Why Does Packing Tape Smell Like Vinegar?

Have you experienced this? You take out the packing tape that you have stored in your drawer but you were bothered by its strong vinegar scent? What could be the reason behind this? That's what we asked the experts and here's what they said.

Packing tape smells like vinegar because one of the materials used to manufacture this product is cellulose acetate. This synthetic compound uses acetic acid which is also used in making vinegar. But packing tape shouldn't smell like vinegar. When it does, it is a sign of quality degradation.

Keep on reading to know more about the reason why some packing tapes have an acidic smell. We'll also tell you what vinegar syndrome is. This article will also compare paper and plastic packing tapes. Let's get down to business!

Shot of an unidentifiable young woman packing boxes while moving house - Why Does Packing Tape Smell Like Vinegar

Is there vinegar in tape?

Hands with roll of transparent packaging, adhesive tape on a cardbox

So you need to pack some items for storage and you get your packaging tape from your drawer. But you notice that it smells weird. Mind you, the smell can be irritating especially if you have to use a lot of tape. You'll be exposed to the smell for quite some time.

What's with the funky smell anyway? Does packing tape have vinegar in it? Does it mean that the tape is already expired? Will it still stick to the surface that you are trying to close or seal? Most of all, is it even safe to use?

We understand your concerns. Let's address the cause of the vinegar smell first. It has something to do with the materials used to produce this essential packing product.

The materials used to make packing tape are cellulose acetate, silicone, acrylic mixture, and deionized water. All of these work together to produce that thin plastic film layer with a sticky gooey substance on its backing.

The adhesives on its backing allow it to stick on surfaces that you want to wrap, seal, or close to make your packing tasks so much easier and more effective.

But let's focus on one particular material. Cellulose acetate is the plastic film layer of your tape. It is made from a synthetic compound of polymers that have been treated with acetic acid. This acid is used in making vinegar.

So there's the connection between packing tape and the vinegar smell. There's no vinegar in it but the same chemical compound was used in making tape and vinegar. This causes the acidic odor that you smell from packing tape especially if it has been stored for a long time.

What causes vinegar syndrome?

It may surprise you to know that experts have a term for this when your packing tape smells like vinegar. They call it the "vinegar syndrome." This phenomenon happens not only in packing tape but in other layers of film that are made of cellulose acetate since they all contain acetic acid.

However, these films do not have a vinegar smell from the start. That's why the scent of your packing tape surprised you, right?

The acidic odor is a sign that the quality of the film is deteriorating. It usually happens when you store these films in a warm and humid environment. The heat and moisture cause the breakdown of the film's components. That's why the acetic acid releases the funky smell.

When the degradation progresses, experts advise that you don't touch or use the packing tape anymore. The smell of vinegar can be hazardous to your health.

It can cause skin and mucous irritation and even burns. Aside from the odor, you would also notice a change of color in the appearance of the packing tape. This is an indication not to use the tape anymore for your own safety.

Is paper packing tape better than plastic?

Roll of Brown Packing Tape Isolated on White.

Now that you know about the degradation of the plastic film in packing tapes, you might be considering using paper packing tape instead.

As always, it is important to make an informed choice as the tape that you choose would affect the quality of your packaging. Let's compare the two.

Plastic packing tape is the more commonly used type of tape among the two. It is said to be pressure-sensitive. On the other hand, paper tape is water-activated.

Paper and plastic tapes are also widely different not just when it comes to their physical properties and appearance but also when it comes to application method and performance. That's why you must know their differences so you can choose which type of tape is suitable for your packing needs.

Paper Water-activated Tape

Paper water-activated tape or gummed paper tape is made of Kraft or white paper. Its adhesive is made from starch. Once activated with water, it forms a permanent bond with the surface.

This type of tape can be used with a tape dispenser to make packing more convenient. It is available in different thicknesses and widths so you can choose what's suitable for your packing tasks.

Some paper water-activated tapes have fiberglass filaments to make them even stronger and more durable. It is quite a challenge to remove the paper tape of this kind so you can be sure that your package is sealed safely inside.

Check out this reinforced gummed tape on Amazon.

Plastic Tape

This tape type is made of a plastic film coated with a dry adhesive. This product is made from petroleum-based materials. They come in different lengths, widths, and strengths.

You can install your plastic tape in a dispenser or a handheld tape gun so that you can pack your boxes easily.

Click this link to find these plastic packing tapes on Amazon.

Moving Tape Vs. Shipping Tape

Shot of an unidentifiable young woman packing boxes while moving house

There are two types of plastic tape: moving and shipping tape. Between the two, shipping tape is stickier and thicker as the package goes through different distribution channels before it reaches the intended recipient.

Meanwhile, moving tape isn't as strong as shipping tape because the package just needs to be moved from one point to another. There's also little risk of theft from point to point.

The Verdict - Plastic or Paper Tape for Packing

Don't be deceived into thinking that plastic is stronger than paper. You also don't always have to go with plastic tape just because it is more common and more readily available in the market.

Paper tapes, especially those reinforced with fiberglass filaments, are more durable and form a lasting bond. They'll ensure that your package is kept safe while it is in transit. Meanwhile, you would need several layers of plastic tapes to achieve this level of durability and performance.

Paper water-activated tape can be more expensive upfront but with its efficiency and effectivity, you can use it for more packing tasks than plastic tape.

In this sense, paper is better than plastic. These advantages make it worth your money especially if you value the condition of the items that you're packing. It is always better safe than sorry.

Final Thoughts

A roll of brown parcel tape isolated on white with clipping path.

The acetic acid in packing tape is the reason why it smells like vinegar. However, your packing tape doesn't have to smell this way when you store it in a cool and dry place. The acidic smell is a sign telling you that its quality has deteriorated and it would be wise not to use it anymore.

For more great tips on packing, you may visit the following links:

5 Types Of Packing Tape

How To Pack Empty Plant Pots For Moving