Not all packing tapes are created equal. Here’s how you can choose the right one for shipping, mailing, or storage.
BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
If you have ever grabbed a stray roll of packing tape and used it to secure a box or container that holds dishes, clothes, lamps, and other valuable items, only to have it give way and wind up damaging or destroying what’s inside, you may know the importance of good tape. You can avoid similar scenarios when you use the right kind of packing tape for different jobs and even climates.
Packing tape is made specifically to secure boxes for moving and storage needs, and there are various types with different adhesives and activators. Consider some of the best packing tape options available and discover one that is right for your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: Scotch Tape Heavy Duty Shipping Packaging Tape
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Tape King Clear Packing Tape
- BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Gorilla Heavy Duty Large Core Packing Tape
- BEST MASKING: Lichamp Masking Tape
- BEST CARTON SEALING: ProTapes Pro 184HD High Tensile Carton Sealing Tape
- BEST WATER ACTIVATED: Ultra Durable Water-Activated Tape
- BEST STRAPPING PACKING: Scotch Brand Strapping Tape
- BEST WITH DISPENSER: Gorilla Heavy Duty Packing Tape with Dispenser
Types of Packing Tape
Packing tape is available in different styles and for various jobs, including carton sealing, cold temperature adhesion, water-activated adhesion, strapping strength, and masking qualities. The best packing tapes detailed here have universal qualities that benefit every user.
Carton-sealing tape is the most common type of packing tape. It is frequently used by those who work in packaging warehouses or moving companies, but almost everyone who has moved or stored items has used it. This tape is an excellent choice if your packages are not subjected to extreme temperature variations. If you use it on hefty packages or are worried about theft, you may want to choose a different type of packing tape.
Cold Temperature Tape
One problem with regular carton-sealing tape is that extremely low temperature can render the adhesive ineffective. If you live in or are moving items to a cold climate, or if the items are stored or held in a refrigerated area (such as an ice cream truck or freezer), you want cold temperature tape. This tape uses the same liner as carton-sealing tape, but it has an adhesive specifically designed to hold fast when exposed to cold temperatures. However, as you might have guessed, this tape is not a great option for extremely warm temperatures.
When you ship items across the country or rely on movers to haul your possessions to a new location, security is an obvious concern. It’s easy to remove and reapply carton sealing tape without evidence. You should consider water-activated tape to ensure your items stay secure. This tape activates when it is wet, bonds to cardboard, and creates a seal that you must cut or tear to break. When you remove the tape there is evidence of tampering.
If your boxes are too heavy for regular carton tape to securely seal, you should consider strapping tape. Manufacturers weave glass filaments or fiberglass into this tape, reinforcing the liner for added durability, strength, and flexibility. Strapping tape is a bit more expensive than other varieties, but it holds heavy items securely inside containers.
Masking tape is a specialized tape with a pressure-sensitive adhesive that allows it to be easily applied and removed. The thin, paper liner, which is easy to tear, is designed for protecting areas like baseboards during painting. You can also use masking tape to secure light packages, but its weak adhesive means it won’t perform well on moderate to hefty packages.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Packing Tape
Before you choose the best packing tape for your moving and storage needs, consider the following shopping considerations.
The adhesion strength of a tape determines how effectively it sticks to a surface and is a significant factor in how you should use it. How heavy are the boxes you are packing? How strong does your tape have to be to fulfill its purpose? These are important considerations because they determine the type of tape you need.
- Masking tape is the weakest of the packing tape types, having both the lowest adhesion strength and liner strength.
- Carton-sealing tape has strong adhesion and will serve most light packing purposes. However, weighty contents will stress and possibly break this tape.
- Water-activated tape cannot come unstuck once activated, which makes it perfect for containers holding heavy items. Its resistance also deters thefts. However, if you pack multiple boxes, it can get frustrating to wet your tape continually.
- Strapping tape uses the same strong adhesive as carton sealing tape, but the liner is much more robust so it provides more support and durability.
Moving & Storage Circumstances
Before you choose a packing tape, consider the moving or storage conditions. A short move to a new house in the same city won’t require tape with long-lasting adhesive, but you will want to make sure it is strong enough to support your most substantial boxed items. Alternately, storing a package for months at a time will depend heavily on the longevity of the adhesive. The liner’s strength isn’t a significant factor when the box is in long-term storage.
However, moving versus storage isn’t the only consideration. How are you moving? If you hire movers, then you may want to use water-activated tape to keep your belongings safe from theft. If you plan to store boxes or cartons year-round in frigid climates or move to a frigid climate, choose cold weather tape.
