator.
  • Solvent: solvent based tapes have the strongest adhesion properties and deal with extreme temperatures and humidity the best. This makes them the most suitable choice for heavy duty and export packaging. Solvent is more costly than Acrylic and Hotmelt adhesives.

The Different Types of Properties/Material

The most common tape materials are polypropylene, vinyl and paper based. Polypropylene tape is ideal for all general sealing tasks, whereas vinyl is considered to be a superior alternative due to its strength. As for paper-based tape, this type is of course more eco-friendly due to it being made from paper, not only that but it has a very strong adhesive. Find out more below where we discuss each separate packaging tape and their differences.

Polypropylene Packaging Tape

Polypropylene tape is the most commonly used packaging tape due to it being very strong, durable, and resistant to breakage, making it perfect for all general sealing tasks. Due to its strength, it cannot be torn by hand so should be used with a dispenser. Polypropylene tape is also generally the most economic packaging tape and is a great budget alternative to vinyl tape.

Polypropylene tapes are available in all different types of adhesives:

  • Polypropylene Acrylic Tape: perfect for most sealing and packaging tasks as they stick well on a variety of surfaces including boxes and polythene.
  • Polypropylene Hotmelt Tape: hotmelt tapes work best at around 5 to 50 degrees Celsius and are mostly used in fast paced or automatic packing environments. A hot melt adhesive is added to the polypropylene so that it can stick on almost any surface including foam, fabrics, and cardboard. This tape is excellent for high volume sealing and machine use as they have a high instant grab.
  • Polypropylene Solvent Tape: creates a strong bond that withstands a wide range of temperatures. Solvent adhesives like these are also suitable for use in refrigerated environments.

Polypropylene packaging tape can also be customized to have your company logo or message printed onto it, although since polypropylene tape can come in a range of different colours, it is recommended to stick to the clear, white, or tan colours for your logo and message to show as desired. However, it is also important to remember that polypropylene tape is made with a hotmelt adhesive, which means if it sticks together, the print will come off if you were to try and pull it apart.

Depending on your business’s needs, polypropylene can come in different sizes and thickness. In printed tape the thicknesses available are 30, 40, or 50 microns, with 30 microns being the most commonly bought. If the shipments you send are heavy, it is recommended to go with thickest tape.

We would recommend trying our Supatak Classic. This tape is available in brown, clear, and white, to suit all your packaging needs. Classic is advanced, multi-purpose and provides a reliable performance in a variety of environments and applications. Alternatively, Supatak Low Noise can be used with recycled cartons and is a great alternative to vinyl tape. 

Vinyl Packaging Tape

Vinyl packaging tape is a superior alternative to polypropylene as it is stronger and thicker than polypropylene tape with it being able to withstand more tension. It is also more resistant to temperature extremes, making it more suitable for both freezer and cold storage environments. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Hand applied: although vinyl tape is strong, it can still easily be applied and torn by hand as well as by using a tape dispenser.
  • Quieter application: vinyl tape is quieter when released from the roll compared to standard polypropylene tape. This can help create a better working environment for staff. However, if you prefer a low noise alternative to vinyl, try our low noise Supatak.
  • Long-term storage and extreme temperatures: vinyl tape is great for long-term storage, and with it being able to withstand extreme temperatures, it is suitable for parcels that need freezing, refrigerating, and likely to be transported and handled in cold environments.
  • Long-lasting adhesion: due to its long-lasting adhesion, vinyl tape can be used on all types of paper and cardboard.

The types of vinyl packaging tape

Manufactured from 35-micron, vinyl tape can be used with or without a dispenser and can be easily ripped by hand. The different types of vinyl tape we have at Swiftpak are:

  • Heavy Duty Vinyl Tape: reinforced adhesive enabled this heavy-duty vinyl packaging tape to form an extremely tough and long-lasting seal that sticks instantly to all paper and board surfaces. It also adheres to glass, wood, aluminium, and plastic, leaving no trace when removed. This tape works in environments susceptible to humidity and temperature change.
  • Standard Printed Tape: quickly identifiable printed vinyl tape is ideal for sealing and colour coding cartons and packages. This tape is tough and durable and sticks instantly to all paper and board surfaces whilst also being resistant to humidity and temperature changes.
  • Standard Vinyl Tape: tear and burst resistant, this tape also is resistant to humidity and temperature change. Silent dispensing makes it ideal for any workplace, and it has a long-lasting adhesion that sticks instantly to paper and board surfaces as well as glass, wood, aluminium, and plastic.

