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Most people would be surprised at the huge variety that exists in the field of tape. While tape is essentially just a strip of material with an adhesive on one side, there is no shortage of different types. Most people are familiar with pressure-activated tape, but a lot of people don’t know anything about the water-activated tape. In an attempt to remedy this, let’s take a closer look at the water-activated tape and discuss why people sometimes choose it over the more common types.

How Does It Work?

The core of any tape is the adhesive that binds it to the surface. With any adhesive, there is an action that will “activate” it and cause it to bond strongly with any surface in contact. Once that activation cycle is complete, the tape is bonded and cannot be re-used. Incidentally, therefore you usually can’t re-use a piece of tape that has already been stuck to something.

For most kinds of tape, the activation comes from the pressure that is applied while it is being pressed in place. At a chemical level, those adhesives are being told to “get to work!” and they will do so without delay. As you can probably guess, the water-activated tape is activated by water rather than pressure. You just put a little dab of water on the adhesive, and it begins to do its work.

People don’t usually do this by hand. Water-activated tape is most often used with a dispenser of some kind. Otherwise, you would need to dip every piece of tape in a little container of water before use. That would be a serious pain, so most people don’t do that. The original water-activated tape dispensers were just spools with a reservoir of water. The surface of the tape would be wetted as the tape was pulled from the spool. The more modern versions are much more efficient and will even dispense your tape in custom-cut lengths.

Benefits Of Water-Activated Tape

While water-activated tape is not as common as its pressure-activated cousin, it does offer several distinct benefits. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Provides A Tamper-Evident Seal

Unlike other kinds of tape, water-activated tape forms a chemical bond with the surface to which it is attached. While most tape will only bond to the surface, water-activated tape seeps into the fibers of a cardboard box (for instance) and forms a permanent chemical bond.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible to remove this kind of tape without leaving evidence of the deed. This is what is meant by the term “tamper-evident.” While this tape will not provide any real physical barrier to theft and tampering, it will leave evidence so that the buyer can (hopefully) tell that something is wrong.

Theoretically, a thief or product tamperer (yes, there are people who have nothing better to do than tamper with products, apparently) could get around this tamper-evident seal by removing the tape and then placing another piece of water-activated tape over the seam. However, this would be very difficult to do without leaving a suspicious sign. They would have to line up the new tape precisely with the marks from the old tape with no overlap whatsoever. They would also have to use the same kind of tape that was used in the original packaging process.

Provides Greater Strength And Durability

We already mentioned the fact that water-activated tape forms a permanent bond with its surface, so there is no need to explain that again. Based on this, you might have already guessed that water-activated tape is very strong. Therefore, it is a great choice for heavy packages and other packages that require a greater degree of toughness.

The pressure-activated tape is usually not that hard to remove, by comparison. If you can get your fingernails under the edge, you can usually peel it away. You might leave a few marks, but it will come away from the surface all the same. If you tried that with water-activated tape, you would just be able to tear away a tiny little piece.

The enhanced strength of this tape provides you with an ability to (potentially) save some money. Overall, the water-activated tape is more expensive than the common stuff. However, that only applies when we look at it in terms of cost per foot of tape. There is one little factor that can work in your favor, and that factor is the strength of the tape. Since it is stronger, you don’t have to use as much of it, and that can save you money in the end.

More Eco-Friendly

It is important to try and be as environmentally conscious as you can. While it may not benefit you directly in the short term, it will benefit you (and the rest of humanity) in the long run. Because its backing is made from paper rather than plastic, the water-activated tape is a more eco-friendly choice. When the tape (or the container) eventually wears out, the paper tape will break down a lot quicker than plastic, which can take centuries or even millennia to break down.

Opportunity For Decoration And Branding

Since this kind of tape is made with a paper backing, it is very easy to print your company’s logo (or some other image) on your water-activated tape. Most of the companies that sell this kind of tape in bulk will offer printing services so that businesses and individuals can get something that is both strong and attractive.

