What is Water-Activated Paper Tape Made Of?

What is Water-Activated Paper Tape Made Of?

Know what water-activated paper tape is made of

Water-activated paper tape (WAT) or gummed paper tape is commonly used in large commercial shipping centers. It's the most expensive packing tape to produce, but its advantages make it the clear choice for many businesses. Let's look at what this tape is made of that's coming into your home.

WAT paper tapes are made of at least two layers of materials. The additional layers beyond the two standard layers of paper tape are optional designs, coatings and fiber-reinforcement. 

Laminate (optional)

A top protective coating made of non-asphaltic polypropylene based polymer laminate may be added to the surface. This enables the tape to be non-staining, flexible, and water resistant. Manufacturers offer paper tapes that can be written on and some that cannot. The top coating will determine this feature.

Printed design (optional)

This could vary with manufacturer and client needs, but it's likely a water-based pigmented ink. Pigments are created from a variety of materials based on the color, but are primarily made with linseed oil, soybean oil, or petroleum based materials.


The paper layer is also known as kraft paper and is made from renewable natural resources making gummed paper tape 100% recyclable. The term "kraft" refers to the process of turning wood chips into wood pulp. Ingredients needed to manufacture kraft paper include water, wood chips, wood pulp, softwood pulp, sodium hydroxide, and sodium sulfide.

Fiber-reinforcement (optional)

The fiber-reinforcement within paper tapes is usually advertised as fiberglass yarn. Detailed specifications show they are a 3-way fiberglass reinforcing pattern with lengthwise threads with diamond cross-machine pattern. The lengthwise threads can be made of a variety of materials such as: 110 Denier Fiberglass - 5/8” spacing (1-1-1-1-1), 75 Denier Fiberglass–19/32” spacing (3-2-3-2-3), 110 Denier Fiberglass–19/32” spacing (2-2-1-2-2). The cross-machine threads may be 150 Denier Fiberglass – diamond pattern less than 1¼” spacing between threads to provide superior strength. If you're wondering, "Denier" is a unit of thickness referring to individual yarns.

Water-activated adhesive

The adhesive is a modified cornstarch based material for the majority of manufactured paper tapes. This can be made from a variety of materials such as carbohydrates derived from roots, tubers, and plant seeds. Other water-activated adhesives could also be animal-based adhesive materials, made by hydrolysis of the animal collagens. Either adhesive must be moistened upon application, creating a mono-material with the cardboard package.

Is paper tape right for you?

    Shipping centers are dirty, dusty, and debris heavy, making water-activated tapes a perfect match for their business. Water-activated paper tape and fiber-reinforced paper tape are both recyclable, making them a welcomed part of your recycling bin! During the recycling process the fiberglass strands are able to be removed from the paper component through advanced processes. Read our blog on 3 Reasons The Pros Use Kraft Paper Tapes and consider if water-activated paper tapes are the right match for your business.

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