Best Packing Tape for Moving Boxes

woman packing up items in her home before a move

When you’re preparing to move to a new home or packing boxes for storage, you probably already have a lengthy checklist of items you need to get done. Here at Neighbor, we believe that having all your moving supplies in order shouldn’t add to the stresses of packing and moving. Moving supplies, like packing tape in this case, may not seem like a big deal, but with so many types to choose from, having the right (or wrong) tape for packing can make a huge impact on the quality of how you pack, store, and seal your items. It can mean the difference between never having to think about your possessions after they’ve been packed and taped to experiencing a breakage, lost possessions, and even injuries.

This guide will provide a complete breakdown for finding and using the best tape for packing and moving boxes without hassle or worry of a broken seal.

Sections in this packing guide include:

The Best Tape to Use for Moving
Listed Types of Packing Tape
Types of Specialty Tapes
Moving Tape vs. Storage Tape
Worst Types of Tape for Packing
Finding the Best Tape Dispenser
Qualities to Look for in Packing Tape
Factors in Choosing the Best Packing Tape for You

Quick Answer: What’s the Best Tape to Use for Moving?

For quick, short moves, shipping tape will be the best tape for packing and sealing moving boxes. Traditionally identified by being clear and making loud noises when used, it’s a great option if boxes won’t be stored for long periods or in extremely hot or cold temperatures. If the boxes could be prone to extreme temperatures or will remain in storage for long periods of time, opt for a more robust storage tape. If boxes are particularly heavy, you can use filament tape which contains fiberglass strands to add extra strength or simply apply extra strands of regular shipping tape to provide additional support to the moving box.

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Types of Tape to Choose From

Your moving tape choices aren’t limited to clear, brown, black, or silver. It’s time to learn about the types of tape that work best for each moving job you’ll face. Your moving boxes might be mostly the same size and shape. But they hold different objects and typically have different weights. It’s a good idea to have a variety of different kinds of tape to take care of your moving needs. These are some of the most common types of packing tape used for moving.

Shipping tape

Shipping tape seems like an obvious candidate for sealing moving boxes. It’s the sticky, clear tape that makes a loud ripping sound when it releases from the roll. With a hot melt adhesive and a typical width of 2-3 inches, shipping/packing tape is suitable to seal most cardboard boxes. Shipping tape is a great choice for any short move. When used with a tape dispenser, it’s easy to apply and removes easily as well.

Storage tape

Much like shipping tape, storage tape is usually clear and 2-3 inches wide. However, storage tape is made with acrylic adhesive, which makes it longer lasting. An excellent choice for boxes that will be put in storage, shipping tape can last up to 10 years in all temperatures and humidity levels.

Filament tape

Sometimes called strapping tape, filament tape contains fiberglass strands to add extra strength. Heavy boxes, boxes that will likely face an excess of jostling and rough handling, or those exposed to heat and cold can benefit from the use of filament tape. Graded by weight, this heavy-duty packing tape is designed for boxes that will hold up to 100 pounds. Some tapes can even support up to 380 pounds.

Brown packing tape

While this tape has the width to easily cover box seams, it’s made of paper. Paper has the convenience of tearing easily during application, but the same convenience is a detriment during transit. Paper tape doesn’t stand up to blunt force trauma or moisture. That means it’s only useful for lightweight items during short moves.

Duct tape

The tape that holds everything together must be a good choice for packing, right? Not really. In fact, duct tape is one of the worst types of tape for moving tasks. Although it’s powerful and uses a sticky adhesive, it doesn’t stick well to cardboard. Duct tape is more expensive than most packing tapes. It also leaves behind a sticky residue and is difficult to remove from practically all surfaces.

Masking tape

Easy to apply and makes labeling a cinch, masking tape works great for many things. Unfortunately, sealing boxes isn’t one of them. However, masking is easily removed and leaves no residue. So it can be used to hold items together and to secure bubble wrap or other packing supplies. A strip of masking tape across your boxes makes for quick and easy labeling.

Gummed paper tape

With strength and adhesive properties to spare, this tape can definitely seal your moving boxes. Sometimes called mailing tape, this is the papery tape usually found on boxes you receive from online retailers or packages you receive at store pickup. Its biggest downfall is that you have to apply water to make it stick. Gummed paper tape works well in professional facilities, but it’s usually not the best type for residential moving needs. Activating the tape is a hassle, and its reinforced lines make it difficult to remove, as well. This heavy-duty sealing/packaging tape is best saved for extremely heavy boxes that have a long way to travel.

Labeled tape

It goes without saying that labels are useful for the placement of moving boxes. When you get your boxes to your new home, you want to know which room to put them in. Labeled tape combines labeling and sealing into one task with color-specific tape that’s labeled for each room. You could place labels or stickers on top of your boxes. But labeling tape can be seen on all sides of the box for easy accessibility when unloading and unpacking time arrives.

