Applying Labels In The Cold

All You Need to Know About Applying Labels in the Cold

If you’ve ever attempted to apply thermal labels in a cold environment, you’ve probably run into problems with ink smearing and labels not sticking properly. This could be caused by a myriad of problems, ranging from poor application to using the wrong label type.

Label failure leads to reprinting and reapplication, both of which are an overall waste of time and money. In many instances, problems can arise with faulty label adhesion in the wrong temperature, especially in fall and winter months when temperatures are significantly lower.

Cold warehouse settings with unregulated temperature changes can expose packages to varying uncontrolled environments. Shipping areas provide unreliable temperature settings for applications and, depending on the weather conditions, labels and their adhesives may become firm and brittle, which lowers the tack quality.

While the loss of adherence may not show initially, the label may fail and fall off at a later time.

Different Environments & Applications 

Frigid temperatures call for thermal labels specifically manufactured for extremely cold environments. But there are many different subcategories in the freezer label category: some are for cold and dry applications, others are for dealing with frost and moisture.

Do you know which freezer label to choose for your company’s specific needs?

Let’s take a look at the freezer grade labels and see how they can help with your labeling application problems.

What’s the Difference Between Cold and Freezing?

Cold vs Freezing

Cold 

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

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.

Here Are Some Helpful Tips: 

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

Here are some helpful tips!

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 number 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 Know 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.

Freezer Grade Adhesive Labels 

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:

  • Dates
  • Sales Tracking
  • Identification

Not only are labels with freezer adhesive 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
  • Cryogenics Labs

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 coat weight or thickness of adhesive, they are able to deal with the highs and lows of frost accumulated in freezers and refrigerators. More glue means better contact with the surface area and a stronger adhesion overall.

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