All You Need To Know About Applying Labels In The Cold

All You Need to Know About Applying Labels in the Cold

Ever wonder why it can be so difficult to get your thermal labels to stick in a cold environment?

You may notice problems with ink smearing from the moisture or the labels just not sticking in general. This could be caused by a myriad of problems from poor application practice to simply using the wrong label.

Either way, label failure leads to reprinting, reapplication, and an overall waste of time and money.

In many instances, problems can arise with faulty label adhesion in incorrect application temperatures, especially in late fall or winter months when temperatures can be significantly lower.

Cold warehouse settings where humidity and temperature are not regulated can expose your packages to varying and uncontrolled environments.

Between open loading doors and products left sitting on the docks, application temperatures in shipping areas can drop to be as low as 20°F. In colder environments, labels and their adhesives may become firm and brittle, lowering the tack.

Even the slightest amount of exposure to these conditions can be enough to cause the label to buckle and lift. The loss of adherence may not show initially, but may cause the labels to fall off the next day.

And no one wants that to happen, right? Right.

If there was a label that could keep its tack in every environment, all of our problems would be solved.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Different environments and applications call for different thermal labels.

Frigid temperatures require thermal labels specifically manufactured for extremely low temperatures.

And within the freezer label category, there are even more subcategories:

Some are designed for cold, dry applications.

Others are made for applications where frost and moisture may be an issue.

So today, I am going to give you the solution to any application problem you may be facing.

But before we jump the gun and get ahead of ourselves…

Have you even purchased your freezer labels yet?…

And if not, do you know what to consider when choosing the best freezer label for your company’s specific needs?…

By now you might be thinking:

“Maybe I do need help finding labels…”

Well you’re in luck.

Getting started can be tough, so we put together this separate buying guide to take you step-by-step through the purchasing process.

First Things First

What’s the difference between cold and freezing?



In cold temperatures, you should use All-Temp Labels.

When manufactured with hot melt rubber adhesive, these labels can be applied between 35°F and 120°F and can withstand a temperature range of 0°F to 120°F. When the labels are made with an emulsion acrylic adhesive, they can be applied in temperatures as low as 0°F and can continue to work in settings -65°F to 200°F.  Due to the lower initial tack, they can have difficulty with frosty surfaces.



Freezing environments require Freezer Grade Adhesive Labels.

This includes all temperatures below 32°F and subzero temperatures in particular. Products like ice cream and certain medical materials need to be stored in a freezer or cryogenic settings. The freezer grade formula of the hot rubber adhesive can be applied at -15°F and maintains its stick in the temperature range of -65°F to 120°F.

If you’ve noticed problems with:

  • Lower Tack (the stickiness of your label is not as strong as it should be)

  • Peeling or Curling

  • Labels are Falling Off

You’ve come to the right place!

label curling

Here Are Some Helpful Tips To Avoid These Problems!

1. Keep Products Clean and Free of Oil, Dust, and Other Residue

A warehouse can be a dirty place.

If your labels are being stored in an unclean, dusty environment without proper enclosure, they may collect dust, oil, or other residue from surrounding areas. This adversely affects the label’s adhesion if the contaminants interfere with the application surface.

2. Products Must Be Completely Dry

While some label adhesives are designed to work on moist surfaces, all-temperature and all-purpose adhesives require drier applications. Water may cause the labels to peel from their surfaces, as it is a barrier for good adhesion to the surface.

Since many labels are made from a paper material, they cannot stand up to getting wet. Freezer labels, on the other hand, are formulated to maintain their stick on wet surfaces. Read on to learn more about these labels.

3. Store Your Labels in Room Temperature

In the winter months, warehouses can get a bit chilly. In colder temperatures, certain labels lose their tack.

Therefore, it is important to keep your labels in a room temperature area up until application.

4. Avoid Letting Batches Sit in a Cold Environment

If you have the need to label a large quantity of products in cold temperatures, you should consider labeling in batches.

If you take too many labels out at once, they may start to get cold from sitting out for so long. This can lower the effectiveness of the adhesive.

5. Watch Out for Season Changes

During certain seasons, moisture tends to build up, which can negatively affect your labels. This occurs especially on the docks.

This being said, it is crucial to keep labels away from loading docks as much as possible.

6. Don’t Apply Directly to Frost (unless your label is designed for that)

Most standard labels are not strong enough to adhere to the grooves in the frost.

This causes the labels to fall off of the product, especially when the storage areas have fans (i.e. blast freezers).

When the boxes with frost are removed from their frozen environments, the products thaw, wettening the label and destroying the adhesive strength.

Certain labels, however, are designed to stick better in frosty conditions (as you will read in the upcoming paragraphs).

7. Be Sure to Known Your Label’s “Wet-Out Time”

This is essentially the time it takes for the label to form a continuous film between the facestock and substrate, which creates the permanent bond.

If you place your product into the freezer before the label has wetted out, the label may not maintain its stick.

Sudden temperature changes that occur before a label has fully wet out will lower its effectiveness.

Additionally, the fans and blowers inside the freezer may cause the label to become detached. See below for adhesive-specific wet-out times:

  • Hot Melt Adhesive – Almost Instantaneously

  • Emulsion Acrylic – Up to 30 Minutes

  • Solvent Acrylic – Up to 30 Minutes

8. Pick the Freezer Label that Matches Your MAT and STR Needs

Being unaware of the difference may lead to unintentional misuse of the labels.

It is important to understand the two terms in order to get the maximum use out of the product.

  • Minimum Application Temperature (MAT) – Lowest temp at which the adhesive will function at the time of labeling.

  • Service Temperature Range (STR) – Temperature range over which the adhesive will function while the label is in-use, after the label has been applied and allowed to build to ultimate adhesion.

Cool Solution

Freezer Grade Adhesive Labels

To get you EVEN MORE excited about freezer labels, we’ve created a dramatic video of Smith Corona’s adhesive manufacturing process. In Summer 2017, Smith Corona rolled out their new labels manufactured with freezer-grade adhesive. This adhesive can withstand temperatures as low -40°F and as high as 120°F. These durable labels stay adhered in deep freeze, frozen, and chilled environments. Not only that, but they can also handle moisture and frost. All of Smith Corona’s adhesives are manufactured in-house at their 300,000 sq ft facility in Cleveland, Ohio.

Freezer-grade adhesive labels are specifically formulated to withstand frigid environments. 

They are especially helpful to companies in the frozen food industry that have a need for:

  • Dating

  • Sales Tracking

  • Identification Purposes

The tack must be strong enough to avoid label failure.

Durable labels with freezer adhesive provide strong protection against harsh elements and maintain their stick in deep freeze, frozen, and chilled environments.

Not only are they stable in ordinary temperatures, but they are able to handle severely cold temperatures rarely encountered in the natural environment — such as those found in blast-freeze processors, industrial freezers, and cryogenics laboratories.

Labels with freezer-grade adhesive are great for cold storage or when your application requires a much stronger adhesive than normal.

When they have a heavier coatweight or thickness of adhesive, they are able to deal with the peaks and valleys of frost accumulated in freezers and refrigerators. More glue means better contact with the surface (and a stronger adhesion).

Selecting the best Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) for thermal transfer construction requires an understanding of the application conditions from season to season.  All label adhesives have an application temperature specified by the manufacturer for optimum performance and adhesion.

To find out what type of adhesive best suits your labeling needs, please feel free to contact any of our sales representatives at  As always, Smith Corona is your source for discounted blank thermal labels