There are many other considerations to keep in mind: humidity, precipitation, or even the method you use to transport your packages. For example, boxes on a boat will be subject to high moisture, while those on a truck may be subjected to shifts. Always keep in mind the travel and storage conditions when deciding on packing tape.
Required Amount of Tape
Determine the amount of tape you will need before you begin the project so that you don’t get partway through your packing and have to run to the store for more tape. Packing tape manufacturers will always list how much tape is included on a roll and bulk package. You can measure this in two ways.
First is the width of the tape, which is commonly between 0.5 inches and 4 inches. You need to know the width of the space where the tape will be applied so that you can bind the surfaces and provide an adequate seal. Second is the length of the tape on the roll. You commonly measure rolls in yards, but you can also measure them in inches or feet. If you estimate the amount of tape you need, always err on the side of caution. Get more than you need so you don’t run out half-way through. After all, extra tape around the house is never a bad thing (within reason).
Tape Roll vs. Integrated Dispenser
Tape can come by itself on a roll, or you may be able to find an integrated tape dispenser that makes it easy to quickly and efficiently apply tape to your packages.
- Tape rolls on their own are simple and easy to use. Just find the edge of the tape and pull to unravel it from the roll. Rolls are easier to store without dispensers, and you can control the amount of tape you use more effectively.
- Integrated dispensers can make it more challenging to have a controlled pull of the tape. You may wind up using a bit more tape, but you likely won’t miss it, especially when you have multiple boxes to pack. You can use the handle and cutting blade on a dispenser to quickly stick, pull, and cut your tape.
Ease of Use
Applying a piece of tape seems easy enough, but depending on the type you get, you may be spending a lot more time just getting your tape to stick.
- Masking tape is relatively simple to use, but the liner and adhesive are weaker than any other packing tape. This can cause the tape to break or come detached, forcing you to reapply it.
- Carton-sealing tape is the most common type of packing tape. Due to its popularity, you can find many products with integrated dispensers that make it incredibly easy and quick to use.
- Water-activated tape is the most challenging type to use because the adhesive does not become activated until you expose it to water. The strong bond formed in the process is incredible, but if your tape is in the wrong place when it gets wet, you will have a hard time correcting the issue.
- Strapping tape is similar to carton-sealing tape in ease of use; however, it is less popular, so you may find it challenging to find an integrated dispenser with the strapping tape product.
Our Top Picks
The products listed below received top ratings for quality, price, and customer satisfaction.
If you’ve struggled to seal boxes, especially those made from 100% recycled material, consider Scotch Heavy Duty Shipping Packaging Tape. This impressive carton sealing tape uses a solvent-free hot melt adhesive to provide a heavy-duty seal on all box types. This item contains six rolls of the tape, each with an integrated dispenser. The dispensers have fall-back tabs that prevent the tape from rolling backward on the roll. The clear tape also has a coating to protect it from splitting and tearing as it unwinds. Each roll is 1.88 inches in width and has 22.2 yards of tape wrapped around a 1.5-inch core. The smaller rolls in a larger multipack make this an excellent product for an apartment move.
If you regularly use bulk amounts of tape, plan a major household move, or just want a cost-effective way to stock up, consider the Tape King 36 Pack Heavy Duty Packing Tape. It has a total of 2,160 yards of heavy-duty tape between 36 rolls. Each roll is 1.88 inches wide and has 60 yards of tape wrapped around a large 3-inch core, making it easy to use directly from the roll or with a similarly-sized dispenser. Tape King says that their clear packing tape is 10 times stronger than any other regular tape, and the clear liner will not yellow with age like lower-quality products. The tape does not come with an integrated dispenser.
Heavy-duty, carton-sealing tape comes with a stronger adhesive than regular carton-sealing tape, which makes it ideal for high-stress situations, such as moving, storage, and shipment. The tape is resistant to splits and tears and has an extra thick liner to provide additional support. You can pack more substantial items in a carton, such as books, and know the tape will adhere. The large, 3.7-inch core of the tape roll makes it easy to grab and control without a dispenser, but you can use Gorilla Heavy Duty Large Core Packing Tape with a standard-sized packing tape dispenser. The pack comes with two rolls of clear packing tape. Each core has 40 yards of tape that measures 1.88 inches wide. The tape is both moisture and temperature resistant but is not advisable for extremely low temperatures.
