Anytime you peel a label from its liner and apply it to a surface area, whether it’s box, barrel, bin, or product, you are dealing with label adhesive. 

Adhesive is the key component of a label. If it doesn’t work, the label is completely ineffective. You want to choose a label that will perform well for its operation, like the surface it’s being applied to and the environment it will be used in. Labels that fail lead to reprinting and reapplication, which is a huge waste of time and money.

So, what exactly is label adhesive?

What is Label Adhesive?

Label adhesive is the sticky substance that binds two objects together. In this case, the sticky material on the bottom of the label bonds the label to the area it’s applied.

The application of a label determines how well the label performs for its operations. If a label does not properly stick to the product it is applied to, the label will fall off, which will lead to errors in identification, inventory management, and so much more. 

Smith Corona’s Label Adhesives

At Smith Corona, we recognize the importance of this component in the labeling process.  We have worked to further revolutionize the label industry by becoming the only company to create our own adhesive formula in-house that sells to end users. This is to ensure we provide the best product so our high-quality labels perform well in every environment. 

We produce 3 separate types of adhesive for our labels: general purpose, removable, and freezer grade. Each type of adhesive has its own benefits for specific applications, environments, and temperatures.  

Let’s take a look at the different types of label adhesives we have and which one is the right choice for your application.

Adhesive Terms to Know

There are a couple of label industry terms we should quickly review so you can have a better understanding of what factors to consider when dealing with label adhesives:

  • Tack – The level of stickiness on a label. Labels can have low quality or high tack quality. Higher tack = higher stickiness.
  • Wet-Out Time – the amount of time it takes for a label to fully bond with or adhere to the applied surface. Wet-out time determines a label’s effectiveness and depends on the surface area, environment, and temperature.

General Purpose Adhesive

An all temperature adhesive label is used on a folder for organization

Designed for a one-time application, labels made with general purpose adhesive are also known as permanent labels. Once these labels are applied, they should not be removed as they will tear. 

The wet-out time for labels with general purpose adhesive is roughly 10-15 minutes. These labels are best applied in dry, room temperature environments on surfaces at a minimum of 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The storage range for general purpose adhesive labels ranges from 5-120 degrees Fahrenheit. 

General-purpose adhesive is by far the most popular at Smith Corona. For this type we use a hotmelt formula. This allows us to have a more aggressive adhesive, which is better at creating a more permanent bond.

This hotmelt formula works for nearly all applications. Some examples include:

  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Poly bags
  • Plastic totes
  • Plywood
  • Shrink wrap

In need of general-purpose adhesive labels? Shop or call us at 1-800-875-7000 to place your order.

Removable Adhesive 

A label with removable adhesive is applied to a container

Like its name alludes to, removable adhesive is designed with the option of being removed after it’s applied. This adhesive creates a temporary bond with the application surface but can still be separated from it with minimal adhesive residue left behind.

Labels with removable adhesive shouldn’t tear or harm the surface area they are being applied to. While they can be applied to both rough and smooth surfaces, these labels remove easier on surfaces with a rough or textured exterior. However, they create a more substantial bond when applied to a smoother surface area.

There isn’t a designated wet-out time with removable adhesive labels but it should be noted that the longer a label with removable adhesive remains on a surface, the harder it will be to remove.

Removable adhesive labels are commonly used for:

  • Office labels
  • Inventory labels
  • Retail coupons
  • Laboratory & sample labels
  • Temporary equipment labels
  • Totes & Bins

Removable vs Ultra Removable Adhesive

If a removable adhesive is what you are looking for, there are two options you can choose from: regular removable adhesive and ultra removable adhesive.

While regular removable adhesive is good for temporary applications, it can leave behind a slight sticky residue on the surface area. It can also pull off some of the material it was applied to, such as fibers from a box.

Ultra removable adhesive is meant for more sensitive applications, where no residue is left after removal and the surface is left clean.

If you have questions or are in need of an ultra removable adhesive, you can contact our customer support at 1-800-875-7000 or fill out our custom labels form.

Freezer Grade Adhesive

A freezer grade adhesive label is applied to a frozen food item

If you are operating in a cold environment, it can be difficult to get thermal labels to stick. This is where freezer grade adhesive can help.

Freezer grade adhesive is manufactured to produce durable labels capable of withstanding freezing and sub zero temperatures as well as applications that acquire moisture or frost in both freezing and warm environments. 

For this reason, it has a very high initial tack in order to create a powerful bond with whatever surface area they are applied to, and is the best choice to use on surfaces where traditional adhesives do not perform well.

You will want to consider purchasing freezer grade adhesive labels if your current labels are:

  • Curling
  • Peeling
  • Falling off
  • Have a low tack

Smith Corona manufactures many of our freezer grade labels with a top coat to help reduce issues like condensation and wrinkling during and after application.

Cold vs Freezing 

When considering freezer grade adhesive, it is important to note that there is a difference between cold and freezing environments.

Cold temperature environments for labels typically stay above 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Freezing environments range from temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit to sub zero temperatures that fall into the negatives. It is once temperatures reach these lower degree numbers that a stronger adhesive is required in order for labels to stick.

Freezer grade adhesive labels can be applied to objects outside of a freezer before they are stored or objects that have already been stored inside of a freezer. Places that use these labels include industrial kitchens and food industries, warehouses with blast freezers, cold storage and distribution centers, and pharmaceutical research and development centers.

Smith Corona has manufactured our own rubber based adhesive that is specially formulated to withstand temperatures as low as negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit and as high as 120 degrees fahrenheit. We stock freezer grade thermal labels in both paper and polypropylene options.

In need of freezer grade direct thermal or freezer grade thermal transfer labels? Shop or call us at 1-800-875-7000 to place your order.

Best Label Applications 

General Purpose Removable Freezer Grade
Corrugated Cardboard Χ
Poly Bags Χ
Plastic Totes Χ
Plywood Χ
Plastic Totes Χ
Plywood Χ
Shrink Wrap Χ
Office Labels Χ
Inventory Labels Χ
Retails Coupons Χ
Lab & Sample Labels Χ
Temporary Equipment Labels Χ
Totes & Bins Χ
Cold Boxes Χ
Uneven Surfaces Χ
Plastic Wrap Χ
Metal Drums Χ
Frozen Surfaces Χ


We hope this article gives you a little bit of insight into what label adhesive is, how it works, and why it is important.

By making our own label adhesive, our goal at Smith Corona is to provide customers with the best possible product at the lowest prices available.