Hot Pawz Tape Tip Blog What is Water-activated Paper Tape

What Is Water-activated Paper Tape?

What is WAT packing tape?

If you're looking for the strongest adhesive for shipping packages you'll stumble upon "Water-activated Paper Tapes" immediately. Paper tapes can be used on corrugated boxes and are available with fiber-reinforcement for heavier boxes. The unique water-activated adhesive is its defining characteristic, so let's explore it!

What it is, is all in the name, water-activated paper tape (aka WAT). Now to break that further apart and touch upon fiber-reinforced paper tapes while we're at it.

What makes a tape "Water-activated"?

When you pick up a roll you will notice that both sides are not sticky, so how is this tape if it's not sticky? The top will usually be a matte finish. If you have Hot Pawz packing tape this is the side with the design. The underside will be shiny and this is the side you'll eventually be applying to the corrugated box. The shiny underside is the glue that is waiting to be activated by the application of water!

For these tapes you will not be able to use a handheld tape dispenser. Instead you'll need a sponge or desktop tape dispenser designed for these tapes. It's very important to use enough water to moisten the glue along the entire length. If not enough water is applied or water isn't applied (for example the ends), the tape will not stick.

Automatic tape dispensers often have a warming area to heat the water in the reservoir. This again helps the adhesive. Using room temperature water or warm water is also fine, just follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. If there is no recommendation on the packaging specifying the temperature of the water use room temperature.

The adhesive on water-activated paper tapes is made from a starch-based (most common) or animal-based adhesive. Starched-based adhesives don't have a taste or smell, therefore if you're sensitive to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) this is the tape for you.

What is "Paper tape"?

The tape part may be referred to as paper tape (most common), brown tape (common), or kraft tape (uncommon). Its color will usually be brown and can have designs manufactured on it. These are the most expensive tapes to have manufactured, hence their higher price tags for consumers. 

Roll size can vary from 50 yards (150 feet) and are most common with paper tapes that have a design on them. Plain brown paper tapes are sold in rolls of 150 yards (450 feet). Hot Pawz paper tapes with their stunning designs are sold in the standard roll size of 450 feet, making them a fantastic buy for paper tape enthusiasts.  

What the is "Fiber-reinforcement" in tape?

If you're going to be shipping packages over 50 lbs, you'll want to find a paper tape with "fiber-reinforcement" or "reinforced" advertised in the name. Absolutely use this for packages under 50 lbs as it will provide additional support during the rigors of shipping. When paper tapes are reinforced you'll see a diamond with lines running horizontally through them on the underside. These are the fiberglass strands that make these tapes so strong.

When water-activated paper tape is properly moistened it fuses to the fiberboard materials within 1 to 3 minutes. A tamper resistant surface is created at this point. It is difficult to open and quick to recognize a damaged surface if someone were to attempt to open it. 

Hot Pawz Packing tape example of paper tape and fiber-reinforced paper tape

Should you buy paper tapes for shipping?

Yes! Paper tape is wonderful for shipping corrugated boxes, but they are a premium product. I would only recommend paper tapes in the following circumstances:

  • You ship using mostly corrugated boxes
  • Your shipments are usually over 20 lbs
  • You have a dedicated shipping station for the desktop dispenser
  • Your brand message aligns with the use of paper tapes. 

No! Paper tapes can only be used on corrugated boxes, never poly-mailers, bubble-mailers, or shiny finished boxes. I would not recommend water-activated paper tapes in the following circumstances:

  • You rarely ship corrugated boxes
  • Your packages are consistently under 20 lbs
  • Your shipping process would benefit from using handheld tape dispenser

After all this you're now wondering if paper tapes come in a self-adhesive options. Yes, they do, but they don't have all the same benefits as water-activated adhesives do.

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1 comment

Very informative. Until I read your blog, I didn’t have a good understanding of paper tape and its benefits!


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