Use Durable Labels and Get it Right the First Time

What Goes into Making Durable Labels?

Labels are not just sticky paper— not durable labels that work, anyways. Most labels are constructed from three basic layers: a facestock (also called stock or substrate), the adhesive and a liner. The facestock can be viewed as the “body” of the label, the adhesive is the glue, and the liner is the backing you peel off before applying your label.

While the basic components are pretty straightforward, simple changes to formula, construction and materials, or the addition of layers can drastically change the way a label performs. Office-grade label components and industrial-grade durable label components must be engineered differently to perform properly in specific environments.

Comparison chart between Avery TrueBlock Labels and Paper Labels - Durable labels block out everything underneath, are optimized for barcodes, and are long-lasting in comparison

Figure A. Standard vs Durable Labels Component Diagram

Standard vs. Durable Labels: A Look Inside

Durable label stock is perhaps the most significant difference between office-grade labels and industrial labels. However, every part of durable labels is differentiated from standard labels to maximize performance under intense conditions.

Top coat. Durable labels have an extra top coat to stabilize and preserve print quality. In general, the top coat on durable labels contributes to high abrasion tolerance, print quality and broad printer compatibility.  

Facestock. Standard labels are made with paper facestock. It can be a more substantial, premium paper, but regardless of the quality, paper has its limitations when it comes to durability. Durable labels for industrial use are made with engineered plastic film such as polyester (PET), polypropylene (PP) and other synthetics for maximized durability.

Adhesive. Facestock and adhesive choice are the two most critical components when it comes choosing a durable label. General office-grade adhesive on standard labels is designed for light-duty use in controlled indoor environments.

Industrial-grade durable labels must stay adhered and maintain high peel strength in harsh environments. This means securely sticking to surfaces like machinery, tools, bins and racks. It can also mean staying adhered in wet, hot, cold, outdoor and oily/greasy environments.

Liner. The backing that you peel off your labels may not seem important, but when you need to create durable labels for an industrial heavy-use environment or print in large quantities, the label liner material does matter.

Standard labels are made with calendered kraft paper, which is a type of thin paper made smooth and glossy by pressing it between rollers—like you might see on the back of stickers or address labels. Industrial-grade durable labels use robust machine-finished paper liners optimized for flawless printing.

How Avery® Durable Labels are Tested for Performance

Avery Industrial labels are rigorously tested to ensure they are high-durability printable labels that work for industrial users. That means conducting thorough, specific tests at industry-accepted or higher levels. Just a few of the tests our durable labels go through include tensile strength, 90-degree peel adhesion, Taber® abrasion and chemical resistance.

Tensile strength. Tensile test machines measure the pounds of force required to cause breaking due to structural strain. Durable labels have much higher tensile strength than standard paper labels making them resistant to tearing.

90-degree peel adhesion. Durable labels and permanent labels for industrial use must also securely stick to a variety of surfaces and stay in position. Tensile testing machines pull durable Avery labels from a variety of surfaces at exactly 90 degrees to measure the pounds of force required for removal.

Taber® Abrasion. Taber abrasion machines are the industry standard for testing resistance to damage from abrasion (e.g. scratching, scraping and rubbing). Industrial durable labels must be abrasion-resistant to preserve print integrity, remain intact and remain readable for both human eyes and barcode scanners. 

Chemical Resistance. Durable labels must also pass chemical resistance tests such as heptane, HCL 37%, and pH3 buffer. They should also be tested against common cleaning solutions like Windex, 409 and isopropyl alcohol so that accumulated grease, dust and other debris can easily be cleaned to produce better barcode scans.

BS5609 Section 2 and 3 Testing

Durable labels for creating GHS chemical labels must pass additional tests administered by certified third party testing labs. International shipping laws require chemical labels to meet the conditions set forth in British Standard BS5609.

BS5609 standards include two separate sections, one with requirements for the blank label itself (Section 2), and one for the stability print on the label (Section 3). Durable labels intended for GHS use are tested by certified third parties both with print and without print.

Marine immersion label testing specifically assesses durable label performance in marine environments. Key durability criteria include adhesive performance, print permanence and abrasion resistance in order to meet the minimum requirements outlined in BS5609.

Section 2 tests are performed on blank durable labels and include color fastness, marine exposure, weathering and extreme temperatures. Color fastness tests analyzes how well the label color is preserved when exposed to artificial sea spray and sunlight. Marine exposure is tested by submerging labels for 90 days in saltwater.

Weathering testing is executed by simulating weathering to labels adhered to aluminum plates. The labels are tested for peel adhesion after 48 hours. Peel adhesion is also tested after temperature cycling for seven days at 140°F (60°C) and two hours at 32°F (0°C) in order to analyze label performance in extreme temperatures.

Blank labels that pass Section 2 tests move on to Section 3 tests that include additional analysis that tests print key effectiveness, abrasion resistance and permanence of print. Print key effectiveness is tested by measuring resistance to print removal using adhesive tape after being subjected to Section 2 simulations (90-day saltwater submersion, weathering, temperatures, etc.).

Abrasion resistance is measured by the legibility and contrast of print after rolling in a mixture of saltwater and sand. Permanence of print is measured by analyzing the color fastness and residual contrast of print after exposure to artificial sea spray and sunlight.

