Waterproof labels are a popular choice for food and beverage labeling, product packaging, and shipping. Cosmetics, food, drinks, bath and body, and outdoor gear packaging require legible, durable, and safe labels.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know about waterproof barcode labels, as well as how to print your own.
When to Use Waterproof Labels
If the item being labelled is regularly washed, stored in a freezer, submerged in water, or exposed to the elements, use a waterproof label.
This requires not only choosing the right kind of waterproof label, but also the correct ink and printing process to ensure your printed image stays intact in a wet environment.
Waterproof labels are common in indoor and outdoor environments, as well as for industrial applications (barcode or RFID labels on chemical barrels, for example).
For truly waterproof quality and adhesion, the type of label used and the printing method are crucial.
What Kind of Labels are Waterproof?
Synthetic polyester labels are waterproof. Because these labels are made of plastics, they are extremely durable and won’t dissolve or lose adhesion when they come in contact with water or moisture.
Polyester labels can survive being left in the rain, run through a dishwasher, or being submerged in hot or cold water.
Polyester labels are also weatherproof. Weatherproof labels will not only stand up to outdoor water exposure, they will also remain adhered to surfaces in a wide range of temperatures (including cold freezers or hours of direct sunlight).
Additionally, weatherproof labels can withstand UV exposure. This is important because outdoor storage and ultraviolet rays can cause label materials to deteriorate.
In addition to being both waterproof and weatherproof, synthetic polyester labels are also tear-proof. A water bottle label, ketchup or mustard bottle label, or a cleaning label should remain intact even after a squeeze. Polyester is the way to go.
Waterproof vs. Water Resistant Labels
Water resistant labels are similar to waterproof labels, except they are not meant to keep out moisture. Instead, water resistant labels allow some moisture to pass through, while keeping other moisture out.
Polypropylene labels are great for things that don’t need to stay completely dry. If your label will only be used indoors, and is consistently exposed to moisture, a water resistant label is a good choice.
Like polyester, polypropylene is synthetic. However, its lower cost and lighter material make it a good choice for less demanding applications.
Are Waterproof Labels Safe for Food?
One might assume that waterproof or water resistant labels are a good starting point for labeling food. With indirect food package labels, such as a water bottle label or beer, waterproof and water resistant labels will work great.
However, the standards for direct food labels are much more strict, and emphasize safety.
If labeling meat, vegetables, or fruit directly, food grade labels should be used. Food grade labels should not compromise the quality of the product or affect the safe consumption of the product. (definition/link to government definition)
If you wash an apple with a food grade label still on it, it should still be safe to eat.
You would never want ink running off the label or any unsafe chemicals left behind if the label is peeled off. This goes for the adhesive as well.
Anything that comes into regular contact with food (such as cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, and even clothing) should also be labeled accordingly. If you’re unsure, check with the label manufacturer.
How to Print a Waterproof Label
To print waterproof labels yourself, you’ll need the following:
- A Specific Use Case for Waterproof Labels
- Full List of Inventory to Be Labeled
- Computer and Label Software (software example)
- Label Design or Content File (file type)
- Thermal Printer
- Resin Ribbon
- Several Sheets of Polyester Labels (As Needed)
Notes Before We Begin
We do not recommend digital or ink jet printers. The effort and cost of creating your own waterproof labels will just go to waste if you use an inadequate printer for the job. With a thermal printer, it’s important to use a resin ribbon to ensure a sharp, durable image that is also resistant to smudging, abrasions, and scratches. Resin ribbons are specifically compatible with polyester and polypropylene labels. Together they create a waterproof or water-resistant printed label.
In this example, let’s pretend we’re a family-owned hardware store with a brand new outdoor garden center. We have hundreds of products of all shapes and sizes that need to be labeled before the garden center opens.
We’re using a desktop computer running (name of software). It’s connected by Bluetooth to a (thermal Honeywell printer model) with a (name of resin ribbon) and fifty sheets of (polyester genuine Honeywell label name).
Step 1: Waterproof Label Design: Best Practices
Before you print waterproof labels on your own, you need to make sure you understand the purpose of the label, where it will be applied, who will be reading the label, and the requirements.
For simplicity, we’ll stick to one waterproof label design template which will be used across our inventory of planters, flowers, fertilizer bags, and pots.
The 4×4 inch labels are simple and clear. By including only the most important elements, they are easy for store employees and customers to read and understand immediately. Employees can quickly scan barcodes from a distance in a storeroom, outdoors, or at the point of sale.
Now we need to populate / mail merge all the element data so that it our labels have the correct information. With our full item list of garden center products, we can easily import all this into the label software. Be sure to verify that the spreadsheet data carried over correctly and without error.
Our waterproof design is now ready to print.
Step 2: Setup Printer for Waterproof Labels
Next is the (Honeywell thermal printer). With 203 dpi and the ability to print 100/sheets a minute – we’re up and running in no time. We’ve been using the printer for the store room barcode labels, but now we need to load the polyester label sheet and get the printer configured for waterproof labels.
Once the settings are set to your desired levels, we highly recommend printing a test sheet of blank labels. Each element should appear exactly as it did in your design.
Step 3: How to Apply a Waterproof Label Correctly
Now is the fun part: applying each label to every item in the garden center. If applying by hand, labels should be applied straight and with care. You don’t want to go through all this effort and have a label with a air bubble or crimp to not be readable in the end. Crooked labels look unprofessional and might result in keeping products on the shelf.
With a shortage of employees or time, use an automatic labeling machine such as (example) to expedite the process.
Labeling is now complete.
Order Waterproof Labels and Stickers Online
Sound like a ton of work? It is.
Many instead to order waterproof labels and services online from barcode label providers. See our full list of tools to print waterproof labels (no software required).
A full service waterproof label provider will have the polyester sheets you need, understand your unique requirements, print high quality, professional labels in bulk, and apply the labels at every location for you.
While it may make more economical sense to DIY waterproof labels in-house, the long term convenience of a label provider and services partner can’t be beat.
What are Your Waterproof Label Needs?
- Premium Waterproof Labels and Stickers
- Industrial Strength Waterproof Labels
- Blank, White, Clear, and Metallic Labels
- All Shapes and Sizes