What is Water Activated Tape (WAT)? How to Use Water Activated Tape Effectively

What is Water Activated Tape (WAT)? How to Use Water Activated Tape Effectively

In today's competitive shipping and storage environment, businesses are constantly seeking efficient and cost-effective solutions. Water-activated tape (WAT) offers a unique opportunity to address these needs. Our today article explores the essentials of water activated tape, highlighting its key characteristics, applications, and advantages for businesses.

Overview of Water Activated Tape

What is Water Activated Tape?

Water-activated tape (WAT), also known as gummed tape, represents a proven and versatile solution for high-performance packaging within the commercial sector. Unlike pressure-sensitive tapes that rely on a pre-applied adhesive, WAT utilizes a water-activated adhesive system. This allows for on-demand activation, creating a permanent and exceptionally strong bond upon application to cardboard and other packaging materials.

Material Composition of Water Activated Tape

Water-activated tape (WAT) is essentially a type of paper tape. Its materials including:

  • Backing: WAT leverages a kraft paper backing, offering a robust and eco-friendly foundation for the adhesive layer.
  • Adhesive: The adhesive component of WAT is typically formulated with starch or animal glue. Upon moistening, these adhesives reactivate, forming a secure and reliable bond with various packaging materials.

Properties of Water Activated Tape

Made mainly from paper, but water activated tapes have several outstanding properties, including:

  • Mechanical Strength:
    • Tensile Strength: WAT boasts high tensile strength, meaning it can withstand significant pulling forces without breaking. This translates to a secure hold for packaged goods, especially during transport and storage.
    • Tear Resistance: The kraft paper backing contributes to excellent tear resistance, preventing rips or tears in the tape itself. This ensures the seal remains intact, protecting the contents of the package.
    • Temperature Sensitivity: It's important to note that extreme temperatures, particularly high heat, can affect WAT's performance. The adhesive may become less effective or the paper backing may become more brittle.
  • Adhesive Properties:
    • Initial Tack: Unlike pressure-sensitive tapes, WAT has no initial tack before activation. This allows for precise positioning before creating the permanent bond.
    • Bond Strength: Once activated with water, WAT forms a strong and permanent bond with cardboard and other packaging materials. The bond strength is directly related to the level of activation (moisture applied). Over-activation can lead to warping of the cardboard, so finding the optimal activation level is crucial.
    • Moisture Resistance: After the adhesive cures, WAT exhibits good moisture resistance, ensuring the sealed package remains secure even in slightly humid environments.
  • Additional Considerations:
    • Thickness and Color: WAT comes in various thicknesses, catering to different packaging needs. Thicker tapes offer even greater strength for heavy-duty applications. Additionally, WAT can be available in various colors for specific branding or identification purposes.
    • Biodegradability: As a paper-based product with natural adhesives, WAT is considered biodegradable under the right composting conditions. This aligns with environmentally conscious packaging strategies.

For these key properties, this type of tape has their own advantages and disadvanatges. Explore them in the next section.

Advanatages and Disadvantages of Water Activated Tape

While water-activated tape (WAT) boasts impressive advantages for businesses, it's essential to consider both sides of the coin before making a switch. Here's a breakdown of its strengths and weaknesses:

Advantages of Water-Activated Tape

  • Superior strength and security: WAT forms an exceptionally strong bond, ideal for heavy-duty packaging and ensuring contents remain secure during transit or storage.
  • Eco-Friendly: Both the natural adhesive and kraft paper backing contribute to WAT's sustainability, aligning with environmentally conscious business practices.
  • Cost-effective: In high-volume operations, WAT can offer a more economical solution compared to some pressure-sensitive tapes, leading to significant cost savings.
  • Tamper-eident properties: Specific WAT formulations create a seal that tears upon tampering, providing an extra layer of security for sensitive or valuable products.

