Whenever I get a roll of packing tape, I hook the tape under the little teeth underneath the blade (pictured).

packing tape demo

Yet somehow, after I rip off a couple pieces of tape, the excess escapes from the teeth and falls back onto the spool, seemingly disappearing . You know this feeling.

I then spend a few minutes hunting for the break, and then much wasted tape, pulling tiny strands into medium strands, medium strands into full-width ones, until I finally have the tape pulled back through the teeth.

This continues.

Of course, when storing my packing tape, I make sure to fold over a quarter inch or so, making it easy to restart the roll. But no such strategy is viable during usage.

What gives?

Is there some secret to packing tape I am missing? I find it hard to believe that after so many years of packing and taping, run-of-the-mill packing-tape spool manufacturers haven't made any progress in this field. Contrast with Scotch tape dispensers.

scotch tape

Simple, usable, frustration-free, for the most part. Sure, they're far from perfect, but you don't get tape fallback every couple of pieces.

Is there a similar invention for packing tape? Am I doing something wrong, some secret of packing tape that has escaped me all this time?

Please help. I am moving out of my apartment this weekend, and have many a box to tape.

closed as off-topic by isherwood, Daniel Griscom, fixer1234, Tyson, mmathis Aug 20 '18 at 13:29

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Arts, crafts and decorating advice are off-topic as they have little in common with the other home improvement tasks discussed here." – isherwood, Daniel Griscom, fixer1234, Tyson, mmathis
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  • 1
    Sorry, but it's a stretch to say this is a home improvement question. – isherwood Aug 17 '18 at 2:24
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    You're not supposed to tear a piece off of a package tape dispenser. You're supposed to use the dispenser as and applicator. Press the tape onto your box, stretch it across and then apply pressure against the tape with the cutting teeth. You never really touch the tape other than to press it onto the box. – isherwood Aug 17 '18 at 2:26
  • @isherwood is there a more appropriate stackexchange site? – baum Aug 17 '18 at 2:36
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    I call your attention to the 3M logo on the side of the tape you consider "good". If you are not buying wire nuts, that logo is your friend. – Harper Aug 17 '18 at 2:42
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    i worked in a shipping dept and can tell you there's much better dispensers than that; metal, cushion grip, better retention, adjustable tension, application rollers, etc. the one shown is quite entry-level and often comes with tape; a bad sign since the manufacture likely wants you to waste tape using it. – dandavis Aug 17 '18 at 16:36

To supplement Harper's answer there are a couple of things regarding these cheap red dispensers that you may not be aware of.

  1. It is necessary to use your fingers to pull out the first short length of tape that then gets pressed against the box at the start of the tape run.
  2. Then as you dispense the tape you are supposed to hold the assembly in one hand in a manner that you can apply small pressure in the spots marked as in the picture below. This squeezes the red plastic against the tape roll sides to limit how fast the roll turns.
  3. When you approach the end of the tape run you squeeze harder at those marked spots so as to lock the tape roll in the dispenser. This allows you to pull the tape tight and then give the holder a slight twist against the serrated edge to cut it off.
  4. If done properly and the right handling the end of the tape is left stick to the two ears.

enter image description here

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    Step 1 isn't usually necessary. The cut leaves a small lap of tape on the dispenser face (like you see in the OP's first photo). Simply pressing the dispenser against the box often results in enough grab to drag the tape out. – isherwood Aug 17 '18 at 14:41

Before cutting, you need to flip it in a way that sticks the tape to those little ears.

It also helps to use quality tape. If the tape is crumpling and tearing when you try to peel it off e roll, that is definitely garbage tape, and just as it's side-tearing, it won't hold your boxes together either.

The apocryphal source for quality tape of any kind is almost always 3M.

It also helps to use quality dispensers. Which those free red plastic dispensers found sonic-welded around the tape roll are definitely not.


Make your life easier and buy a real Packaging tape dispenser. Your cost per foot for tape will be much lower and it is much easier to use.

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