Electrical tape

Easy to apply and easy to remove, this shiny tape carries the name electrical tape for a reason. The most common type is only 3/8 inch wide, and an inability to stick to cardboard makes this tape useless for keeping boxes closed. Still, electrical tape can be used for other moving tasks like color-coding boxes or grouping cords and other items together.

Cellophane tape

You may know this tape as Scotch tape. Whether you’re accustomed to the Scotch tape you use with wrapping paper or the kind of cellophane tape typically seen in offices, this weaker adhesive tape isn’t suitable for sealing cardboard boxes. Cellophane works best for moving tasks like attaching cords to their electronics or sealing bubble wrap.

Washi tape

While you won’t be sealing boxes with this skinny, lightweight tape, you can use it for other tasks during your move. Washi tape is easily affordable and found in a variety of fun colors. It can be used to color-code your boxes and group items together. A different color for each room can mean you don’t have to wonder if you’re putting those heavy boxes in the right place.

Specialty Tapes for Specific Moving Needs

Packing your possessions the right way is vital for getting them safely to your new home. Cardboard boxes have limits on the amount of protection they can provide. Securing your possessions firmly in place can help you avoid damage and find things quickly when unpacking.

  • Use masking tape, painter’s tape, or related products to form an X over glass items. It keeps glass from shattering on impact and helps prevent it from sliding around inside the packaging.
  • Use scotch tape to secure tissue or other clean white paper around delicate moving parts of items that could be easily damaged during transit.
  • Use moving tape to secure moving blankets in place and avoid slippage.
  • Switch to strips of washi tape or masking tape for labels you want to write on.
  • Use electrical tape to attach hardware or cords to the items they belong to.
  • Use masking tape to secure the lids of toiletries.
  • Keep duct tape available to repair boxes that get damaged along the way.

Moving is a huge job with a lot of things to worry about. Tape is a great tool to help make the job easier. Don’t just pick up something sticky to seal your moving boxes. Choose the right variety of tapes that can help you with many packing needs.

RELATED: Use our ultimate moving checklist to help ease the stress out of planning a big move as well!

Packing tape

What’s the Difference Between Moving Tape and Storage Tape?

Moving tape and storage tape can both seal boxes, but they don’t last the same amount of time. When you’re packing boxes, moving and storage seem a lot like the same thing. Yet, storage typically means your belongings will spend considerably more time packed away. Moving and storage tape look virtually the same (often simply referred to a clear packing tape), but they have different qualities that make them perfect for a specific job.

The main difference is that moving tape uses a hot-melt adhesive designed to keep boxes sealed through the handling and jostling related to moving, whereas storage tape uses an acrylic adhesive that can withstand heat, cold, and humidity for up to 10 years. Some quality moving tapes can last up to two years. But storage tape is typically a safer bet for boxes going in storage.

The Worst Types of Tape for Sealing Moving Boxes

If you’re still thinking of using whatever sticky substance you can get your hands on, you should know there are some types of tape that are best avoided. Tapes that aren’t designed to stick to cardboard or aren’t wide or strong enough could leave you with a mess on your hands. Any type of tape that is easy to break or remove with your hands can be loosened from your moving boxes during transport. While these tapes might have other uses during your move, using them to seal boxes isn’t a great idea.

  • Duct tape: The rubber adhesive used in duct tape means it doesn’t stick well to boxes and leaves a sticky residue on other items.
  • Masking tape: Easy removal and simple tearing by hand make masking tape a winner for grouping things together. But it’s not strong enough to seal and reinforce moving boxes.
  • Electrical tape: This flexible tape doesn’t adhere well to cardboard, making it useless for box sealing.
  • Cellophane tape: This clear tape is useful for keeping tissue paper in place on delicate items and securing bubble wrap in place, but isn’t strong enough for sealing boxes.

close-up of someone using a tape dispenser to seal a moving box

Best Tape Dispensers for Sealing Moving Boxes

If you’re hoping for a fast and easy packing process, using the right tape dispenser (tape gun) can make a big difference. A tape gun allows you to seal boxes quickly with one hand. It can also easily cut strong tape the exact length you need. When choosing a tape dispenser, avoid flimsy, cheap models. Even ordering all-in-one tape with dispenser products might not give you the best tool for a specific job. A tape gun that bends, doesn’t hold tape properly, or falls apart can make your job more difficult than not using one at all.

Some factors to look for in a quality tape dispenser include:

A packaging tape dispenser needs a sharp cutting edge to efficiently cut the tape as you seal your moving boxes. If your tape gun is flimsy, has a short handle, or is constructed poorly, your hand might be too close to the cutting edge. While you probably won’t end up with a serious injury, cuts on your hands and fingers won’t make moving day any easier.

Easy loading:
Most tape dispensers load from the side. However, if yours requires a difficult process to correctly line up the tape or secure the roll in place, you may find yourself skimping on tape to avoid slowing down to load the gun. To load your tape gun, you should be able to quickly push a roll of tape onto the dispenser, thread the tape end between the roller and metal gate, and secure the tape in place.

