Best Packing Tape

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best packing tape

Packing tape is a household essential, necessary for mailing packages, returning unwanted online orders, and moving. You can box up your personal items as carefully as possible, but if you don’t have quality packing tape those boxes are not going to stay sealed. After the first significant jostle of the moving truck, your keepsakes will be free.

To prevent any possible damage, knowing which packing tape to buy is critical. Will any packing tape do, or do you need polypropylene tape with pressure-sensitive adhesive? Is water-activated paper tape better? And how much should you be paying for this everyday item?

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, our buying guide has all the information you need to help you make sense of things. Once you’ve decided on the right packing tape for your particular transportation needs, check out our recommendations for the best packing tape on the market.

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Most packing tape uses pressure-sensitive adhesive, which means the tape is applied simply by pressing it onto a surface. Water-activated packing tape, on the other hand, requires the tape to be moistened for it to stick.

Key considerations

Paper packing tape

To get a quick mental image of what paper packing tape is, think of masking tape. It is easy to tear by hand, and it is not adversely affected by temperature changes. Also, paper packing tape is recyclable. Paper can be reinforced with materials such as fiberglass to make it much stronger. And depending on the type of adhesive used, less paper tape may be needed to seal a box than plastic tape.

Plastic packing tape

Plastic packing tape is made out of polypropylene or polyester. It is often clear, and it is highly versatile. If it is clear, it can be used overprinted material without obscuring any words or images. It is lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to find, but it can be very difficult to cut without a tool. Like paper tape, plastic tape can be combined with other materials, such as a layer of fabric, to enhance the tape’s capabilities. It is not affected by temperature changes, and it may be resealable. Plastic tape also has mild water-resistant properties.

Adhesive

While the backing material determines how strong the tape is, the adhesive determines how well the tape sticks.

  • Acrylic: Acrylic packing tape is the most common. This type of adhesive is able to endure everything from extreme temperatures to UV exposure. To make this tape stick, you will need to press it down and smooth it out. Because of its ability to adhere, acrylic tape can be difficult to unroll. It is best to use a dispenser when applying this tape.
  • Hot melt/rubber: Hot melt tape is manufactured using synthetic rubber, and rubber tape is manufactured from the sap of rubber trees. These types of adhesives allow tape to unroll easily and attach to a surface immediately. On the downside, they are not as durable as acrylic tape and will not endure UV rays as well. Hot melt or rubber tape is typically meant for shorter-term applications than acrylic tape.
  • Water-activated: Water-activated adhesives need moisture to make them stick. An example of a water-activated adhesive is a basic envelope that must be licked to be sealed. The advantage of using water-activated packing tape is that it is very durable because it actually bonds with the package. As a side benefit, water-activated tape is naturally tamper-evident, meaning you can’t remove it and stick it back on like you can with other adhesives. Additionally, water-activated tape is stronger than other adhesives, and it allows you to accomplish the same job using less tape. The downside is that this tape is more expensive and works best with special dispensers, which can also be expensive.

If you use a great deal of packing tape, it’s best to buy in bulk to keep costs down.

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Features

Length

The length of packing tape is measured in yards. The longer the roll, the more tape you get for your money.

Width

For sealing boxes, you’ll want to purchase packing tape that is two or three inches wide – the wider the tape, the more weight it can hold.

Thickness

While it may seem like thicker tape is stronger, that is not necessarily the case. The surface area that the tape covers and the quality of the adhesive are two factors that are far more important when it comes to determining the strength of packing tape. In fact, a thicker tape might give you less for your money because it takes up more room on a roll.

Reinforced

If regular tape isn’t tough enough to do the job, you can get packing tape that has been reinforced with other materials such as fabric or fiberglass.

Tamper-evident

Tamper-evident packing tape cannot be removed without breaking or leaving behind some evidence that the package was opened. It is used to verify that the contents of the box have not been tampered with in transit.

Number of rolls

If one roll won’t be enough, it is better to purchase your packing tape in bulk. If you do, not only will you have everything you need on hand, but you will save a fair amount of money as well.

