How to Apply a Label

by Maverick Label | June 27, 2019

We’re going to show you some of the best methods to use when you want to apply a label to a product, a window, or an asset. Applying labels doesn't have to be a hassle. But there are a few considerations you need to make before you apply (or even order) your labels.

Consider Your Surface

Think about the surface energy of the item you plan to label before you even order your labels. Some surfaces are very slick and are harder for labels to adhere to. These are “low surface energy” (LSE) surfaces - think Teflon, certain plastics, or oily metals. They require stronger adhesives than surfaces with high energy, like glass or tin. If you have one of these LSE surfaces, you may want to try out some sample labels with various adhesive strengths before ordering. 

The surface texture may also affect how well a label will stick. Very textured or tightly curved surfaces may require adhesive with additional sticking power as well.

Sample labels may be ordered from any of our product pages by clicking on the blue “Free Samples” button and entering your mailing information. Please specify any concerns you might have about the surface you plan to apply the labels to, so we can make sure you get the right range of materials and adhesives. You can also contact one of our customer care reps via chat from any product page.

Consider the Temperature

Temperature is also important. Applying labels at room temperature is best. If you apply your labels during the production process, determine the best time by considering whether the item’s temperature is going to change. When the production run includes a chilling phase at the end, you may want to apply a label before that point. If your production process includes heat (pouring molten wax or canning food, for instance), apply a label after that point.

Note: If your finished product will be kept in conditions below 50°F or above 100°F, you may want to talk to one of our customer care reps, to make sure you get the best material and adhesive for your needs. 

Application Considerations

Whatever method you use, the surface should be clean. If you’ve used rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or another chemical cleaner, be sure it’s been rinsed before application. Generally speaking, the surface should also be very dry, particularly in the case of paper labels. And of course, when you apply a label by hand, your hands should also be clean and dry, to reduce the transfer of skin oils.

Label Material

Some materials require a bit of special treatment. Clear labels, for instance, are frequently applied by machine so that bubbles don’t form - it’s usually a smoother application. But you can easily apply clear labels by hand if you take care. We recommend the use of a scraper (credit card will do) to iron out any bubbles that may form. Clear labels can also pick up fingerprints very easily, so it’s best to handle them only at the edges, or wear lint-free gloves when applying. 

Option #1 - Partial Removal of Liner

Surface shape plays a part in determining the best way to apply a label, too. Our first video shows an easy way to apply a relatively long label to a round container. This method is the best way to handle clear labels, to keep them clean, but it can be used with any type of label, and we think it’s the easiest for round containers, or long/large labels. 

Carefully lift one corner of the label and gently peel back the liner so that a small amount of the label is free of the backer. Line that “tag” up with your surface - here she’s using the bottle’s seam as a straight edge. Once it’s straight, press down the first edge and slowly move down the label, peeling the liner off. Use your scraper to make sure no bubbles form.

Pro Tip: Even if your label is not on clear material, we recommend that you handle it by the edges as much as possible. Touching the adhesive can get oil from your fingers on it, making it less grippy, and can also make your fingers a bit sticky. Adhesive from your fingers can then transfer to the surface of the item, or to the face of the label, making it tacky or sticky. 

Option #2 - Apply a Full Label

If you are careful, you can remove the liner completely from smaller labels, or labels that will go on flat surfaces, prior to placing the label. That way, you can see the entire label without the liner material, making it easier to position. 

In our second video, we show a staff member placing a oval foil label on a rectangular plastic container. As you can see, she removes the small label completely from the backing. Holding it carefully, with only nails on the back of the label, she places it on the container, making sure it is positioned right where she wants it before she presses down one edge. Then she picks up the scraper, and starting in the center, pushes up to the top and down to the bottom, making sure there are no bubbles and all the edges are down firmly.

You should let newly-labeled containers “cure” for 24-48 hours (longer for some specialty labels or adhesives) before using them.

Is Placement Critical?

For instances where the placement of the label is critical, or where you have a very large label that may be difficult to place all at once, there is a bit of a cheat that you can use - as long as your labels are not printed on paper material. You can apply polyester or vinyl labels to a damp surface. The dampness keeps them from adhering immediately, so you can reposition the labels slightly. And when we say damp, that’s what we mean - no big puddles of water! 

Run a damp sponge over the surface prior to placing the label, or mist the surface lightly. The moisture decreases the surface energy and allows you to “slide” the label around a tiny bit if needed. You can also more easily remove bubbles this way, by holding the label in place and smoothing the moisture out using a scraper. A little extra curing time is required with this method, to allow the water to evaporate and the adhesive to set.

Other Options

If this seems cumbersome, we can also make labels that are repositionable or removable. Many of our bumper stickers, for instance, are initially repositionable, which means you can take them off and place them again in the first 20 minutes or so of application. We have a removable line of window decals (excellent for use in cold temperature, when static cling material won’t work), and our laser / inkjet labels also have a removable option.

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