Box and Carton Sealing: Tape, Glue, or Staples?

There’s more to sealing cartons and boxes than buying the cheapest tape online. If you’re looking for alternatives to that annoyingly loud carton sealing tape or alternative sealing solutions, then read on!

Using glue, staples, or even a different kind of tape to seal your boxes can make boxes tamper-proof, reinforce boxes, and give your shipping box a more professional and clean look.

We’ll go over the different types of carton sealing materials businesses use. Try one out today to see if one is a better fit for your needs!

We’ll use Uline as a point of reference for the products in this article since most businesses will be familiar with this vendor.

But check out our article for other, possibly cheaper, shipping supplies vendors.


Not all tape is the same. While most small businesses will just buy the cheap packaging tape, there are actually two other types of tape: water-activated tape and pressure-sensitive tape. We’ll go over the different kinds of tape here.

Advantages of regular tape

  • Cheap and easily available compared to other carton sealing materials
  • No associated equipment cost (unless you use tape guns, but they’re inexpensive)
  • No training or technical skill required to use
  • Fairly safe to use, with minimal safety risks
  • Comes in a variety of colors, including clear tape

Disadvantages of regular tape

  • Can be extremely loud for use in home-based businesses or smaller businesses
  • Tears easily
  • Puncture may result in lower box seal integrity
  • Downtime to reload tape or to fix tape
  • May require more tape to secure boxes
  • While durable, extreme temperatures will affect the tape
  • Will not work in dirty or dusty conditions
  • Doesn’t work well on rough, textured surfaces
  • If you’re using branded shipping boxes, multiple strips of tape may hurt brand perception
  • Will degrade over time if improperly stored (in sunlight, for instance)

Quiet Tape

Sellers shipping from home know the pain of using loud tape. Online sales happen 24 hours a day, and busy seasons may mean they’re packaging late into the night.

If you’re already getting complaints about the noise when you’re packaging, then you’ll want to switch over to quiet tape. Your family members, coworkers, and ears will thank you.

There’s really only one consideration when purchasing quiet tape: stickiness. Some quiet tapes may not be as sticky or adhere to your packaging as well. You’ll want to purchase a few rolls to test before you commit to a large case purchase.

Below is a screenshot from Uline that shows the cost of their regular economy tape and their equivalent quiet tape.

Uline Quiet Tape Comparison

A case of 36 of the Industrial Tape costs $60.84, whereas 36 of the Quiet Tape costs $147.60. For some, that’s a low price to pay to keep the family happy.

Water Activated Tape or Gummed Tape

Another increasingly popular type of type is water-activated tape (WAT). Just as its name suggests, WAT requires water to activate the starches on the tape to form a bond. That usually means you’ll need some kind of machine to use this type of tape.

You may also see this referred to as “gummed” tape. Amazon uses this tape for its packages, and if you have an Amazon box, you’ll see the reinforcing strands if you attempt to peel the tape off.

Water activated tape and manual dispenser


  • Machines may be pre-programmed to dispense exact tape lengths
  • Saves tape if you ship using standardized box sizes
  • Fiberglass strands reinforce and strengthen tape, retaining the integrity of seal on the box if punctured
  • Tamper evident
  • Easy to write or print on tape
  • Recyclable
  • Can use in dirty or dusty areas
  • Only one strip of tape needed for good seal
  • Box can be generally be reused
  • Brand logos or words can be printed on tape


  • Generally more expensive
  • Need a machine to dispense and use
  • Requires water
  • Requires electricity unless you get the manual dispenser

Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Tape

Pressure sensitive adhesive tape (PSA) is probably less commonly used by ecommerce sellers. Unlike regular tape or WAT, PSA requires pressure in order to bond to the box.

There are numerous types of pressure sensitive adhesives, but many of these types are used in industrial applications.

The advantages of using PSA are similar to using regular tape. We’ll list some other features below.

Uline Kraft Pressure Tape


  • Can write on tape (as in the case with kraft tape pictured above)
  • Tear tape by hand


  • Generally more expensive
  • Requires more work to make the tape stick

Glue (Hot or Cold)

Hot Melt Adhesive (or hot glue) and regular glue are used by some businesses for a cleaner look to the boxes.

Uline Glue Gun and Glue Sticks


  • Boxes look a lot cleaner and more aesthetically appealing with no tape
  • Generally cheaper than other carton sealing methods, especially over a large period of time
  • Good for cartons with different textures or surfaces
  • Works in any environment, even dusty or dirty ones
  • Bonds generally last longer than tape
  • Tamper evident
  • Very long shelf life


  • Fumes from some types of glue
  • Higher risk of injury for hot glues
  • Can be messy
  • Requires a glue gun and electricity if you’re using hot glue
  • Longer set times depending on the glue used


Last, but not least, consider using staples for some of your shipping cartons. Below is the manual carton stapler, but you can purchase a pneumatic one as well.

Uline Staple Gun and Staples


  • Stronger seal
  • Tamper evident
  • Handles more stress like heat and cold
  • Good for shipping heavy products or cartons shipped in pallets
  • Very long shelf life


  • Box is generally destroyed when opening
  • More effort required to open box
  • Higher risk of injury to operator
  • More effort to recycle
  • May not be accepted by some shipping services, so check policies beforehand
  • Requires overlapping flaps


Even if you’re not currently looking for a change in your carton sealing supplies, you’ll want to keep these different methods in mind as you expand. Businesses with their own private label may want to avoid using certain types of tape because they have their own printed shipping boxes.

Or businesses with more expensive products may want to use carton sealing methods that will show tampering. Amazon’s use of water-activated tape not only speeds up the packaging times, but it also provides a tamper-evident seal. Customers can’t swap out products without clearly breaking the tape.

It’s always great to know that you have options for your business. Who knows? At the very least, switching from regular tape to quiet tape may result in a more peaceful environment for everyone involved.

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