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How to Choose Packing Tape: Why Width and Color Matter

For many people, the search for packing tape is all about a strong backing and adhesive with an easy-to-use dispenser at a low price. This is all well and good, but there are a couple other considerations that you shouldn’t overlook before choosing your packing tape. You want tape with the convenience, efficiency, availability, and functionality to fit your project and packing priorities. To this end, here’s why you may want to take a second look at your packing tape’s width and color.

Tape Width

Here’s the story for tape width by the numbers. Packing tape manufacturers typically offer a dozen different tape widths, ranging from something like .37” to 4.0”. That said, the most widely available and commonly used packing tape tends to stay around 2-3 inches wide. The best, simplest advice is to pick the narrowest width for which you’ll feel comfortable using only a single layer of tape….

If you have cardboard boxes that are brand-new or still in very good condition, if you’re not moving very far or very long, and/or if it’s simply not a big deal if one or two boxes flap open, then you can likely get away with ~2-inch wide tape. Otherwise, we recommend the average person skew toward 3-inch tape. That way, you’re sure to be comfortable using only a single piece of tape for most box seams.

Do’s and Don’ts for Using 2-3 Inch Packing Tape

What if you really want to do a number and seal your boxes up good? Isn’t it better to get the 2-inch wide tape and double-layer? Not really. There are a lot of other precautions you can take that are more effective:

  • A single layer may still three pieces of tape, one for each I-beam along the top of your box. This precaution is especially important if the box is packed full—or even slightly bulging—with stuff.
  • Use stronger tape. If you’re worried about cuts and punctures from nearby objects or careless movers, filament tape with fiber reinforcements is faster, better, and more cost-effective than 2-3 layers of regular packing tape.
  • Make sure the cardboard is in good condition. This is one of the reasons we tell people to always overestimate how many moving boxes they’ll need. Especially if you get free moving boxes, plan to discard at least one or two that show signs of damage that you didn’t notice at first.
  • Still not satisfied? Less concerned about budget and more concerned about peace of mind? Use brand-new, double-wall boxes or heavy-duty plastic containers.

Look, there’s a time and a place for using a second piece of tape. Maybe you misapply a piece of tape but don’t need to completely remove it. It happens. A quick second piece and you’re on your way. That said, by far the number one reason that self-adhesive packing tape fails is prolonged exposure to heat. If the bottom layer detaches, it’s more likely going to take the only layers with it. Traveling across the southern U.S. in the dead of summer? Water-activated paper tape is heat-resistant or, again, plastic containers are an option.

Color-Coded and Pre-Labeled Packing Tape

Choosing clear or color tape is more about organization than it is performance. The most successful moving and storage projects do more than safely pack up your belongings. They also organize them in a way that makes unpacking easy and intuitive. First and foremost, your boxes should be clearly labeled. This includes fragile items and special handling instructions, but in many cases, it should also include the room or theme of the packed box. With this goal in mind, you can find functional, room-by-room, color-coded packing tape here.

Of course, color tape isn’t your only labeling option. Permanent markers, for example, are a common, effective, and low-cost method for labeling boxes. In this sense, pre-labeled packing tape may not be a “game-changer.” On the other hand, if you’re buying packing tape for a move or storage project anyway, color-coded labels are an easy and reliable time-saving strategy. And one we ourselves have used to great effect.