When labeling items that face harsh conditions, you need durable labels that can stand up to the challenge. Whether your labels will be exposed to moisture, friction, extreme temperatures, or chemicals, there are label materials that can handle the job. Durable labels can be used for a variety of industries, but they’re often used for the following:
- Equipment Inventory
- Maintenance and Service Call Labels (HVAC, Garage Door, Water Heater, Appliance Repair, etc.)
- Identification Labels
- Instruction Labels
- Propane, Gas, Oxygen Tank Labels
- Calibration Labels
- Medical Device Labels
In this article, we’ll explain what you need to consider when getting custom durable labels so you don’t end up wasting time and resources on labels that don’t work.
What are you labeling?
One of the first things we consider when helping customers get custom labels is the product or item they’re labeling. That’s because composition, texture, shape, temperature, and cleanliness vary depending on the situation which in turn affect how label materials will react. Some things to consider when labeling a product/item:
- Composition: Plastic, glass, paper, cardboard, metal, and fabric not only look and feel different, but they also have different reactions to label materials.
- Texture: Rough surfaces are a challenge to label because there’s less surface area for the adhesive to grip. We recommend using a more aggressive adhesive so the label stays adhered to the rough surface.
- Shape: Curves and angles are harder to label than flat surfaces because the label is more likely to lift up from the surface. A flexible film and an aggressive adhesive can ensure the label stays adhered to the curve or angle.
- Temperature: Products/items that are very cold or hot will need a “cold temp” or “all temp” adhesive designed to handle extreme temperatures to ensure the label adheres to the surface.
- Cleanliness: Labels stick best to clean surfaces but sometimes that’s not always possible. If dirt, oil, frost, dust, chemicals, or other contaminates are unavoidable, then you’ll want solvent-resistant materials.
After you’ve examined these factors about your product/item, the next thing you’ll need to consider is the label’s environment – both at application and within its lifespan.
Where will the labels live?
Since labels don’t exist in a bubble, it’s essential that you take into account the application and service environments. What that means is considering all the factors that can affect your label’s performance when they’re applied and long after application. Friction, moisture, sunlight, dirt, low/high temperatures, and more affect a label’s quality over time.
Examples of conditions we can print custom durable labels for:
- Application temperatures as low as -10°F to -20°F with a specialized “cold temp” adhesive
- Service condition temperatures ranging from -65°F to 200°F (300°F with a film material)
- Moisture, chemical, and UV exposure
- Friction and constant handling
BOPP, vinyl, and polyester films are popular choices for durable label applications because of their resistance to moisture, abrasion, oil, and chemicals. Paper materials can be used for custom durable labels but they generally wear out quicker than films. The label’s lifespan is another factor that will help determine whether you can use a less expensive material (like paper) or if a stronger material is necessary.
How long do the labels need to last?
Not all custom labels have the same lifespan because customers have different labeling needs. Some labels need to last for years where others may only need to last a couple months due to a short product lifespan or the labels needing to be replaced/covered up because of new information (e.g. inventory information, shipping dates).
- If your labels need to last a long time in tough conditions, using the right combination of materials is crucial for success. Vinyl or polyester will probably be required because papers and other films won’t be able to last for years under tough conditions – especially outdoor environments. (Note: If your label will primarily be used in direct sunlight, silk screen printing is the best method to maintain the label’s quality. At this time, we do not offer silk screen printing.)
- For short term labeling, you have more options with materials so you can use a less expensive material that is durable enough for your needs. Metalized silver paper is a popular option since it’s more durable than other papers and the metallic acts as an opaque barrier that prevents color, text, graphics, etc. from showing through the label. If moisture is a concern, you should consider a polypropylene film since it’s moisture resistant and has a lower cost per label in comparison to vinyl or polyester.
Having your label requirements and the details of your project prepared not only help us recommend the best materials, but it makes for an easier ordering experience.
Information Is Key To Label Success
The saying, “Knowledge is power,” wasn’t originally written about custom durable labels but it applies all the same! Knowing your product, application and service environments, and key project details like lifespan requirements are crucial for creating successful labels. We would be happy to guide you through materials, printing processes, and other considerations to ensure your labels work for your specific needs.
For additional information on label materials, check out these guides:
- Label Adhesives Guide Part 1: Types and Properties
- Label Adhesives Guide Part 2: Performance Factors
- Your Quick Guide to Label Materials
- Label Finishes 101: Laminates, Varnishes, and UV Coatings
- Stay Dry With Water Resistant Labels [Video]
- Labeling Challenge: How To Label Oil-Based Products
- Keep Your Cool With Freezer Grade Labels
- Weatherproof Labels – How To Get Started
- What You Need To Know About GHS Labels