The life of a label is rarely easy, with labels enduring a ceaseless barrage of attacks. If it’s not temperature extremes assaulting adhesive, it’s pounding sunlight compromising colors. If it’s not rough hands ripping away at materials, it’s moisture turning masterpieces of design into pulpy messes.
Does label durability matter? Some may think that once a product is off the shelf and in the hands of a consumer, a label’s job is done. But this is not always the case.
First of all, people associate the attractiveness and durability of packaging with the quality of a product. Ripped, discolored, and peeling labels can trigger negative impressions of a brand. Brands that strive for an upscale image — makers of craft beer, fine wine, and luxury cosmetics, for example — should pay particular attention to the durability of their labels. These types of products are often display pieces.
In addition, labels often impart valuable information long after a product is purchased. Labels share ingredients and nutritional values, provide safety warnings, establish compliance with regulations, and tell brand stories.
How can you protect your label from the ravages of time, the elements, and indelicate handling?
The Surface - Adhesive Equation
The ability of a label to adhere over time and to withstand the environment has to do with the complex interplay between three factors: the material the label is made of, the type of adhesive used, and the surface to which the label is applied.
There is no adhesive in existence that will hold firm to every single surface. Some adhesives work best with porous surfaces, such as wood or cardboard. Others are at home on the slick faces of glass and metal.
A mismatched adhesive and application surface can cause labels to peel — especially under adverse conditions such as heat and moisture. This is why one of the first questions your label printer will ask you is, “What do you plan to apply your label to?”
Your label printer should have expert knowledge of the adhesive properties of different materials, and even the variations within categories, such as the different types of plastic.
Label Materials Built for Toughness
If you’ve ever spilled a glass of water on important documents, you — unfortunately — know what happens to paper when it gets wet. It disintegrates.
The same principle applies to labels. Paper labels can look amazing, with a rustic, handmade quality. But when moisture is a possibility — beer bottles or shampoo, for example — paper may not be the most durable choice. Synthetic label materials such as polypropylene are much more water resistant.
If your product undergoes frequent temperature fluctuations, its surface will expand and contract. Think about a piece of playground equipment baking in the sun, for example, or outdoor machinery sitting on a frozen worksite. For this kind of environment, it’s essential to choose a flexible label material that withstand the expansion and contraction of multiple heating/cooling cycles while maintaining its appearance.
On the other hand, your product may enjoy a charmed life, experiencing few extremes in temperature or moisture. In this case, synthetic materials may not be worth the expense. A good label printer will help you choose label material that fits your budget and your durability requirements (or lack thereof).
These Colors Don’t Run
The text and images on your label communicate critical messages — not the least of which is your brand identity. You need the ink on your label to hold up to the rigors of use and exposure.
Sunlight can cause some inks to fade or change color. Industrial solvents, harsh chemicals, and frequent handling can also smudge images and render text illegible. Additional resilience can be gained by applying a protective varnish over the printed image. Even greater protection is found in the addition of a clear film laminated over the face of the label.
Your label printer will advise you on which colorfast inks and/or coatings will survive the longest in your product’s usual surroundings.
How to Ensure Label Durability: The First Step
Do you recognize a pattern here? Your most reliable safeguard against label breakdown isn’t one super-strong adhesive or a specific type of rip-proof material. It’s knowledge — specifically, the knowledge of an expert label printer.
An experienced printer will know the strengths and weaknesses of different materials, inks, and adhesives, and will bring that knowledge to bear in helping you create a label that endures.
The earlier you start the conversation with a label printer, the better, though. No product or production process is the same, so plan ample time for testing and experimentation.
Do you need a label that can handle a dip in cold water, desert-like conditions, or constant pawing with grubby hands? Get in touch with us today, and we’ll walk you through your durable label options.