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Duct Tape vs. Packing Tape for Moving Boxes | Which Is Better?

When it comes to moving boxes, choosing the right type of tape is crucial to ensure that your belongings stay safe and secure during transport. While both duct tape and packing tape can be used to seal boxes, they have different properties and are better suited for different tasks. 

This article compares duct tape and packing tape for sealing boxes when moving. It considers the strengths and weaknesses of each type of tape, as well as other factors such as cost and availability. The goal is to help you make an informed decision on the best choice for your moving needs.


In general, packing tape is probably the better choice for sealing moving boxes. It is specifically designed for this purpose and is less likely to cause problems with the boxes or the items inside.

Packing Tape Is the Better Choice

Packing tape is specifically designed for sealing boxes, so all of its adaptations are aimed at this single purpose.

Packing tape is thinner, more flexible, and has a strong adhesive that is resistant to temperature changes and moisture, making it well-suited for the rigors of moving and storage.

Here are the reasons why duct tape is not the best option.

You Can’t Ship Boxes Sealed With Duct Tape

If you are moving further away or overseas and need to ship some boxes, using duct tape won’t be an option. UPS and FedEx do not allow the use of duct tape on boxes. This is stipulated in their packaging guidelines, which are available here for UPS and FedEx.

The reason shipping companies don’t accept duct tape is that the rough surface of cardboard can make it difficult for the tape to adhere properly, making the boxes unsecure and vulnerable to breaking open.

Packing tape, specially designed to overcome the difficulties faced by boxes during shipping, is allowed.

Duct tape placed on cardboard, duct tape used in packaging

Duct Tape Doesn’t Form a Strong Bond With Cardboard

Duct tape is a strong, heavy-duty tape that is often used for repairs and for attaching items to surfaces. It is made of a cloth backing and a rubber-based adhesive, and it is known for its high strength and durability.

However, duct tape does not always adhere well to certain types of surfaces, including cardboard. This is because the adhesive in duct tape is designed to bond with smooth, non-porous surfaces, and the rough surface of cardboard can make it difficult for the tape to get a good grip. 

In addition, the fibers in the cardboard can absorb some of the adhesive, which can also make it difficult for the tape to stick.

Your package contents could then be susceptible to damage, loss, or even theft.

Other factors that can affect the ability of duct tape to adhere to cardboard include the age of the tape (older tape may not stick as well as newer tape), and the environment, which I will discuss in more detail below.

Packing tape, on the other hand, is specifically designed for sealing boxes. It has a stronger adhesive than many other types of tape, allowing it to hold packages together more securely and prevent them from coming open during transport.

Packing tape is typically made of a clear plastic material, which allows it to stretch and conform to the shape of the package. This helps it to create a more secure seal by ensuring that there are no gaps or openings along the edges of the box.

Furthermore, it is typically thinner and more flexible than duct tape, which makes it easier to use and less likely to cause the boxes to bulge or become misshaped. 

This is especially important when you are packing fragile items that could be damaged if the boxes are not sealed properly.

Woman placing a packing tape on a box using a tape dispenser

Environment Negatively Impacts Duct Tape

The environment can have a negative impact on duct tape by causing the adhesive to break down and the tape to become brittle or fade.

Duct tape is prone to picking up dirt, dust, and other contaminants, which can interfere with its ability to bond to surfaces and reduce its effectiveness. 

The adhesive surface of duct tape can begin to soften when exposed to heat, such as in a sealed transit van traveling a long distance, which can weaken its bond and cause it to come loose. 

Similarly, when it becomes cold, such as in an airplane cargo hold or open vehicles during winter, the tape can harden and lose its adhesive strength.

Duct tape is not waterproof, and exposure to moisture can cause the adhesive to break down and lose its stickiness. Leaving a duct tape-sealed box out in the cold, wet weather can make the tape less effective and compromise your sealed package.

On the other hand, the adhesive in packing tape is usually made of a synthetic rubber or polymer material that is formulated to bond well to a variety of surfaces and remain stable under a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions.

This means most packing tapes are water-resistant and can withstand some exposure to moisture without losing their stickiness. The adhesive is also typically resistant to temperature changes, which makes it well-suited for use in a variety of environments.

While packing tape is not completely waterproof, it is generally considered to be a good choice for sealing boxes and packages that may be exposed to some moisture during transport or storage. 

