When it comes to enduring the weather, a label is like a person: It sometimes needs assistance to thrive in the great outdoors. When the temperatures drop below freezing, we put on insulated winter coats. When the summer sun is blazing, we don our shades and slather on sunscreen.
In short, we don’t let the elements stop us from enjoying outdoor recreation or getting our work done. And they shouldn’t prevent outdoor or industrial labels from performing their duties, either.
The key to ordering durable custom labels for outdoor use is understanding how different environmental factors affect label performance, and learning about the label materials, inks, and adhesives that will help your label last outside, season after season.
When Do You Need Durable Outdoor Labels? Use Cases
The great outdoors is a vast arena, with countless opportunities to deploy durable labels.
Among their many other uses, outdoor labels keep people safe, inform, advertise and entertain. Common applications for custom outdoor labels include:
- Construction sites: Regulations typically require highly visible safety information instructing users on the proper operation of dangerous machinery and protecting all those around from electric shocks, falls, burns, and other risks.
- Farms: Outdoor equipment labels also safeguard operators and passersby in the agricultural industry.
- Playgrounds: Playground safety stickers keep fun times from becoming emergencies. Custom outdoor labels and decals can also be used decoratively, transforming monkey bars, slides, and jungle gyms into wondrous playgrounds for the imagination.
- Recreational equipment. Nearly every bicycle, boat, snowboard, or piece of camping equipment has at least one durable label offering usage instructions, providing safety information, or expressing the brand’s identity.
- Bumper stickers are the most ubiquitous form of promotional outdoor label. You might also find promotional labels adorning business entrances or outdoor advertising outlets.
Related Reading: Want to know how to get industrial or automotive labels that always do the job right? Explore the Complete Guide to Industrial and Automotive Labels.
Why Every Region Needs Weatherproof Labels
From the hot and dusty Southwest to the damp Northwest to the snowy Northeast to the steamy South, no outdoor label is safe from the elements. Here are some of the environmental factors durable product labels must contend with:
Rain and Snow: Water-Resistant Labels
Moisture can wreak havoc on labels that aren’t prepared for it. We’ve all seen what happens when paper gets wet; it disintegrates into a pulpy mess. Water can weaken adhesives as well, causing labels to peel. Beating rain can make ink run.
If you expect moist conditions and you want your label to last, you need to take steps to protect it. For example, the safety information on construction equipment prevents injuries (and is required by law). You can’t have it washing away with each rainstorm.
Synthetic label materials such as polypropylene and polyester hold up well in wet environments. Vinyl is an excellent choice when outdoor durability is a high priority (as we’ll explain below). To protect the text and imagery on your label, your label printer may apply water-resistant or waterproof lamination.
An experienced label vendor should also be able to steer you toward strong, permanent adhesives that are untroubled by moisture and adhere well to metal, plastic, or whatever surface you require.
Hot and Cold: Labels That Resist Temperature Extremes
As surfaces heat up or cool down, they expand or contract. This happens to some degree with every material: metal, glass, plastic, or wood.
Indoors, where temperatures are relatively stable, thermal expansion and contraction may not be a significant factor. But outdoors, temperatures can fluctuate wildly throughout the year or even within a 24-hour period. For example, a tractor might spend the day toiling beneath the hot sun and the evening cooling down in a dark garage – and the winter plowing snow.
The metal on that equipment is going to expand and contract with the temperature changes. This can be a challenge for outdoor labels they must stretch with the surface beneath them, or else they can tear, peel or wrinkle.
[insert sidebar graphic callout: Outdoor surfaces can expand and contract with weather changes – if your label isn’t flexible, it will crack and peel sooner than you’d imagine.]
Vinyl is one of the most versatile label materials for outdoor exposures. It can expand or shrink in every direction – and then revert to its original shape – without cracking or peeling.
When ordering custom labels, be sure to tell your label printer where you intend to place your labels. Your vendor will help you choose a material that’s appropriate for your label’s environment, the surface, and your budget.
Sunlight: Labels That Resist Fading
Have you ever seen a car sporting a bumper sticker for a political candidate who ran two or three cycles ago – and the sticker looked as good as new? It’s amazing how long an outdoor label can last when it has been printed using the right inks and materials.
Still, when exposed to sunlight, all colors fade eventually. The effect is called photodegradation. Ultraviolet rays from the sun break down the chemical bonds in dyes and pigments that we perceive as color.
While we can’t stop colors from fading in the sun, we can considerably extend the life of a label. Here are a few tips:
- Bright colors such as yellow, red, and orange tend to fade faster. Choose darker colors, if possible, unless required by safety regulations or your brand identity.
- Ask your label printer about special fade-resistant inks that are formulated to endure sunlight longer than standard inks.
- Your label printer may also be able to apply a laminate that repels UV rays.
- Avoid sunlight entirely by placing your label in a shady or enclosed area.
For a Durable Outdoor Label, Choose a Printer You Can Count On
The weather can be unpredictable. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a climate expert to get outdoor stickers or equipment labels that stand up to heat, moisture, and sunlight. An experienced label printer will have seen it all before and will be able to advise you on the materials, inks, and other elements you need for a long-lasting label.
Whether your label needs to survive the rugged outdoors or will live in air-conditioned comfort, the Label Printers has a solution.
Learn more about what we can do for your industry’s label printing needs.