How does a label adhesive work?

Before we explain how a label adhesive works, it’s important to understand which type of label adhesive you’re talking about in the first place. Although there are different types of label adhesives – like wet glue and hot melt – the most common type (and the one we use) is “pressure sensitive.” Also referred to as “self-adhesive,” pressure sensitive labels don’t require the use of solvents or heat to activate the adhesive but instead use light pressure by hand or machine to apply the label. Within the pressure sensitive adhesive category, there are three main classifications: permanent, removable, and repositionable.

  • Permanent: Most use a permanent adhesive because they’re compatible with most label applications and tend to be cost-efficient. Since permanent adhesive labels create a strong bond, removing the label can damage the label or application surface.
  • Removable: Labels with a removable adhesive can be removed for a window of time after application without damaging the label or surface it’s applied on. Removablelabels are best suited for temporary marking such as coupon stickers and sale tags. Please note that temperature can affect the stickiness and removable capabilities of removable labels.
  • Repositionable: Repositionable adhesives are designed for short-term removability in case the label needs to be repositioned or reapplied. This adhesive is particularly helpful when labels need to be removed for repositioning (e.g. when the label is crooked) or reapplied to another surface without losing much adhesion. Depending on the type of repositionable adhesive, it can eventually become permanent. Furthermore, the time between initial application and permanent bonding varies depending on the formulation.

Label adhesives, however, can have varying characteristics even if they’re categorized as the same “type.” For an outline of some of the basic properties that help determine an adhesive’s performance and factors that influence how well it performs, check out these label adhesive guides.