Diversified Labeling Solutions

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 OUTDOOR LABELS

DURABLE LABELS FOR SOME OF THE HARSHEST ENVIRONMENTS

 JULY 21, 2021 BY REBECCA OSTERMAN

 

Have you heard the joke about if you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes? There’s a reason weather jokes persist… The weather can be unpredictable, and in the case of labels, unforgiving. Outdoor labels need to withstand a mix of wind, sun and rain, as well as extreme heat, cold or both. If you don’t choose the right label for your customers, these conditions can take their toll, in some cases causing labels to fade or even fall off. When outdoor labels don’t perform, it can damage your customer’s brand, cause logistical problems, or in some cases even endanger worker safety.

 

Read on to learn more about the effects that the outdoors can have on labels, what you can do to help minimize these effects, and what types of companies depend on outdoor labels.

 

 Hazards for Outdoor Labels

Outdoor labels need to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions including:

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Sun

Direct sunlight can cause considerable wear and damage to labels. UV rays can break down the chemical bonds found in inks, which leads to fading or bleaching. This fading is especially pronounced with bright colors such as reds, yellows and oranges. Many safety labels rely on these brighter colors to be easily recognizable and convey important safety information. This makes fading particularly problematic. Additionally, sun exposure can cause some label substrates to become discolored, crack, peel or shrink. And some adhesives, such as rubber-based ones, can also deteriorate in the sun.

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Temperature

Extreme hot or cold conditions can cause several problems for label performance, both during and after application. Some of these temperature related problems can include labels falling off, curling or puckering. Often, these problems are related to changes that can happen to certain adhesives related to cold or hot conditions. For example, extreme heat can cause some adhesives to ooze. If labels are printed using direct thermal printing, exposure to heat can cause the label to become unreadable. Freezing conditions can create changes in humidity as well as moisture related to ice and frost. Additionally, as labeled objects are exposed to large changes in temperature such as freezing and unfreezing, label material and the object the label is applied to can extract and expand. This can cause the label to stretch or pucker.

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Moisture

Water, in the form of rain, rivers or glaciers is one of the most destructive forces of nature. So, it makes sense that water and moisture are also problematic for outdoor labels. Whether found in humidity, precipitation like rain and snow, sea water, or ice and frost, moisture can cause significant issues. Moisture can be especially hard on paper labels as it breaks down the chemical bonds that hold paper together—compromising the label structure leading to ripping and tearing, or even disintegration. Moisture can also lead to print problems such as smeared, smudged or dripping ink. And in some cases, moisture can cause adhesives to fail, either by getting underneath the label and causing it to peel or by breaking down the adhesive and causing it to fail.

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Abrasion

Outdoor labels can be affected by abrasion both from direct contact (such as two containers rubbing or bumping against one another) or from dust and debris blown into the label by the wind. Abrasion can cause scuffs and scratches, making the labels harder to read. Over time, abrasion can also break down the label.

 Outdoor Label Solutions

Luckily, despite the damage the outdoor environment can do to labels, there are options to make labels stand up to the elements.

Face Stock:  In most cases, outdoor labels should not be constructed with a paper face stock. Synthetic face stocks such as polyester, polypropylene or vinyl are better able to withstand moisture as well as the abrasion and temperatures faced by outdoor labels. These materials are also more flexible, which allows for the expansion and contraction caused by temperature and moisture changes.

 

Ink:  Depending on the specific conditions the label will be used in, it may be necessary to use special UV-resistant or fade-resistant inks. In some cases it may also be useful to use additional coats of ink to extend the image’s lifespan.

 

Coatings:  Laminates and varnishes can be added to provide additional protection by helping screen out harmful UV rays, create an additional barrier to resist scratching and scuffing and add additional water resistance or water proofing.

 

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 Choosing the Right Outdoor Label

To get the right label for outdoor use, it is vital to ask the right questions… and to dig a little deeper into the answers.

 

What conditions will the label face? As we discussed above, exposure to extreme temperatures, moisture, wind, or abrasives such as dust can wreak havoc on a label. But when determining the conditions the label will face, consider less obvious factors. Perhaps a label will be placed inside equipment that is stored outside, in a place where it won’t necessarily be exposed to UV rays or moisture. But the label will still need to stand up to temperature variations.