Man and woman carrying boxes, packing tape with water and moist

However, if you are boxing items that are particularly sensitive to moisture or are concerned about the potential for water damage, it may be a good idea to use additional packaging materials, such as waterproof bags or moisture-absorbent materials, to provide additional protection.

In addition, packing tape comes in its own packaging and is designed to protect it from the environment. It is often sold in sealed boxes or rolls to keep out moisture and dirt and is easily dispensed without exposing it to dirt, dust, and contaminants.

Sale
Scotch Sure Start Shipping Packaging Tape, 1.88"x 22.2 yd, Designed for Packing, Shipping and Mailing, Quiet Unwind, No Splitting or Tearing, 1.5" Core, Clear, 6 Dispensered Rolls (145-6)
  • Easy start every time
  • Unwinds smoothly and quietly
  • Strong, durable hot melt adhesive keeps packages secure
  • Tough 2.6 mil thickness takes on rough handling

Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You Can Use Duct Tape in Some Situations

Duct tape is more a general-purpose tape that can be used for a variety of applications, so the qualities that it possesses have to be more varied, and it cannot be as good for highly specific tasks as the tapes solely for these purposes.

In general, duct tape is usually less expensive than packing tape and is often available in larger quantities at a lower cost per roll.

3M Basic Duct Tape, Silver Duct Tape for Temporary Repairs, 3M Duct Tape for Indoor Use, 1.88 Inches x 55 Yards, 3 Rolls
  • BULK DUCT TAPE: 3 rolls of 1.88 inches x 55 yards 3M Basic Duct Tape, a multipurpose silver-colored duct tape that's a must-have for making quick fixes on the fly
  • INTERIOR USE: Designed for versatile surfaces indoors, this silver duct tape bulk pack is ideal for a variety of quick fixes and temporary repairs
  • STRONG AND DURABLE: Strong duct tape 3M great for bundling, taping cords, patching, reinforcing and temporary repairs
  • VERSATILE DESIGN: Flexible 3M duct tape stretches, conforms to surfaces and tears vertically or horizontally

Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Due to duct tape’s versatility and widespread use, it can be found in a variety of stores, including small supermarkets, car repair shops, and even some gas stations.

Furthermore, most people have duct tape lying around in their garages, making it readily available. No need to go out and buy packing tape, it makes sense to use what you already have and avoid wasting unnecessary money.

If you plan on packing your own boxes, you are able to control the weight of your boxes. By ensuring your boxes are not too heavy, duct tape may be sufficient for short moves where the boxes are not subjected to much handling.

Perhaps you have repurposed boxes from your local supermarket or a friend that has recently done a move. Then chances are the boxes are already sealed on the bottom with packing tape. If that’s the case, then you need only seal the tops, and can, in theory, use duct tape as you are just keeping the box closed.

Alternatively, using brand new boxes to pack may work as the cardboard is still intact and less frayed, which means a better seal, even with duct tape.

Moving yourself is always a good option if you want to save money on moving company costs. An added benefit here is you can also ensure you move on sunny, mild days. Where it’s not too hot or cold, where you won’t compromise the duct tape’s stickiness.

Alternatively, if you are only moving a short distance, duct tape may do the job just fine. As there won’t be any long-distance strains on your boxes.

Duct tape is often available in a variety of colors, useful for color-coding items. Different colors can help organize boxes and make it easier to locate specific items, such as using one color for kitchen items and another for items in the lounge.

Sale
6-Pack Rainbow Colored Duct Tape 15 Yards x 2 Inch Heavy Duty, No Residue, Tear by Hand & Waterproof,Great for Packaging, Arts & Crafts, Color-Coding, and DIY Projects
  • 6-Pack Rainbow Colored - Yellow,Pink,Blue,Red,Green,Orange :Package , Make labels, gifts, and statements—your multi purpose colored duct tape pack is both your palette and canvas.
  • Waterproof, Residue-Free –All-weather colored duct tape is ideal for sealing, waterproofing, winterizing your home, hanging plastic sheeting, and other emergency repairs. our extra strength duct...
  • Easy To Tear - Heavy-duty duct tape is very strong adhesive, but you can tear off straight without stretching it out of shape or leaving a residue.
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Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Things Duct Tape Should Never Be Used For

Sources

https://www.echotape.com/blog/top-10-surfaces-that-are-problems-for-duct-tape/

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

https://www.thepackagingcompany.com/knowledge-sharing/what-are-the-different-types-of-tape/

https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/adhesive-tape.htm

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