Everything you need to know about waterproof labels for plastic bottles

Consider how customers use your plastic bottled product. If they store it in the refrigerator, place it in the bathroom, constantly use it with wet hands, or expose it to volatile weather conditions, then you need to make sure that your product label can withstand water exposure. Otherwise, the label’s ink might run, or the label itself may get stained or completely fall off. Should any of these happen, vital information on your label could become unreadable and customers may think your product is of poor quality.

Should I get a water-resistant label or a waterproof label?

A water-resistant label is designed to repel water and oil-based liquids to maintain the label’s integrity. However, it can handle only brief contact with moisture since not all parts of the label are waterproof. Most water-resistant labels have waterproof finishes, but the label stocks (i.e., the material on which the design is printed) are not. So if water seeps below the finish and reaches the label stock, the stock may disintegrate.

In contrast, a waterproof label can withstand prolonged contact with moisture. This is why this type of label is used for bath and beauty products (e.g., shampoos, lotions, soaps), beverages, and items used or stored outdoors. 

What makes a product label waterproof?

Water resistance depends mostly on the three parts of the label: label stock, adhesive, and finish.

Label stock

There are generally two types of materials used as label stock: paper and film. Of the two choices, paper stock is the cheaper one. Some common paper label stocks include:

  • Inkjet – This paper is meant to absorb ink from inkjet label printers and dry quickly to prevent smudging.
  • Laser – This paper is made for printers that use lasers rather than ink to create the image. 
  • Direct thermal – The colors of this label change when a printhead applies heat to it. 
  • Thermal transfer – This stock is created for printers that use a thermal ribbon. The printhead heats the back of the ribbon, melting its wax substrate, which is transferred onto the label.
  • Semi- or high-gloss – Designs are printed directly on this shiny paper.

With the right finish, labels with paper stock can offer some water resistance for a while, but the stock will eventually become saturated and fall apart when exposed to water for too long. That’s why it’s best to stick to film label stocks if you need waterproof capabilities. 

The following are the most commonly used film label stocks:

  • Polypropylene – This is the most popular film for water-resistant labeling since it is rigid and tear-resistant, yet relatively inexpensive. Paired with water- and oil-resistant coating, this film won’t peel, curl, or fade when it comes in contact with oil, water, or other liquids. 
  • Vinyl – This waterproof, oil-, weather-, and chemical-resistant film is flexible yet durable enough to be used for outdoor applications. 
  • Polyester – This waterproof, tear- and scratch-resistant film is made for tough conditions, such as the outdoors. However, its durability makes polyester film stock more expensive than polypropylene and vinyl film stocks. 

Adhesive (for pressure-sensitive labels)

To make waterproof pressure-sensitive (PS) labels truly able to withstand moist conditions over a long time, you need to make sure that the adhesive itself is waterproof. In general, it’s best to use permanent, aggressive, or all-temp adhesives for waterproof PS labels.

  • Permanent – PS labels with permanent adhesives work great for general purposes that are meant for long-term application. However, these may not stick well to certain surfaces, such as textured and irregular ones. 
  • Aggressive – This PS label adhesive is ideal for applications on specialty materials, such as plastic and wood. 
  • All-temp – PS labels that have an all-temp adhesive are best for products that will be stored in cold temperatures, such as freezers. 

Avoid using removable adhesives, as these perform poorly when exposed to moisture. 


Adding a label finish — laminate or varnish — can help protect the label stock and its design. 

A laminate is a layer of film that is applied to the surface of a printed label stock. It makes labels waterproof and scratch-resistant. The following are the most commonly used laminates:

  • Satin laminate – This durable polypropylene doesn’t have any glare, giving the label a soft look and feel. It is also effective in protecting the label stock from scuffs or scratches.
  • Gloss laminate – This clear polypropylene laminate gives labels a shiny look, making the colors and design look more vibrant. It also protects the design from wearing, scuffing, and scratching. 
  • UV-resistant gloss laminate – This polyester laminate provides a high-gloss look and acts like a sunscreen, preventing the label’s design from fading. It is best applied on labels that will be directly exposed to the sun.

The other type of label finish is varnish, which is a liquid applied to the label stock and then cured or dried so that the varnish adheres to the stock’s surface. There are different types of label varnishes in the market:

  • Satin varnish – This gives labels a matte look, which makes design elements pop. 
  • Gloss varnish – This gives labels a smooth, shiny look. 
  • Aqueous coating – This clear, water-based solution quickly air dries to provide additional protection to the label. 
  • UV coating – This uses ultraviolet light to cure a liquid coating made of a special mix of chemicals. Once it’s cured, the UV coating forms a protective layer that prevents the label’s design from fading.

All laminates are waterproof, but not all laminated labels are waterproof. When paired with paper stock, the laminate can stop bulk of the water from reaching the paper. However, some water can still seep into the edges and possibly blur the label design. Varnishes work better with paper stocks since the liquid can conform to the texture of the paper and fill in any nooks and crannies.

Not sure which combination of label stock, adhesive, and finish to use for your product’s waterproof label? Let the labeling experts of Pro-Motion Industries help you. We have been providing high-quality labeling services to New Jersey-based businesses since 1994. Get in touch with us today at 856-809-0040

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