 

Where will the label be used? Consider not just where the label will spend most of its time, but what possible conditions it will face. For example, a label on a piece of winter equipment such as a snowblower would obviously be exposed to cold, wet wintery conditions. But it could also be exposed to high temperatures if it spends the summer parked in a hot garage.

 

How long will label be used? Whether the label is temporary or will need to perform for years will help determine what label works best for your customer.

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 Outdoor Label Uses

Industrial

Industrial environments rely on labels to help keep track of equipment and keep their workforce safe. Some examples include labels used to identify hazardous chemicals, restricted areas or dangerous electrical equipment.

Construction

Labels provide valuable instruction and warnings and are used to track tools and equipment. Mounted on construction equipment, labels can provide valuable safety reminders such as instructions to look for overhead electrical lines before use. Labels can also be used to help track equipment maintenance and use.

Tool and Equipment Manufacturers

A variety of labels are placed on tools during the manufacturing process. These can include UL labels, product identification and labels that provide consumer warning and safety information. Labels can also serve as important branding and marketing elements.

Vehicle Manufacturers

Vehicle manufacturers need to label the final assembled product as well as many of the components. These labels provide instructional and safety information for consumers as well as important identification and tracking information.

Utilities

In addition to labels that warn of the many hazards related to utility infrastructure, labels are used to identify pipes, wires, and meters.

Transportation

Labels help transportation companies with legally mandated warnings and notices, equipment identification and maintenance tracking.

Schools and Parks

In additional to providing important safety and maintenance information on playground and recreational equipment, labels can be used to help direct students and community members and provide parking or access passes.

Warehouse/Logistics

Outdoor shipping and storage areas depend on labels much like an indoor warehouse. In addition to safety and equipment identification labels, outdoor logistics areas will need barcode and directional labels that will withstand the outdoor conditions.

Consumer Goods

When it comes to outdoor labels, consumer goods might not jump out as an obvious candidate. But there are products that do need to perform in outdoor conditions. For example, labels on sporting equipment and sunscreen bottles may spend a significant amount of their lifetime exposed to UV rays or changes in temperature. 

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 Label Application Conditions

In addition to the label use conditions, it also is important to consider the installation and storage conditions.

When determining which label is best for your customers, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Will the labels be applied in cold or hot conditions? Certain adhesives are not as effective at cold temperatures, and as a result will not stick. Other adhesives may ooze in hot conditions, causing problems with both storage and application.
     
  • What material will the label be applied to? Some materials become very slick in cold conditions, which will make adhesion more difficult. Will the material be free of dust and other contaminants? If not, it’s important to use the right adhesive.
     
  • Will the application surface be dry or will there be moisture or frost? Most standard labels are not strong enough to adhere to frosty or wet surfaces – necessitating the need for specialized labels or adhesive.

 

Additionally, it is important to consider the temperature of the labels themselves. Even in situations where the labels are being applied in a warm area, to a warm dry product, applying a label that has been in extreme hot or cold temperatures could cause issues. If labels have been sitting in a delivery truck in hot or freezing temperatures or are stored near a shipping dock or in a room that isn’t temperature controlled, it is important to allow time for the label to get to the right temperature before application.

 GHS and BS5609 Compliant Labels

GHS labels are an important subset of outdoor labels, used for identifying hazardous chemicals. GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. These labels provide a standardized, easily recognized system to identify hazardous chemicals so workers throughout the world can easily identify dangerous substances. In addition to specific requirements for the type of information and format that is presented on the labels, GHS labels need to also meet certain requirements for quality and durability.

 

For example, BS5609 compliant labels must be able to remain intact and legible after a three-month submersion in salt water. Labels undergo stringent testing to ensure they are BS5609 compliant. This testing involves simulating marine conditions such as: prolonged salt water submersion, simulated salt spray, changes in temperature, and UV exposure.

DLS Helps Find the Right Label for Your Customer's Outdoor Labels

DLS makes it easy for you to choose the right outdoor label for your customers. When you choose DLS as your label supplier, you get more than just a leading label manufacturer – you get access to our experienced team of label experts. We know labels, and work with you to make sure each part of your customer’s label is right. So you can be confident that your customer’s outdoor labels will perform.

 

Contact orders@teamdls.com for more information.

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