How Long Can Labels Be Stored After Printing?

Whether ordering a large volume of labels in bulk to keep costs down low or looking to make use of old label stock before a seasonal launch, there are various reasons why a business may be looking to use labels that were printed some time ago. Once it has been double-checked that the label contents are still fit for use according to NIST resources that define US labeling regulations, it can be a more resourceful solution that cuts down on waste.

Different factors can affect the longevity of labels and this means the answer to the question can vary from situation to situation, but here are some key aspects that can have an impact on how well a label may last as time goes on:

Storage conditions

As with most things, the way they are stored will impact their quality over time. Once printed, labels should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place as this can help keep their condition and avoid issues like fading in sunlight, wrinkling from moist environments, or distorting from extreme temperatures. By keeping them safe in sealed containers, there is no risk of them being crumpled, torn, or bent from being in a working environment where other items are being moved around them.

Label material

The nature of the product looking to be labeled will impact the type of material used by the label printers. For more low-cost goods with a shorter shelf life, paper labels are a common choice but their properties mean they can degrade much quicker than other materials, being

susceptible to external factors such as moisture, heat, and sunlight. More heavy-duty industrial labels can be created using materials such as vinyl or polyester which are more durable and do not react as badly to extreme conditions. If the product is likely to be exposed to water, chemicals, or dirt, choosing the most durable material will extend the lifespan of the label.

Design of label

If a label contains an intricate design or a large chunk of text, it is bound to have a shorter lifespan as the added ink is more prone to spreading and fading, reducing the quality of the finish. This can be more of a problem if the label contains barcodes and QR codes which have become warped due to poor storage. For this reason, it is recommended to keep label designs more minimal and to ensure there is sufficient space left for printing the barcode, reducing the likelihood of it being unable to be picked up by the scanner.

Printing method

Labels printed on inkjet printers are more common among businesses trying to keep costs low, but these can be more prone to fading and smudging in comparison to more advanced options such as laser printers or thermal transfer printers. These printing methods use heat to bond the ink or toner to the label which gives them more longevity as they have an added resistance to water and other external factors.

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