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Duct Tape | Can It Be Used for Moving Boxes?

Duct tape is certainly regarded as a go-to solution for many. However, while duct tape may be versatile, it is not a great option if you are trying to keep your moving boxes closed.

Whether you can or will choose to use duct tape when moving depends on a few factors. Duct tape has several drawbacks that make it less than ideal for sealing boxes, and there are better options that will do a better job. That’s not to say you can’t ever use duct tape; there are just limits and risks to doing this.


Shipping companies do not accept duct tape as it doesn’t adhere firmly and is suspectable to the elements. If no moving service is involved, it is a personal choice to use duct tape according to the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. But there are better types of tape to use.

Are the Boxes Going to Be Shipped?

Yes: Can’t Use Duct Tape

Big companies like UPS and FedEx do not allow duct tape on packages that pass through their services. They will reject these packages.

The logic behind this choice means it makes sense for this stance to be widespread and that other companies would prohibit duct tape as well. Of course, a quick check of their package guidelines should confirm it.

So, if you are using a company to move your boxes, you can’t use duct tape to close them up. This is because duct tape isn’t the best option for packages:

  • Duct tape doesn’t have a strong seal when it comes to the rough texture of the cardboard boxes.
  • Duct tape is only water-resistant, so it won’t last if the boxes get wet from snow, rain, or high humidity.
  • If duct tape isn’t sticking, the package can open, and your items can get damaged and lost.
  • It would be unwise for a company to risk being saddled with claims or legal action by allowing you to use duct tape.

No: Can Choose to Use Duct Tape

If you are not using a moving service, you have the option to use duct tape. There are advantages of using this tape that might appeal to you.

Packing boxes using a duct tape

Of course, duct tape remains the same, so the risks that companies choose to avoid would be potential problems for you.

Benefits of Using Duct Tape for Moving Boxes

If you are going to move without hiring a company, you have the prerogative to use duct tape on your boxes. There are several benefits that might make you want to use duct tape as you are boxing everything up:

  • Duct tape is widely available (you likely even have a roll or two lying around).
  • Leftover duct tape from the move can be used for other general purposes, so nothing goes to waste.
  • Duct tape is generally considered cheap if you are trying to stick to a budget.
  • You can also get duct tape in bulk deals.
  • You can use the variety of available designs and colors to color-code your moving boxes (you can still use this system if you seal with a different tape).
  • It will be easier to open and break down the boxes on the other side of your move, so you don’t need to worry if you boxed up your box opener or scissors.

Drawbacks of Using Duct Tape for Moving Boxes

Once again, assuming you are moving without a moving service, you can use duct tape. However, as I said, you will also face the potential issues of choosing this type of tape, which may make your moving process more difficult.

First, let’s look at some of the general problems with duct tape:

  • Duct tape does not stick well to cardboard.
  • It will come loose if the boxes get wet/damp as it is only water-resistant.
  • Duct tape doesn’t stick well when exposed to heat, like in a hot vehicle.
  • Duct tape doesn’t stick properly when exposed to cold, like on the back of a truck in winter.

Now let’s look at how this will affect your move:

  • It will be harder to carry and move the boxes around if the tape doesn’t hold the boxes together firmly.
  • You will have to warn any helping hands that boxes must be carried carefully.
  • If you are planning to store the boxes for a few months as you pack, the tape can come loose over time.
  • Boxes can open up on the journey, making it easier for items to get lost and damaged as well as making it a challenge to offload them on the other side.

Tips for Using Duct Tape for Moving Boxes

Just because duct tape isn’t the best option doesn’t mean you cannot use it. Here are some tips that will help you use duct tape on your moving boxes:

  • Use a different, stronger tape to seal the bottom of the boxes. This can withstand the weight of the contents as you carry the box and will hold up better against moisture, heat, and cold.
  • You can also pack a few specific fragile boxes with stronger tape to ensure that the boxes are securely sealed and your items are kept safe.
Box with fragile tape on it
  • Only use duct tape to seal boxes containing items that cannot easily get lost or damaged if they come out the box, like pillows, linen, or plushies with protective coverings. Plastic items like buckets and trashcans would also fall into this category.
  • Use duct tape to seal boxes that only carry light items (i.e., pillows) that won’t strain the seal too much. This will help preserve the adhesion for the move.
  • Using non-optimal tape means you need to be careful with the boxes. Move your own boxes or inform those helping you that the boxes are not very secure. This way, the boxes can be carried with careful support and handling.
  • Opt to use new cardboard boxes that are less frayed and have no bits or traces of old tape. The old tape and “cardboard dust” can interfere with the duct tape’s adhesion, making it more likely to rip open.

Alternative Tape Options

If you are looking for tape that will survive the moving process and keep all your things secured in the boxes, you need packing/packaging or shipping tape.

These kinds of tapes are intended for moving and shipping and are designed to stick to packaging materials like cardboard and handle the conditions and strain that duct tape isn’t.

Packing tape has a strong adhesive that can cope with moisture and temperature fluctuations and create a long-lasting seal. It is also intended to rip off smoothly to help with unpacking.

Looking at a few different tapes from Duck (amazon link), Scotch (amazon link), Gorilla (amazon link), and Mr. Pen (amazon link) shows that packing tape shouldn’t cost you much more (if it even does have a higher price) than a similar size roll of The Original Duck Tape (amazon link).

The Original Duck Brand 394475 Duct Tape, 1-Pack 1.88 Inch x 60 Yard Silver

Of course, this might not always be the case as some tapes for moving can cost more.

Reasons Gorilla Tape Is Better Than Generic Duct Tape

Shipping tape might be more expensive if it has fiberglass incorporated into the tape to add strength. The rolls, like Scotch Shipping Tape with Dispenser (amazon link), are typically smaller, so you pay a similar price to packing tape but get less. However, this is great for boxes that need to travel long distances.

Scotch Reinforced Strength Shipping Strapping Tape with Dispenser, Clear, 1.88"x 360 in, 1 Dispenser/Pack (50) , 1 Count (Pack of 1)

Sources

https://www.ontaskorganizing.com/color-code-moving-boxes-with-duct-tape/

https://ecobox.co.za/blog/best-packing-tape-for-moving-boxes/

https://tapeuniversity.com/industry/packaging-industry/why-cant-i-use-duct-tape-to-ship-out-packages/

https://phoenix-tape.com/resources/2021/08/16/packing-tape-vs-duct-tape/

https://www.top10movingpros.com/can-i-use-duct-tape-instead-of-packing-tape/

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