Shelf Life of Stickers and Labels

Label shelf life and how long unused stickers last

How long do unused stickers and labels last?

Labels and stickers have a shelf life. And depending on how they were manufactured and how you store them, it’s possible the quality will degrade before you apply them. This article details what is the shelf life of labels, how to make your labels last longer, and when you might need to replace unused stickers and labels.

Shelf life vs. service life

Label shelf life vs. service life

There are distinct differences between the shelf life and service life (lifespan) of labels and stickers. Shelf life is how long a label can be stored in the proper conditions while still retaining performance. Service life is how long a label will stick once applied. The service life starts once you apply the label to your products. It does not include how long the product was stored. Generally, the service life is much longer.

Your label lifespan varies based on the label materials and adhesives involved. But most Avery labels have two to three years of shelf life. However, their service life is likely 10 to 15 years. Incorrectly stored labels or ones that have been subjected to harsh conditions may not meet those timelines.

The main components that impact a label’s shelf life and service life are how the label was manufactured, the type of label adhesive used, and how the label is stored. When you use Avery labels, the inventor of self-adhesive labels, you know you’re getting the best quality labels and adhesives available. But any label or sticker that has been stored too long could have distorted print quality and adhesive performance. So while you can save money when ordering a larger number of labels, you don’t want to buy so many labels that they will sit in storage for several years before being applied.

Practicing first-in, first-out (FIFO) with your labels and stickers is always a good idea but you will likely need to store labels at some point. Whether before a batch run or due to seasonal demand, knowing how to store your labels properly can only help your small business maximize its budget.

Ways to extend your label life

Store your labels properly to extend shelf life

Storing your labels properly is critical. Along with protecting the front of the label and your product branding, things like the label liner and adhesive performance can be affected if not stored correctly. Things like keeping the backing intact are crucial. On sheet labels, that means keeping them flat and free of creases. For rolls, keep the center roll intact to maintain the integrity of the entire roll.

Proper storage temperature is also key in maintaining your labels’ performance. As a guideline, you should store your labels between 60 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper humidity level for label storage is 50% relative humidity. For best results, your labels need climate-controlled storage if your company operates in a tropical, subtropical, or even desert region.

Sunlight may not directly affect the adhesives in labels, but it does affect the overall shelf life. UV rays break down the chemical bonds in the label ink, which produces a faded look over time. Even UV protective coatings cannot delay the effect forever. The best solution is to store your labels indoors and away from windows.

Contact with liquids can also cause labels to lose their stickiness and curl away from their backing. If your business involves a lot of liquids, you may want to invest in watertight storage solutions to avoid replacing your label supply. Storing your labels in airtight containers can also minimize the effect of climate shifts in your business as well as damage from scuffs and scrapes. Avery recommends keeping your labels in their original packaging until used for optimal protection.

When should you throw out labels?

When you should throw out old labels

Even if you do everything correctly, there are occasions when you may need to throw your labels out.

If your labels were damaged by heat, humidity, or liquids and will no longer stick properly or the ink is distorted, then it’s time to throw out the batch and reorder.

If your growing business needs to update your logo, change color schemes, or even shift product production, then your existing label supply will no longer fit your business. Consequently, you’ll need to throw out your existing supply.

In some industries, regulations change regularly, and product labels must change to comply. Changes like this are common in health and wellness industries with constantly changing warning labels for example. Smaller quantities of sheet labels are your best bet in these instances. You can order Avery sheet labels professionally printed or do it yourself. If you’re confident in the number of labels you need for a certain period, then it can make financial sense to buy roll labels.

Avery recommends keeping no more than a year’s supply of labels on-hand at any given time. That’s why we offer no minimum orders so you can buy only as many labels as you need. Then you can reorder and get new labels in as few as three business days.

With Avery labels, our easy online ordering, fast turnaround, amazing customer service, and satisfaction guarantee, your business can stay on brand without worrying about your label shelf life and storage.

Author: Melanie Neff

Melanie has an extensive writing background built on an impressive journalism foundation. As a reporter for USA Today and The Los Angeles Times for almost 20 years, she covered everything from the Los Angeles riots, fires, and floods to LA Lakers, Raiders and Clippers games and movie premieres. She followed her newspaper career with a long tenure covering commercial real estate financing and development. Melanie has been writing about small business marketing and labeling needs for the last 12 years. She thrives on reading, researching and expanding her knowledge of everything going on in today's business world and looks to provide the most valuable information she can to her readers.