Water-Activated Tape Tests and Studies

Responding to requests from distributors and customers to demonstrate the superiority of water-activated tape (WAT) over that of pressure sensitive tape (PST), Better Packages commissioned SGS North America (SGS). SGS is a global, industry-leading testing and verification company. We asked SGS to to define and create test protocols and then conduct independent, multifaceted tests.  It was critical for us to engage an outside company to perform the tests to ensure objectivity and accuracy.  SGS determined that the most important test criteria were:

  • Productivity Measurements
  • Material Usage
  • Tape Integrity (in three key climatic conditions)
  • Adhesion Strength

SGS’s independent test results are indisputable: WAT demonstrates superior performance in every way for carton sealing.  

SGS Test Highlights

Productivity Carton sealing productivity is 21% higher using a water-activated tape dispenser and WAT vs a hand-held tape gun with PST.
Material Usage The average amount of tape needed to seal a single carton using WAT was 8% less than using PST.
Tape Integrity In each environment tested, (room temperature, cold and tropical) cartons sealed with WAT remained intact and prevented tampering; cartons sealed with PST were not secure and were easily accessed without revealing any signs of tampering.
Adhesion Strength This test was designed to assess how well WAT versus PST adheres, or bonds, to cartons.   The test results demonstrated WAT’s noteworthy bonding ability. When the WAT was removed from cartons, it also removed 80% of the carton’s fibers.  PST bonded poorly and was easily removed from the carton without showing any evidence of the tape’s removal.

Below is a more detailed description of the tests and the results.

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Test Objective:  
To assess how many cartons can be sealed in a six-hour work day using WAT versus PST.

Test Process:
The top and bottom carton flaps were sealed with a single piece of tape long enough to overlay the side of the carton to secure functionality.  WAT had a 3” overhang; PST had a 4” overhang.

Productivity Test Results

Tape Used Cartons Sealed in Six Hours Cartons Sealed Per Hour Productivity Increase with WAT
WAT  649 108.2 +21%
PST 535 89.2

Tester’s Conclusions:
Productivity using a water-activated tape dispenser and WAT is 21% higher than using hand-held guns with PST.

Carton Sealing Material Use

A by-product of the productivity test permitted an assessment of the relative amount of tape used sealing a carton using WAT vs PST.

Tape Usage

Tape Used Amount of Tape Used
Per Carton
Average Tape Usage
WAT 47.2″ -8%
PST 51.5″

Tester’s Conclusions:
The average tape needed to seal a single carton using WAT was 8% less than using PST.

It’s a fact:  By using WAT for carton sealing, the combination of greater worker productivity and less tape used provides business savings of 13.2%. This is why the largest internet shipper in the world switched to using WAT.  

Tape Integrity Testing

Test Objective:
To assess how well WAT and PST perform, when consistent force is applied to the tape and the carton, in various atmospheric conditions.

Test Process:
Take cartons sealed with WAT and those with PST. Use an Instron test machine that employs consistent, compressive force and record the pressure needed to either (1) open the carton along the seal (2) tear the tape or (3) break the carton. Test 10 cartons sealed with WAT and 10 cartons sealed with PST in each of the following atmospheric conditions.

Atmospheric Test Conditions

Standard Atmosphere 23° C (73.4° F) Relative Humidity 50%
Tropical Atmosphere 40° C (104° F) Relative Humidity 75%
Arctic Atmosphere -18° C (0.4° F) Humidity less than 10%


Tape Integrity Testing Results
Cardboard Cartons Maximum Force Used in Pounds 

Tape Used Standard Atmosphere
(Room Temperature)
Tropical Atmosphere Arctic Atmosphere
WAT 60.16 lbs 51.15 lbs 60.31 lbs
PST 16.80 lbs 12.63 lbs 14.61 lbs

Tester’s Conclusions:

Water-Activated Tape:
Using the Instron machine and testing at room temperature, 60 lbs. of pressure was needed to cause the cartons to break. Testers stated that WAT “secures the carton integrity and prevents unnoticed incursions (i.e. tampering) of packed products in all environmental conditions”.

Plastic Tape: 
Using the Instron machine and testing at room temperature, the maximum force needed to open the carton was 16.8 lbs. The Testers noted that this force level is easily employed by the average person. The Testers concluded:  “PST cannot secure the carton integrity or prevent the package (and its contents) from incursion.”


Adhesion Testng

Test Objective: 
To assess how well WAT vs PST adheres to cartons after setting for 5 seconds in one test and after setting for 24 hours in another.

Test Process: 
Test 4 cartons sealed with WAT and 4 cartons sealed with PST. Remove the tape by hand from the carton samples.

5 second Test:
The tape was pulled off the carton 5 seconds after adhering. The surface carton material that was pulled off with the tape is measured.

24 Hour Test:
The tape was pulled off the carton 24 hours after adhering. The surface carton material that was pulled off with the tape is measured.

These were pass/fail tests assessing “tackiness” or bonding – a key component of carton tamper-evidence and security.

Adhesiveness Test Results

Tape Set Time # of Cartons Tested Paper Tape Plastic Tape
5 seconds 4 PASS– Pronounced tackiness FAIL – Insufficient Tackiness
24 hours 4 PASS – Removal Causes Paper Failures on the carton  in over 80% of the tested area FAIL – The tape is removed easily, capturing just some cardboard fibers

Tester’s Conclusions: WAT has a strong adhesiveness to the cardboard carton surface while PST does not.

Final Comments

After the testing was completed, SGS staff stated, “These test results are significant and should lead WAT to be the proper, best method in virtually all carton sealing applications.” 

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Materials Used in the Studies

  • Corrugated Carton 18”x 12” x 14”
  • Better Packages WAT KRM450-10
  • Scotch Plastic Tape 3M 371
  • Better Pack 555eS Tape Dispenser
  • Tape Gun with 2” Wide Tape