Industrial inspection professional running an examination in a facility

When Paper Labels Fail

While incredibly useful in offices, classrooms and for personal organization, paper labels are simply not designed for industrial settings. Durable labels withstand exposure to moisture, abrasion, chemicals, heat and sunlight that can cause paper labels to tear, smear, discolor and become unreadable.

Or worse, fall off altogether. Durable labels are a basic need in industrial workspaces because missing or damaged paper labels can lead to serious consequences. Using office-grade paper labels in your facility risks label failures that can compromise safety, reduce productivity and may lead to regulatory fines or legal ramifications.

For example, a missing or illegible GHS chemical label can result in an OSHA fine, serious injury and/or litigation if someone were to injure themselves in a spill or accidentally consume hazardous chemicals. Equipment damage, unusable product and downtime can result if the wrong solvent or lubricant is used in production.

Even slightly damaged labels can be surprisingly costly when it comes to barcode labels and asset tags. Scratched, worn, dirty or torn barcode labels and asset tags can cause scanning errors. Which in turn can lead to misplaced equipment, over or underestimating inventory and increased labor costs needed to resolve such issues.

Why Durable Labels Matter

The ways paper labels fail in industrial settings drain time and energy from your operations, but can also have serious consequences. High-durability labels minimize label failure. You can label, tag and create signage with confidence.

Safer work environment. Making your facility as safe as possible for workers helps you protect your employees, your bottomline and the reputation of your business. Are you using durable label products to make sure your safety and compliance labels are the best they can be?

Using durable labels for GHS chemical labels, personal protection equipment (PPE) and safety signage ensures safety information is readily available for workers. Safety labels that fall off or are too damaged to read don’t benefit anyone.

Creating safety signage with large durable labels also has two key advantages over metal and hard plastic safety signs. 1) You have the capability to provide warnings, instructions and other important information on the spot with printable sign labels. 2) Adhesive signs can be placed on surfaces, such as glass, where screws and other fasteners cannot be used.

Saves money. Long-lasting durable labels are materially less expensive and cost less in labor than continually replacing lost and damaged paper labels. Durable labels are reliable and easy to keep clean to help you maintain pristine GHS chemical labels and safety signage.

Why even risk a fine, or legal issues? Should an employee be injured on the job, or you receive an inspection from OSHA, well-maintained and compliant safety signs and labels can go a long way to mitigate financial repercussions. 

Optimized for efficiency. Constantly replacing damaged and/or lost labels is a waste of time and can undermine productivity by causing frustration among employees. Especially when it comes to creating barcode ID labels or asset tags.

Nothing is more annoying for employees than to struggle with equipment that doesn’t work. Get better barcode reads every time with durable labels that resist scratching, fading and other damage that causes scanning errors.

Durable labels optimized for barcode scanning should be a vital part of the efficiency plan in your facility. Asset tags, barcoded bins and racks and even QR code safety information can all help optimize efficiency and support 5S/6S practices in lean manufacturing and warehousing facilities.

Top Industrial Uses for Durable Labels

GHS Chemical Labels

If you ship, distribute or manufacture hazardous chemicals, durable GHS chemical labels are crucial to helping you achieve OSHA compliance. Durable labels that meet BS5609 standards are non-negotiable for shipping, but chemical resistance is a key feature for any sort of chemical label.

Safety Signs

Always be prepared for inspection day with durable removable sign labels you can use to quickly update safety signage and print on-demand. Surfaces that would normally be impractical for signage become viable options with durable labels designed for easy removal.

Asset Tracking

Implementing an asset tracking system increases efficiency by minimizing time and money spent replacing lost or stolen items your business needs for operation. Printable asset tags are a type of durable label used for quickly recording information to an easily accessible centralized database.

Permanent labels for equipment and tools can also help identify, locate and audit items to help streamline resource allocation. Implementing metallic durable labels for equipment, machinery, tools, diagnostic equipment, electronics and other items ensures optimal barcode scanning even on the most frequently used heavy-duty items.

5S/6S Practices

Whether using color coding, sequential numbering or barcodes it’s important to use durable labels that maintain maximum legibility and allow you to easily make updates as needed. Using removable durable ID labels in your facility allows you to embrace the “constant improvement” philosophy of 5S/6S practices. Check out the free barcode generator from Avery that makes creating barcode labels easy.

Warehouse Management

Removable durable ID labels also play an important role in other areas of warehouse management. Using barcode labels for PPE, equipment labels, parts bins, inventory and storage racks enables quick identification so your facility operates at maximum efficiency. Clean removal capability allows you to switch out items and labels as often as needed without damaging surfaces.

Tasks that require frequent updates, such as inventory and supply chain management can be challenging because sacrificing durability for efficiency isn’t ideal.

Durable Sample Labels

Label failures are not an option in laboratory and medical offices. Using durable adhesive ID labels for samples helps prevent missing or illegible information causing harm to patients and/or skewing test results with life-threatening consequences.

Manufactured Goods Packaging

Manufacturing goods for retail or supply chain requires custom durable labels that make sense for the type of packaging and its contents. For example, the most durable labels engineered for industrial use make ideal permanent labels for metal, plastic, painted surfaces, fiber, polycarbonate and glass.

Waterproof and water-resistant durable labels help preserve label information for goods shipped in inclement weather. Industrial-grade durable labels that are chemical resistant also safeguard against leaks and spills when packing and shipping liquid products.