If you’ve run out of packing tape and have duct tape available, it may seem like a good idea to use duct tape rather than buy packing tape just to ship one package. However, despite its renowned versatility, duct tape is not a great option for sealing packages.
The reasons for this have to do with the cardboard used for package boxes and the conditions faced by a box that is being shipped. Most delivery companies do not even accept duct-taped packages since the company can face repercussions.
Duct tape does not stick well to the rough, porous surface of cardboard. Duct tape adhesive cannot withstand extensive exposure to water/moisture, which is commonly encountered during shipping. Both these things can result in the package coming unsealed and the items being damaged, lost, or stolen.
Duct Tape Doesn’t Produce a Strong Enough Seal
Many people use cardboard boxes to ship items since they are cheap, lightweight, and come in a variety of sizes.
There are few downsides to shipping items with cardboard boxes, but not being able to use duct tape to seal the packages is one of them.
Duct tape does not produce a seal that is strong enough to keep the package closed.
While duct tape can produce a strong seal with smooth items made of materials such as metal and plastic, it does not do well with items with a rough texture.
Items with rough textures have tiny bumps. The duct tape seals to the highest bumps rather than the entire surface of smooth products.
Only sealing to the highest bumps of textured or older (frayed) cardboard makes for a weak seal where the tape comes off easily.
This problem is even worse when the cardboard is corrugated since corrugated cardboard is even more porous and textured. This will lead to an even weaker seal.
Moisture Can Negatively Affect Duct Tape
Packages, whether they must be transported a state over or several countries away, must be able to withstand at least a bit of inclement weather.
Cardboard may get a bit soft when wet, but it often recovers well enough when it is allowed to dry.
This is not the case for duct tape.
Duct tape is water-resistant, not waterproof.
Its polyethylene plastic coating makes it resistant to water, but once the adhesive layer interacts with enough water, it weakens and begins to fall off.
Duct tape’s water resistance makes it so that it can resist some exposure to water, but with long enough exposure, the duct tape will begin to lose its staying power and will begin to fall off.
It is likely that a cardboard package that has gotten wet, whether through snow, rain, or even high humidity, will begin to lose the seal of the duct tape.
Results of Compromised Adhesion
Duct tape can lose its adhesion through moist conditions as well as when it is attached to porous or rough materials such as cardboard.
Knowing both of these things, it makes sense that many consider sealing packages with duct tape as a bad idea.
With duct tape falling off of a package, many bad things can happen to the item or items inside.
Sealing a package is meant to protect the item inside from breaking.
Packages certainly don’t get seatbelts, so when they are transported via car or airplane, any bumps or turbulence can move them around.
Without tape to keep the package from opening, the item can fall out of the package. Even if there was bubble wrap to protect the item, falling from a great distance out of the package can break the object.
If the item or items fall out of the package when the seal is broken, it is also very likely that they will be lost in the mail.
When an item leaves the package, it is no longer connected to the shipping address and other information on the package. This makes it hard to match the item to the location it must travel to.
Additionally, a sealed package makes theft harder. When that seal is broken or even weak, someone can easily steal the item from the package.
Using packing tape instead makes breaking the seal much harder since a sharp object would be needed rather than just easily ripping off the tape.
Delivery Companies Won’t Take the Risk
There are a variety of reasons why delivery companies, including UPS and FedEx, enforce the rule that duct tape should not be used to seal a package.
One is that a lost, stolen, or damaged product may be blamed on the delivery company rather than the customer who packaged the item.
The company’s reputation could be in danger, or the customer may seek reimbursement, which can get expensive.
Strict rules may seem unnecessary, but in the end, these companies just want customers’ packages to reach their destinations in the best shape possible and as easily as possible.
Additionally, when processing packages, a package that breaks open on a conveyor belt can interfere with the processing. Halting processing and fixing the situation can take time and wasted time can lead to wasted money.
It can also be dangerous if the item gets into moving parts.