Labels are used in a huge range of industries, environments and conditions. This is why it’s so important to know just how hot and cold temperatures can affect labels, so that you have a better idea of which materials can withstand certain conditions without fading, peeling or becoming unreadable.

Temperature can cause labels to become warped, expand or shrink, or become illegible. This is then likely to mean that those labels are no longer fit for purpose – which can cause a number of problems further along the line, including the potential for legal penalties in the most serious cases.

In this guide, we’ll explain just what conflicting temperatures can do to damage labels, and look at some of the temperature-resistant labelling products that can help you prevent this. We’ll also discuss the impact of the relevant regulatory and compliance considerations.

Understanding the effects of temperature on labels

Labels play an important role across a wide variety of sectors, including many where they may be exposed to intense heat or extreme cold. As we’ve noted, labels that are inadequate for these conditions can become unreadable as a result, warping, losing their adhesion.

For example, labels in the food processing industry will need to be able to withstand sub-zero temperatures in freezers and cold storage areas. They may also need to be designed for extreme heat, in ovens or preparation areas during cooking and baking processes.

Also, in the pharmaceutical industry, equipment may be sterilised at high temperatures while products such as medicines may be put in cold storage to maintain their efficacy. Spot labels are used to keep medicines safe by indicating when temperatures have fluctuated beyond safe parameters. Labels used in this industry will need to be designed with these uses in mind.

Effects of high and low temperatures on labels

Both hot and cold temperatures can pose a number of challenges regarding labelling. When exposed to high temperatures, labels may degrade, or the printed information contained on them may fade or become distorted. Also, the adhesive may fail and the label detach from its container.

In cold temperatures, labels can become brittle with reduced flexibility, while the adhesive can harden and therefore lose bonding strength. Condensation, too, can have a number of adverse effects, including adhesive failure, the deterioration of the labelling material and causing ink to run or become smudged and unreadable.

Temperature-resistant label solutions

There are several labelling solutions which are designed to resist temperatures which are either very hot or very cold. Because these labels are designed to withstand extreme conditions, they are widely used in industries where labels are commonly subjected to heat, cold and moisture.

Thermal transfer labels, for example, are commonly used in industrial applications and are built to withstand high temperatures. They are printed using a thermal transfer printer, which uses heat to transfer ink on to the label. Available in materials including polyester, polyimide and synthetic materials, thermal transfer labels offer excellent resistance to heat.

Cryogenic labels are designed to withstand very low temperatures and are widely used in the biomedical industry, including in cryogenic storage and the transportation of samples, pharmaceuticals and other sensitive materials. They are made from materials such as polypropylene and polyester, and use special adhesives so that they don’t become detached at low temperatures.

Regulatory and compliance considerations

When choosing a temperature-resistant labelling solution, it’s important to consider any regulatory or compliance requirements that apply to the intended use as well as the temperatures and environmental conditions to which the labels will be subjected.

These regulatory and compliance requirements can vary widely depending on the industry concerned, and businesses must ensure that they are familiar with them. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure product quality, safety and traceability throughout the supply chain.

In the food industry, for example, temperature-resistant labels are important for maintaining food safety and quality. Regulatory agencies such as the Food Standards Agency have stringent regulations in this area, including with regard to ingredient and allergen labelling.

There are also regulatory requirements in place for labelling hazardous materials to ensure the safety of workers handling them as well as environmental protection. These labels will need to include information including relevant hazard symbols, safety warnings, handling constructions and emergency contact details.

However, if the labels are not capable of withstanding the conditions to which these items are exposed – whether during storage or transit – then the information contained on them is prone to becoming illegible, which could put your business in breach of its regulatory requirements, potentially leaving your business at risk of fines and other legal penalties. This is why you must ensure that the labels you use are temperature and moisture-resistant where necessary.

Temperature-resistant labels play an important part in maintaining product quality standards while also ensuring traceability and safety. In this way, they protect workers, consumers and the wider environment from the hazards and risks associated with temperature-sensitive products.

Cobalt specialises in print and apply labelling and barcoding solutions, with a range of products depending on your needs and budget. Get in touch with our team today and we’ll help you find the labelling solution that’s perfect for your business.