Customization

If you have a business and you would like a certain color or even a custom printed logo on your packing tape, that is a possibility. But, obviously, you will pay more for customized tape.

Some packing tape also comes pre-printed with common messages, like “Fragile,” “Packing List Enclosed,” or “If Seal is Broken, Check Contents Before Accepting.”

Other features

There are a wide variety of bells and whistles that different manufacturers offer to make their particular tape more appealing to a consumer. These can range from easy start and easy tear to a free tape dispenser.

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DID YOU KNOW?
While most packing tape is designed to be non-toxic, tearing pieces off the roll by using your teeth is a bad habit to get into because it can damage your teeth’s protective enamel coating.
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Accessories

When you purchase packing tape, a dispenser is often included. However, if that isn’t the case, you may want to purchase a few additional items.

Scissors: Amazon Basics Multipurpose Office Scissors
This pack of three affordable, comfort-grip, titanium-fused scissors will allow you to effortlessly snip through your packing tape to make pieces that are the ideal length.

Tape dispensers: Scotch Heavy-Duty Packing Tape Dispenser
This premium tape dispenser allows you to prep boxes without ever needing to worry about starting the tape roll. As an added bonus, it comes with two rolls of three-inch Scotch packing tape.

Utility knives: CRAFTSMAN Utility Knife
If you’d like a tool that can open boxes after they’ve been taped, this two-pack of utility knives will do the trick. The three-position, retractable blade can help ensure safer cutting.

Packing tape prices

When it comes to packing tape, purchasing a single roll may cost anywhere from $4 to $14. The cost depends on the size of the roll, the width of the tape, the type of adhesive, whether the roll comes with a dispenser, and if there are any bonus features such as easy start or easy tear.

If you anticipate needing more than a single roll, it is far wiser to purchase a multi-pack of packing tape. While purchasing packing tape in bulk will likely run you anywhere from $10 to $30, the price per roll drops significantly, making the purchase a far better value. For example, while a single roll of packing tape may cost $13, a pack of six rolls may only cost $30.

Quality packing tape is effective in a wide range of temperatures, typically from around 32°F to 140°F.

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Tips

  • Tensile strength tells you how tough packing tape is. It is a measurement of how much pulling force packing tape can endure without breaking.
  • Similar to tensile strength, elongation is a measurement of how far a piece of tape can stretch before it breaks. The difference between tensile strength and elongation is tensile strength is measured in pounds, while elongation is measured in percentage of stretch.
  • Core size refers to the inside diameter of a roll of packing tape.
  • Without the backing material, you would just have a glob of adhesive. The backing material of packing tape is most often polypropylene, polyester, or paper.
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Since most packing tape is not eco-friendly, if you are interested in being kinder to the earth you must seek out a brand that is specifically labeled as such.

FAQ

Q. Can packing tape expire?

A. Yes. The adhesive that makes the tape stick has a limited lifespan. Therefore, if you try to use packing tape after it has expired, it might not stick. Additionally, the material that holds the adhesive may dry out and become brittle, making the tape unusable as well. The length of time that tape can be used varies greatly. Packing tape that is designed for short periods of holding time should be used for shipping, while items that will be stored require a tape that will last for years and years. A packing tape used for storage should last at least 10 years.

Q. Is packing tape waterproof?

A. While you may assume that plastic packing tape is waterproof or weatherproof because the plastic seems to repel water, you have to remember that that’s only one side of the tape. As soon as water finds a way around the surface of the tape, say by being absorbed by the cardboard of a packing box, it will weaken the adhesive and cause the tape to lose its ability to stick.

Q. Is there a difference between packing tape and duct tape?

A. Yes. Packing tape is typically a strip of paper, polypropylene, or polyester with adhesive on the underside. In contrast, duct tape is manufactured with three layers: plastic, fabric, and a rubber-based adhesive. The cotton fabric that is sandwiched between the plastic and the adhesive is used to make the tape at once stronger and easier to tear by hand.

 

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