April 1, 2021
Rubber Labels: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
By: Peter Gregory
Flexible, vivid and virtually indestructible, rubber labels are a great way to inject vivid individuality into your brand!
In this article we’ll show you what makes silicone (rubber) labels special, where they can work really well and what you need to watch out for when placing your first order.
Even though the clothing industry commonly refers to ‘rubber labels’, these labels are actually made from silicone. Silicone delivers a crisp, colourful, delightfully bumpy label … and it’s virtually indestructible.
Just like rubber, silicone is waterproof and flexible. Silicone can handle hot and cold temperatures and it doesn’t fade in direct sunlight, which makes it the perfect labelling choice for extreme sports and industrial products.
Rubber Labels Are Chunky: The sense of depth you get from a rubber label is so much richer than with a woven or even an embroidered label, because the label is so much thicker. Rubber labels vary from 1mm to 5mm in thickness — that’s a depth that even the heftiest embroidered badge can’t match.
Rubber Labels Are Vivid: Silicone labels are poured from a mould in pantone-perfect colours. You get crisp corners on even the most finicky lettering, so contrasting colours really stand out and logos look pixel-perfect. There’s none of the compromise that you expect from a fabric label (more on the detail limitations of woven & printed labels here).
Rubber Labels Are Flexible: Silicone has a bit of give in it — it can bend and stretch a little if you pull/twist it — but it will always return to its original shape. This makes it perfect for attaching to advanced hard-working textiles like neoprene and canvas.
Rubber Labels Are Clean: Silicone is inert and odourless. It doesn’t leech colours or melt and it’s very hard to scuff up. It also doesn’t absorb water! If you’re looking for a label that’s physically impossible to bleach or stain, then look no further!
Rubber Labels Are Durable: It’s hard to tear a silicone label, and they perform really well in extreme temperatures. You can even run your iron over a silicone label without any melting or loss of detail (just keep it under 220˚C).
Rubber Labels Are Different: Another great thing about rubber labels is that they’re still pretty rare! If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your brand from anything else out there, a rubber hem tag (or even some promotional badges) can make a big impact.
Rubber labels are the go-to for hardy workwear, industrial strapping and sports, but you can use them in a variety of situations:
Ski Gear will often use rubber labels for exterior branding. You’ll find a lot of salopettes and ski jackets with rubber logos: the logo will still look great after a few seasons of sub-zero temperatures, damp and direct sunlight.
Swimwear often uses rubber labels, too. Whether you’re labelling up trunks and bikinis full-body scuba suits, you need a material that can handle the harsh underwater environments. Chlorine and salt water can cause a fabric label to fade over time, so waterproof silicone solutions are perfect for all things swimming-related.
We also get a lot of orders from makers of climbing gear and industrial strapping. Whether you’re a tree surgeon, a port stevedore or just someone who loves to go mountaineering on the weekends, you need to know that your straps and harnesses are going to hold under extreme weight.
Silicone labels are often seen just above the pop stitching (a safety stitch that ‘pops’ open when your straps are exposed to too much weight) on racking straps and climbing harnesses.
Silicone isn’t just for clothing and workwear! Accessories can look great with a rubber label, too. In fact, one of our customers, Salteria, complements their range of bright, bold printed purses with stand-out rubber labels that add a lot of depth and texture to the finished product:
Because a silicone label is poured into a mould rather than woven on a narrow fabrics loom, there’s technically no limit to what you can achieve in terms of shape, depth and size. That said, rubber labels tend to fall into one of three categories:
Labels & Tags
If you’re selling sportswear or apparel, a rubber tag at the hem or the outer side of the neckline can look fantastic. Just make sure it’s not in a location where it could rub against the wearer’s skin. The wearer won’t suffer any allergic reaction, but the bumpiness of the label could cause irritation.
The best way to fix a silicone label to a garment is to stitch it. Most labels are between 1mm and 5mm thick; if your label is on the thick side, we recommend you add a sewing channel. A sewing channel is just a thin border that goes the whole way round the label (like a castle moat), giving you a nice thin area to stitch the label securely to the fabric.
Badges & Stickers
Silicone can take the heat from an iron without melting (it doesn’t actually melt if you go at it with a really hot iron — it just stiffens and hardens). This makes it perfect for iron-on adhesive backings. If jacron or metal just isn’t the right choice for your iron-on badges, you might find that a silicone option is just what you need.
Peel-and-stick label backings are available for silicone labels, too, but if you’re working with fabrics, we always recommend that our customers go for a sew-on or iron-on option wherever possible.
Depending on the finish you’re aiming for, a neat, bright silicone zipper pull could be just what your zippers need! You don’t have to stuff a rubber zipper pull and you can go to 5mm thickness without any issue. You can also embed strings and hoops directly into the silicone, which makes for a really secure zipper pull.
I hope this guide has got you excited about rubber labels! Just remember that, when you’re placing your order, you’ll need Pantones (to get your colours spot-on) and patience (to allow for the c. 4 week turnaround time).
The lead times are longer than they would be with a woven label. The process of making a silicone label is completely different to woven label manufacturing. First, you need specialist mould manufacturers to create your prototype label for you, then those mould manufacturers need to reproduce that mould on a larger scale so that they can deliver thousands of your bespoke labels. The moulds then need to be poured, tested and quality-controlled, which all takes time.
The minimum order for rubber labels is 1,000 pieces, but if you have a great idea, it’s worth the investment and the extra couple of weeks!
Thanks for reading!