When you want to protect surfaces during painting projects or seal light packages for storage or a move, consider Lichamp Masking Tape. It has a crepe paper backing that makes it easy to tear and apply, with a pressure-reliant adhesive that sticks to a wide variety of surfaces. You can easily remove the tape, and it doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind like some other tapes. The pack has a total length of 550 yards of tape, separated into ten rolls with a beige-white liner. Each roll is 0.75 inches wide and comes with 55 yards of tape. The tape’s backside has a specialized surface that allows the tape to unwind without tearing, yet also provides enough resistance for controlled use so you don’t have to worry about unraveling more tape than you need.
The thick paper line on the ProTapes Pro Carton Sealing Tape is dark brown and provides excellent tensile strength, but it is also easy to tear so that you can quickly take what you need. The tape is made with a rubber resin to increase its resistance to high and fluctuating temperatures and physical shock, which can occur when a package slides or falls. This 55-yard roll of carton-sealing tape is 3-inches wide and wins high points for binding box flaps. The adhesive bonds well to most types of cardboard, which makes it especially suited to boxes you plan to move or store for short periods. One caveat: You must apply the tape at room temperature for the adhesive to have the best effect.
You cannot break the incredible bond of Nova Supply’s water-activated tape without damaging the cardboard underneath. When you pack boxes for a move or storage, you can consider the Ultra Durable Water Activated Tape for Packing a top choice. The tape not only holds the boxes or cartons in place but acts as a theft-deterrent because it’s difficult to remove and impossible to replace.
Nova Supply Ultra Durable Water Activated Tape is 2.75 inches in width and comes with 150 yards of tape on the roll. The brown liner is reinforced with fiberglass and has a heavy-duty adhesive for an extra-strong bond. This tape is resistant to extreme heat, extreme cold, dust, dirt, and moisture. To apply, simply wet the tape and stick it to the surface. Adjust it before it dries for a perfect seal.
Consider the Scotch Fiberglass Reinforced Strapping Tape if you want a tape that you can rely on to keep your heaviest possessions safe during a move or while in storage. The extra-thick liner of this strapping tape is made with bi-directional fiberglass-reinforced fibers and features a heavy-duty hot melt adhesive that has a tensile strength of over 100 pounds per inch.
Each roll is 30 yards in length. Its 1.88-inch width means it fits on most standard-sized tape dispensers, but it doesn’t come with an integrated dispenser. However, the 3-inch core gives you an easy to grip surface for simple, effective taping even without a dispenser.
When you pack a large number of items, an integrated tape dispenser makes the work go faster. If you’re packing household items for a move, boxing up items for shipping, or any other packaging, consider Gorilla Heavy Duty Packing Tape with Dispenser. You don’t need a dispenser to use the tape on this 3.7-inch core but if you use the integrated dispenser, you will find the job goes much easier and faster. The dispenser is easy to grip, load, and use. Its metal cutting blade and fall-back tabs allow you to quickly put tape on a package and cut it without worry that it will roll back into the dispenser and stick together.
The clear tape has an extra thick liner that is resistant to moisture and temperature fluctuations. It is split- and tear-resistant, providing additional support to the heavy-duty adhesive. Each of the six rolls measures 1.88 inches wide and 25 yards long.
FAQs About Packing Tape
Before you choose the best packing tape for your projects, consider the answers to the following commonly asked questions.
What is the difference between packing tape and shipping tape?
Packing tape has a long-lasting adhesive that works in both hot and cold temperatures and works best when cartons are sealed for moves, delivery, or storage. Shipping tape manufacturers use a hot melt adhesive that makes it more durable over the short term. The adhesive is strong enough to withstand multiple touchpoints but may fail when exposed to frigid temperatures.
Is duct tape stronger than packing tape?
The two types of tape have different purposes, so it is difficult to say which is stronger. Duct tape is intended to form a tight seal across air ducts and has a certain amount of built-in stretch. Packing tape is more rigid, which means that it would not stretch under the same force as duct tape. However, this same rigidity would likely prevent the packing tape from absorbing sudden force, such as if a package is dropped.
How thick is packing tape?
You measure the thickness of packing tape in Mils. One Mil is equivalent to 1/1000th of an inch. On average, packing tape is between 1 to 6 Mil, though this varies by manufacturer and quality.
What is the best tape to use on cardboard?
For short-term strength, such as when you mail a package, use shipping tape. However, for long-term storage, or if the cardboard is exposed to a wide range of temperatures, packing tape ensures lasting adhesion.