Paper based packaging tape

Paper based packaging tapes are much more environmentally friendly due to being made from paper, and they have a stronger adhesive, offering a much more secure way to seal boxes and packages. It is also water resistant and works well in humid conditions, making it suitable for sealing up boxes ready for transit or storage. The types of paper-based tape are as follows:

  • Self-Adhesive Kraft Paper Tape: made from kraft paper but with an adhesive that is already active when released from the roll, self-adhesive kraft tape is a better option for anyone who is looking for a paper tape that acts the same as the standard type of packaging tape. Similar to gummed paper tape, self-adhesive kraft tape can be recycled with the box that it is still attached to. It can also be used with a standard pistol grip tape dispenser whilst also being easy to tear and apply by hand.
  • Kraft reinforced tape: Tired of cleaning up after gummed paper tape? Reinforced self-adhesive paper machine tape is the perfect alternative. It ensures a cleaner workspace, consistent seals to your package and less waste.
  • Gummed Paper Tape: made from kraft paper, this tape has a natural adhesive that is activated when water is applied via a specialised dispenser. As the adhesive only works when coming into contact with water, it forms a stronger bond when used to seal cartons as the adhesive soaks into the cardboard and so it becomes very difficult to remove or tamper with. It can be recycled with the box and biodegrades over time. The downside with gummed paper tape is that the tape cannot be used through a normal tape dispenser as it needs water to activate the adhesive. A specific gummed tape dispenser is needed for the application.

If you are looking to quickly seal packages, self-adhesive tape is the best option as it is ready to be applied with a hand-held dispenser. However, if you are looking for a longer-term seal, gummed paper tape can be applied with water and once it dries it will bond to the package. Or alternatively, reinforced paper tape as this tape does not require water but still creates a longer-term seal.

Paper packaging tape, particularly the gummed reinforced tape, is more cost-effective than the plastic tapes. This is because it is strong and instantly adheres so less of it is used when compared to plastic tape, in which people tend to overuse in multiple layers to make sure the seal is secure.

Although paper tape can be used by hand, it is still recommended to try and apply with a tape dispenser as it will ensure smoother adhesion and better application.

Supatak Machine Tape: high performance and performs well through all temperature ranges including deep freeze and is resistant to splitting, abrasion, and moisture.
Supatak Kraft: made from kraft paper, Supatak kraft has a reinforced high strength and high tack adhesive.

The Different Applications

At Swiftpak, we provide an extensive range of high-quality adhesive tapes and sealing products. Our range of adhesive tapes include hand-held and machine tape as well as adhesive tape dispensers.

  • Hand Applied Tape: as discussed there are many different types of packaging tape available, all of which have a strong and lasting stick. However, to ensure the tape is applied properly without any crinkles, we would suggest our green hand dispenser as it allows you to add extra tension for more secure bundling, reinforcing, and sealing of your packages.
  • Machine-Applied Tape: machine tape is ideal for long production runs and is available in hotmelt, acrylic or solvent adhesives. Once applied, this tape performs well through all temperature ranges including deep freeze and is resistant to splitting, abrasion, and moisture. To make your packaging operations more efficient, we would suggest using our Paktool Taping Machine as this will make your taping experience a lot easier.

Packaging Tape from Swiftpak

Packaging Tape comes in all different shapes, sizes and colours which makes it one of the most versatile packaging materials. At Swiftpak, we have a range of packaging tapes including gummed paper tape, self-adhesive tape, vinyl, polypropylene based. We also have custom printed tape, which is available in both paper and plastic so that you can personalise by adding messaging, or your company logo. As you likely know, customization helps your company to stand out, increasing the chances of customers sticking with your brand!

Do you need to know more about packaging tapes, and which would be best for your business, contact our packaging experts today who will be more than happy to help.

Packaging tape overview

Polypropylene
Description Most Suitable Application Adhesive Types
  • Difficult to tear; requires a dispenser to cut
  • Noisy coming off roll
  • Has a quick release
  • Generally the most ergonomic
  • Great budget alternative to vinyl
  • Economical
  • High initial grab
  • Performs well in deep-freeze conditions
  • Solvent - best long term adhesive
  • Holt melt - Solvent free adhesive
  • Acrylic - water-based adhesive (environmentally-friendly)
Vinyl
Description Most Suitable Application Adhesive Types
  • Quick coming off roll
  • Slow release
  • Does not stretch
  • Resistant to extreme temperatures
  • Withstands more tension
  • Long term storage
  • Easy to apply with dispenser 
  • Solvent - best long term adhesive and has a slow release
Paper
Description Most Suitable Application Adhesive Types
  • More environmentally-friendly
  • Water resistant and works well in humid conditions
  • Produces less waste
  • Cost-effective
  • Good for storage
  • Recyclable
  • Strong, instantly adheres
  • Recommended to use a dispenser for smoother and better application
  • Natural glue adhesive made from natural resources such as paper or potato starch
  • Water activated - the kraft tape has a glue adhesive that needs to be reactivated by water