The handle of your packing tape dispenser should be easy to hold. It should also be ergonomically designed and have a coating that provides a firm grip.

A tape dispenser that is strong and durable helps you quickly seal several boxes without a struggle. Your tape dispenser should be composed of both hard plastic and metal parts for a product that doesn’t flex or bend while you’re pulling out tape. It should also cut easily without significant effort.

Quality working parts
The main parts of your tape dispenser should be designed in a way that completes the job smoothly. When you choose a tape gun, pay attention to the roller, dispenser, brake, and handle. Your tape gun’s roller should be smooth and perfectly round, with a standard size to fit almost any kind of tape. The dispenser should be smooth and perfectly sized to the width of the tape. The brake should work on contact for an immediate stop and smooth cut.

Qualities to Look for in Packing Tape

It’s misleading to believe that any kind of tape that simply covers the gap of a moving box will work just fine. There are several factors to look for when choosing a quality type of packing tape to seal your boxes. Consider these important areas when searching for a type of packing tape for your move:

Adhesion (Sticking power)
Yes, most tape sticks, but not all of it sticks well to cardboard. How well your tape sticks depends on the tape’s grade (a combination of stickiness and strength) and the kind of adhesive it contains. The most common types of adhesives are hot melt adhesive and acrylic adhesive. Acrylic tapes are typically designed for longer use.

Tape strength
Tapes that tear easily are easy to use but usually not very strong. It’s important to have tape that doesn’t tear when you move the box. Additionally, the strength of your tape can actually help reinforce your moving boxes. While you don’t always need heavy-duty shipping/packing tape, stronger grades of tape are useful for some items.

Ease of use
Moving is a chaotic time. Anything that helps you save time during the packing process can be helpful. Some of the stickiest tapes can be difficult to pull from a roll, making you spend precious extra time sealing each box.

Ability to withstand temperatures
You may be packing in a temperature-controlled environment, but your boxes won’t be staying at the same temperature during the move. Consider whether your boxes will be spending time in a humid storage space or how cold the moving truck might be during a winter move.

Tape width
Tape that barely covers the seam of your boxes won’t stay in space while you lift and carry the boxes. The width of your tape can help you avoid using multiple layers and make a considerable difference in strength and how well it sticks. Most quality tapes used to seal boxes are 2-3 inches wide.

Cost for the quantity
While getting the cheapest tape available can leave you with boxes that don’t stay sealed, you don’t necessarily want to spring for the most expensive option you can find. Costly tape means you won’t be able to afford as much. You might be tempted to skimp on double layers or the best length for your boxes.

Tape brand
The brand of tape you choose isn’t nearly as important as how well it works. Still, trusted brands are typically successful because they get the job done. For instance, Duck brand tape is well-known and comes in a variety of types and styles. Other popular tape brands include Scotch, Uline, and 3M. If you pick up your tape from a storage facility or moving company, you may be interested in a brand specifically designed for your needs like U-Haul or Tape King.

Considerations When Choosing the Best Type of Packing Tape

The type of tape you’ll use for packing depends on your unique needs and plans for where you’ll be moving your items. Ultimately, you want to keep possessions safe, whether you’re planning a short move across the neighborhood or using a storage unit for any duration of time.

Consider the following factors and how they apply to your own moving scenario to make it easier to narrow down your selection and choose the best type of packing tape to use.

How long will your boxes remain sealed?

If you’re facing a one-day move, most types of hot-melt adhesive packing tape will be sufficient to keep your possessions where they belong. If your boxes will be spending a considerable amount of time in storage, you’ll need tape designed to last and combat the effects of temperature change and humidity.

What types of temperatures will your boxes experience?

Are you moving during winter? Will your boxes will be exposed to moisture or excessive humidity? Are you going to store your items in a climate-controlled storage space or not? You may want to consider acrylic tapes that can withstand temperature changes.

What moving conditions are expected?

You’re not likely to be handling every single box yourself. Consider whether you’re hiring a professional moving company or if you’re doing a DIY move with a convoy of pick-up trucks. Will your possessions be exposed to a considerable amount of rough handling or jostling in transit? If so, you might consider a stronger tape that helps reinforce the strength of your moving boxes.

What items are you packing?

Box types tend to vary with the items you’re moving. You can seal boxes that weigh under 30 pounds with lighter weight tape. While you can expect most brands of moving tape to be sufficient for the bulk of your moving boxes, you may want to consider heavy-duty types like filament tape or gummed paper tape for the boxes containing your heaviest possessions.

RELATED: Check out these helpful packing tips to help make the process of moving easy and on track.

The right moving tape can keep your possessions where they belong and even reinforce your boxes for a safe move. Now that you know how much you can do with tape, it’s hard to remember why you thought it wasn’t the most important item on your list!

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