Why do label adhesives perform differently on different surfaces?

Label adhesives are available in different strengths but there are factors outside of the adhesive that can affect its performance – in particular, the surface that the adhesive comes into contact with is crucial to how it will perform. Why label adhesives perform differently on different surfaces is due to:

  • Composition: Plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, metal, and fabric all have different compositions which can affect how an adhesive will perform. Our standard permanent adhesive works well on most of these surfaces but just keep in mind that special adhesives may require extra considerations to ensure it’s compatible with the substrate’s composition.
  • Texture: The surface’s texture matters because it can affect how well the adhesive bonds. Rough textures are harder for adhesives to stick to because there’s less surface area for the adhesive to grip. For rough surfaces, a more aggressive adhesive is required to achieve an acceptable level of adhesion.
  • Shape: Curves and angles can be tricky to label – especially if the label is rigid. Adhesives require some time to flow into the application surface to achieve ultimate adhesion and when a rigid label is applied to a curved surface, the label’s stiffness can cause it to lift up from the surface before the adhesive can fully bond. If that curved surface also has a rough surface, you have an even tougher challenge. At this point, consider using a more flexible label material or a more aggressive adhesive.
  • Cleanliness: Whether it’s dirt, oil, frost, dust, etc., it’s important that the surface is clean. An unclean surface can prevent a label from achieving ultimate adhesion. In certain manufacturing processes, contamination is bound to happen. If having a clean surface isn’t possible, there are special adhesives that can help.
  • Temperature: Temperature also plays a role in how well an adhesive can flow into the application surface. Extremely low temperatures can be especially problematic since adhesives have a “minimum application temperature,” which is the lowest temperature they can be applied, and still have tack, before crystallizing and turning solid. If you must apply your labels in a cold environment, a special adhesive would be needed. The specialized “cold temp” or “all temp” adhesives can be used for application temperatures as low as -10 to -20 degrees F.

The way label adhesives perform largely depend on their environment and application surface. Let us know what you’re labeling, the application method, and environmental conditions so we can recommend the best materials for your label project. Not sure where to start? Give us a call at 1-800-475-2235 or email sales@consolidatedlabel.com for assistance.