A Guide To Shrink Sleeve Labels

A Guide To Shrink Sleeve Labels

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Shrink sleeve labels are a relatively newer type of label that has a variety of benefits when compared to traditional adhesive labels. Products with shrink sleeve labels have the advantage of 360 degree branding, a tamper evident seal, water-resistance, and many more benefits.

This all sounds great but how exactly do shrink sleeve labels work and will they work for your products? That’s what we’re here for. So, here is our guide to shrink sleeve labels.

What are Shrink Sleeve Labels?

You may not have much prior knowledge of shrink sleeve labels but you’ve probably seen and used products with them. Shrink sleeve labels are popular in multiple industries from food to cleaning supplies, they make great labels.

Shrink sleeves are those labels you will usually find wrapping around nearly the entirety of containers with no adhesive needed, or at least not very much. These labels are made from a thin plastic film and are referred to as “shrink sleeves” because that’s exactly what they do, they shrink.

They are sleeves because they are usually produced in closed loops that can be sleeved around containers. This gives them their 360 degree wrapping around containers.

How Do Shrink Sleeves Work?

As said above, shrink sleeves are plastic films that shrink. These labels are usually printed out with whatever design the manufacturer chooses, are “sleeved” around the product’s container, and then shrunk to adhere to the container.

The plastic sleeve then takes the shape of the container and it usually stays on pretty well until the label is torn or cut. An example of this is with those transparent tamper-evident bands you’ll see on the caps of medicine bottles.

They’re on there pretty tightly until you break the sleeve then they come off pretty easily because they don’t use a adhesive to stick them on. These labels work the same way.

Shrink sleeve labels are shrunk after being heated to a certain temperature and they then maintain that form. To explain further, the plastic film that shrink sleeve labels are printed on, is basically stretched plastic. When heat is applied to that plastic, the stretching process is undone and the plastic conforms to the shape of whatever it is around.

The Benefits of Shrink Sleeve Labels

Standing Out and Fitting In

Shrink sleeve labels are great because they either provide something different from other brands in an industry, or help you fit in. For example, if your company produces a food product such as sauce or ranch, switching to a 360 degree shrink sleeve label can help you stand out from other brands.

On the other side, you may want to fit in with other brands to be seem just as professional. Most popular energy shot brands like 5 Hour Energy use shrink sleeve labels exclusively. A brand that doesn’t use a shrink sleeve label could be seen as an inferior product.

Additional Real Estate Branding

Shrink sleeves can provide much more real estate for branding compared to adhesive labels and will contour to most container shapes if tapered correctly.

Most sticker labels will not cover as much space as a shrink sleeve because the container’s shape limits how the label can be printed. This isn’t a problem for shrink sleeves and you’re allowed full color printing almost all around the entire label.

This space can be used for designs or additional information you couldn’t fit on limited adhesive labels.

Label Durability

Shrink sleeve labels are also often more durable than adhesive sticker labels. Many sticker labels are partly made of paper while shrink sleeve labels are made out of a type of plastic. This makes shrink sleeve labels more resistant to abrasion, and moisture.

This can be huge for products that are constantly in moist environments such as bathrooms and kitchens. The ink of the shrink sleeve is also printed from within the the label making it more resistant to fading or smudging.


Speaking of durability, since shrink sleeve labels are a plastic, they can also be recycled along with their container. This is not the case with adhesive labels. Adhesive actually makes containers much harder to recycle.

The best way to make your products easily recyclable is by using a container and a label that is made from the same type of plastic as different types of plastic must be sorted and recycled separately.

Tamper Evident Seals

Another advantage of using a shrink sleeve label is how they can double as a tamper-evident shrink band. Shrink bands and labels work in the exact same way so it makes sense to have shrink sleeve labels double as both.

Shrink sleeve labels can effectively seal your container shut and adding a perforated tear will allow tamper-evidence that your product has been opened previously.

Applying Shrink Sleeves

There are many methods to apply shrink sleeves to products as they only need a little bit of heat to actually shrink. Some ways however are much more efficient than others and the quality of shrink will also be apparent.

The best method for heating shrink sleeves can vary depending on the product but there are some good overall guidelines you should follow for fast and quality adhering.

First of all, don’t use a blow dryer or heat gun. Many people will go straight to a heat gun because it seems like the affordable choice. However, once you realize just how long it takes to use one on a single container, you’ll quickly regret it.

When it comes to shrinking, you want an even distribution of heat all around preferably at the same time. This leads to less distortion in your label and fewer wrinkles and bubbles. To achieve this, we recommend using a shrink sleeve machine.

These are going to be your best friend when it comes to adhering shrink sleeve labels but there are also different types. The most common forms of shrink sleeve machines are separated by the type of heat they use. These are convection, infrared, and steam.

Convection heat will use hot air to heat the shrink sleeve. This is what’s used in most heat guns but there are also tunnels and machines for this as well. This isn’t our preferred method because it sometimes in fact, gets too hot and can damage your product.

The next method is infrared heat. Infrared heat tunnels can quickly heat the surfaces of your shrink sleeves adhering to them. However, any part of an object that is shadowed from this heat source will not experience heating. This can cause shrink problems for complex container shapes.

The final method and our favorite is through steam. We use steam ourselves because it provides a consistent heat distribution for even labels at a lower temperature than its counterparts. Our shrink sleeve machine features a small steam tunnel that instantly binds shrink sleeve labels to its containers in less than a second.

However, some may not want to use a steam tunnel because they do not want their containers exposed to moisture.

Overall, applying shrink sleeves is relatively simple and can be just as, if not faster than applying traditional adhesive labels depending on the methods used.


A Guide To Shrink Sleeve Labels

Shrink sleeve labels are a great choice for many industries and have already taken over many of them. If you have not yet considered switching your products to them, I’m sure you will now.

The benefits of shrink sleeves can be just what you need to get a leg up on your competition or to reach that same level. CoolJarz has our own shrink sleeve machine that helps apply shrink sleeve labels to a variety of containers.

CoolJarz by Earthwise are experts in packaging including printing and designing shrink sleeve labels. To learn more about our shrink sleeve label services click here! If you have any questions, feel free to Contact Us! We’ll be happy to help!

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