If you like this idea, you might be thinking about what kind of images or information to put on the tape. Just to get you started, here are a few ideas:

  • Your company’s logo
  • Info about upcoming sales and promotions
  • Your company’s color scheme
  • Ads for other products
  • Special handling instructions (if necessary)
  • A background that makes the tape look like wood or stone

As a side note, we should mention that colored or branded tape provides an extra level of resistance against tampering and theft. This kind of tape would be much harder for a thief/tamperer to replicate, thus leaving an obvious sign of their crimes for any intelligent person to see.

May Provide Greater Productivity

Here, we find a surprising fact about the water-activated tape. You would think that this kind of tape would be more time-consuming when used repetitively. After all, there is an extra step in the process, right? We thought the same thing, but that assumption may have turned out to be wrong.

We found a study that was conducted by a packaging company that sells water-activated tape. Obviously, there is a conflict of interest here, so they brought in an outside company for a little bit of neutrality. Even so, we should take these results with a grain of salt.

According to these results, the use of water-activated tape turned out to be a lot more efficient than traditional pressure-activated tape. In fact, the difference was as high as 21% in some cases. The study also claims that water-activated tape is less likely to cause injury because its use is less repetitive than that of a tape gun. If these findings are true, it would mean that water-activated tape might be beneficial enough to pay for its cost.

Drawbacks Of Water-Activated Tape

The most obvious drawback of the water-activated tape is the fact that you have to fill the water reservoir from time to time. With the old-school water dispensers, this would have to be done quite often. Thankfully, modern dispensers can hold a lot more water and can, therefore, go a lot longer between refills. Still, you will need to check the water level before each use, and that does add an extra step to the process.

Packages that have been sealed with the water-activated tape are also a little harder to open. You can’t really peel the tape away, so you must use a blade of some sort. Still, a bladed object is the most efficient way to open any package, so this isn’t a huge problem. Because this tape is stronger and more secure, it will always have this little issue.

For some companies, there might be an issue with the fact that water-activated tape is never transparent. If a company is selling products in brightly decorated packages made of printed cardboard, they may not want to cover the package in non-transparent tape. If the package is designed with this issue in mind, however, it may not be a problem.

How A Water-Activated Tape Dispenser Works

As we mentioned, most people who use this kind of tape will purchase some kind of dispenser. The purpose of the dispenser is to automatically wet the tape so that the user does not have to do it manually. Most modern water-activated tape dispensers have absorbent brushes that soak water from a reservoir. In this way, the brushes are kept constantly wet, and the tape is then pulled over the brushes with the adhesive side down. Many models will also have a heating element because this kind of tape works best when warm. The heating element is not really necessary, but it does make things a little easier.

Common Questions

These are some of the more common questions that we receive on this subject.

Should I Buy An Electric Dispenser?

That depends on your needs. Some of those electric tape dispensers can get pretty expensive. In fact, some of them are extremely expensive. That being said, those who are running large-scale operations with large-scale needs should consider the use of an electric dispenser. They can increase productivity in such a way that the product will eventually pay for its cost. For those who aren’t using the water-activated tape on a constant basis, it’s probably not a good idea.

Is Water-Activated Tape Affected By Temperatures?

As far as we know, this kind of tape will function in the same way regardless of temperature. However, you would have a very hard time using this sort of tape in below-freezing conditions because you would have ice instead of water. You would have to heat the water significantly, and that would be a waste. Other than that, the temperature should make no difference.

Does Water-Activated Tape Require Pressure?

Yes, the water-activated tape will still require some degree of pressure in order to seal it in place. Some people have the mistaken notion that you can just lay this tape in place, and its adhesive will do the rest. This is not the case, as you must apply a little bit of pressure to create a proper seal. However, you will need much less pressure than you would need for standard tape. A quick rub will do the job.

What Color Is Water-Activated Tape?

This kind of tape is always made with a paper backing, and the paper can be either white or brown. Of course, white or brown paper can be printed with any color desired.


While it may not be the most common choice, the water-activated tape is an ideal choice for certain applications. Its drawbacks are few, and most of them can be mitigated with a little creativity. The water-activated tape offers a higher degree of security by giving a tamper-evident seal, and it is much stronger than standard packing tape. It is far more eco-friendly as well and provides an opportunity for customization that is worth using. On top of that, it may be more cost-effective in the long run, and that is a serious advantage, indeed! If you agree, and if you have enjoyed our work, please fill out the contact form below.