Good labels (for shelves, drawers, spices etc)
February 7, 2016 11:22 AM   Subscribe

As an alternative to a label maker, I'm planning to buy labels I can hand-write on. What do you think of this idea, and which labels would you recommend? Criteria: assorted sizes down to about a half-inch in height (so I can label shelves), writeable, available easily.

Why don't I just want a label-maker? Because I'm trying to avoid the cost of tape, which is apparently how they get you.
posted by splitpeasoup to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You might even want to go one step further if you already have a printer and get some formats you like and just print... paper which you adhere to your things with some sort of cheaper tape (this is not necessarily cheaper but you get the idea). You can resize fonts so it looks good at any size, etc. Because if you write on any sort of glossy plastic/contact paper, you'll risk rubbing the ink off, even if it's Sharpie ink or whatever. It's possible you have lovely handwriting, but if you write like someone with two fingers riding a tilt-a-whirl (as I do) you can also look online for really nice free label options which, with the print and tape-over option, might give you the best output for the lowest input.
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wanted some handwritten labels and got some adhesive ones at a Michael's craft store. They have a lot of different designs and styles - the ones I liked were sort of an old-timey apothecary thing. In the end, this might not be cheaper than label tape, but it's nice for a certain look. I also have a labelmaker and don't find the tape to be insanely expensive, but if I were doing hundreds of files or something I probably would. Lastly, I've used Avery products to print out my own return address mailing labels, file folder labels, etc.
posted by Miko at 11:33 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

How important to you are aesthetics? Because I just use masking tape for that stuff. Cheap as chips, works with ballpoint or sharpie, very easy to get off without leaving marks if you need to re-use/relabel something.
posted by Diablevert at 11:41 AM on February 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I use blue Painter's Tape or colored masking tape and a Sharpie (my favorite kitchen Sharpie has a fine point on one end and thick point on the other). Hardware stores and craft stores often have masking tape in a wide range of colors, but I mostly use the blue painter's tape plus a stickier orange one I use for stuff going in the fridge/freezer. If you need it to stick heavy-duty, there's a bunch of color/patterned versions of duct tape out now. And you can get Sharpies in all kinds of colors.

Tip: you may be tempted to get some of the US-made Scotch washi tape in neat colors and patterns, but Sharpies don't work on that crap so don't bother.

Craft stores also have chalkboard, whiteboard, kraft paper, and other neat labels - poke around the Scrapbooking section to see your options.

I think labelmaker labels are kind of ugly, anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:50 AM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been pleased with the Martha Stewart line of labels, available at Staples. Lots of variety (permanent, removable, dry erase, chalk). I also like post-it tape.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 11:59 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you want to be able to remove them without a ton of fuss, use the Avery removable ones. You can print on them (even coloring the label entirely), and while they stick sturdily enough to not just fall off, they're much easier to remove than the normal "permanent" type. And of course, they come in tons of different sizes.

(Speaking from experience - I got annoyed enough by my four teenagers randomly putting away things in the kitchen that I labeled the locations of EVERYTHING. And when I decided to rearrange, it wasn't too terribly difficult to redo.)
posted by stormyteal at 12:06 PM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Definitely get some you can remove, to avoid the grubby look they'll get over time, and to allow yourself to reorganize later.
posted by bearwife at 12:11 PM on February 7, 2016

Just Something I Made has a lot of free downloadable labels. I have ordered from Labels by the Sheet. You can order one sheet or multiples. They have removable labels in many sizes. Have brown kraft labels, too.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 1:18 PM on February 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I bought an Epson LW300, which is the Wirecutter choice, and while Epson's tape is almost $1.50 per meter via mailorder (considerably more at Staples), you can get generics for about $1/m.
posted by rhizome at 2:23 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plain white Contact drawer liner works well. You can cut them in any shape/size you want, and they remove cleanly.
posted by Fig at 3:44 PM on February 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

How good do you want things to look? I cut out bits of post-it notes, write on them in fine point Sharpie in my best, most consistent handwriting and stick them on spice jars and then tape over the whole thing with a piece of really thick packing tape cut just slightly larger than the label. Works fine, looks fine enough for my purposes, infinite variety of sizes.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:54 PM on February 7, 2016

Freezer tape sticks better than masking tape, still peels off pretty easily, is easy to write on with a sharpie, and runs about three bucks.
posted by momus_window at 6:15 PM on February 7, 2016

I'm going to join in with the tape crowd, but with a twist: Get white gaffer tape. It's kind of like duct tape, but better in that a) its glue is much less likely to permanently stick to stuff (also a danger with generic masking tape, but not good painter's tape.) and b) the base is cloth, not plastic, so it takes ink easier, and has a nice matte finish. Comes in a number of widths and tears easily (and squarely) like duct tape. (Also colors other than white.)

The down side is it's a lot more expensive than duct tape, but a big roll will make years of labels.
posted by Ookseer at 10:57 PM on February 7, 2016

I routinely label all sorts of things (glass, plastic, melamine) with a china marker/wax pencil. It stays put for long periods of time, but can be rubbed off with a soft cloth.
posted by sarajane at 10:18 AM on February 8, 2016

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