Disadvantages of Water-Activated Tape

  • Learning curve and application process: WAT requires activation with water and proper application techniques for optimal results. This may involve an initial adjustment period compared to pressure-sensitive tapes.
  • Not Ideal for all climates: Extreme temperatures or humid environments can affect WAT's performance. Consider alternative solutions for such scenarios.
  • Activation equipment: Utilizing WAT effectively often requires a dedicated water dispenser or sponge for activation. This adds an additional element to the packaging process.
  • Time factor: Compared to pressure-sensitive tapes, the activation step adds a slight increase to the overall packaging time.

So, how are water-activated tapes used? What can you use it for business?

Applications of Water Activated Tape

Water-activated tape (WAT) transcends the standard cardboard box closure. Its unique properties make it a versatile solution for various applications across different industries. Here's a closer look at where WAT shines:

Securing Shipments:

  • E-commerce and Retail: WAT excels in high-volume packaging for e-commerce and retail businesses. Its strong bond ensures products remain secure during transit, minimizing the risk of damage and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Shipping and Warehousing: WAT is ideal for heavy-duty packaging in shipping and warehousing environments. It can handle the demands of palletized goods and withstand significant weight and movement.

Storage and Organization:

  • Record Archiving and Document Storage: WAT's tamper-evident properties (with specific formulations) make it suitable for securing archival boxes and document storage, adding a layer of security for sensitive information.
  • Inventory Management: WAT can be used to securely close storage boxes for various inventory items, ensuring contents remain organized and protected.

Specialized Applications:

  • Cold Chain Packaging: Specific WAT formulations can be used for cold chain packaging applications, offering secure closures while maintaining the integrity of temperature-controlled environments.
  • Arts and Crafts: WAT finds uses in the creative realm as well. Its clean bond can be used for framing artwork, creating gift boxes, or other craft projects where a strong and invisible closure is desired.

Additional Considerations:

  • Customization: WAT can be available in various widths and thicknesses to cater to specific packaging requirements.
  • Branding: Colored WAT can be used for branding purposes, adding a touch of recognition and professionalism to your packaging.

How to Use Water Activated Tape Effectively

To optimize efficiency of water activated tapes, here is our guide to equip you with the knowledge and best practices to leverage WAT effectively within your business operations.

Preparation Step

Ensure you have readily available:

  • Water-activated tape (WAT)
  • Water dispenser (manual or electric) or a clean sponge
  • Sharp cutting tool (scissors or razor blade)

Activation Step

  • Precise Hydration is Key: Achieving the ideal level of moisture application is paramount. When using a water dispenser, adjust the settings to deliver a consistent, light application. If opting for a sponge, dampen it carefully – avoid soaking, as this can weaken the bond or damage the cardboard.
  • Activate the Adhesive: With a dispenser, smoothly guide it along the adhesive side of the WAT. If using a sponge, employ a single, gentle swipe across the adhesive surface in a controlled motion. Remember, excessive moisture application can be counterproductive.

Application Step

  • Precise Placement: Unlike pressure-sensitive tapes, WAT lacks initial tack. Therefore, meticulous positioning is crucial. Carefully place the moistened tape on the cardboard box for a secure and permanent bond upon contact.
  • Forming the Seal: Firmly press the activated WAT onto the cardboard surface, ensuring thorough adhesion along its entire length. Utilize a smooth pressing motion to create a tight and reliable seal.
  • Clean Finishing Touches: Once the closure is complete, use your designated cutting tool to precisely trim any excess WAT for a professional presentation.

By adhering to these recommended practices and remaining mindful of the additional considerations, you can transform water activated tape into a valuable asset within your packaging strategy


Water-activated tape offers a compelling alternative for businesses seeking secure and sustainable packaging. Its exceptional strength and eco-friendly nature are undeniable assets. However, a learning curve, climate limitations, and potential time constraints require consideration. Evaluating these factors alongside packaging needs and volume is crucial. Ultimately, WAT can be a strategic choice for businesses prioritizing robust, sustainable, and potentially cost-effective closures.

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