How is Zero & Tare Different on a Scale?

On most scales or laboratory balances you will often see a “Zero” button and you will probably see a “Tare” button as well. What do these two buttons do?  Are they the same?

If you’ve pressed these buttons before, they might seem like they do the same thing.  Actually, they are similar, but they actually do different things.

zero vs tare


The “Zero” button should be pressed when the scale is a graduation or two away from zero and you would like it to be perfectly on 0.00 before you start weighing. For example, if you have a floor scale and it is flashing between 0 and 1 lb.  If you press the “Zero” key, that will hopefully zero the scale off and it will be ready for weighing.

Technically, the zero point is actually set during the scale calibration along with span calibration. Why would you have to zero the scale?  Perhaps there is some buildup on the scale platform that has accumulated since the scale was last calibrated or perhaps the scale needs to be re-calibrated… 

Basically, the “Zero” button should only be pressed when no load is on the scale. On legal for trade scales, there is a limit to how much weight you can “zero off” the scale.


What does tare mean?  The “Tare” button is pressed when you have placed something on the scale (like a box, container, or empty truck) and you need to disregard the weight of that item. After adding the truck or container to the scale, pressing the “Tare” key will set the display to display 0.00 and then whatever you’re looking to weigh can then be added to the scale in the “Net” mode.

For example, let’s say you are using a parts counting scale and you often use a plastic container when you are counting out bolts. You place the empty plastic container on the scale, press “Tare” and then count parts. The only weight you will see on the scale is the weight of the bolts (and the number of bolts, since you are counting them).

Then when you’re finished, you can remove the plastic container from the scale. When you do this, the weight of the plastic container will still be displayed since you “tared” that off earlier. You then press the “Tare” key to remove that container weight from the scale and the display will once again be showing 0.00 and ready to weigh.

Advantages that Digital Scales have when it comes to the Tare Function

Digital scales offer several advantages when it comes to the tare feature, making them a preferred choice for many customers. One significant advantage is the simplicity and ease of use. With a digital scale, the tare feature is much simpler – all it takes is a press of a button. This convenience saves time and effort, ensuring a smooth and efficient weighing process.

Additionally, digital scales automate the deduction of container weight. When the tare button is pressed, the scale automatically subtracts the weight of the container, resulting in a more accurate measurement of the desired contents. This eliminates the need for manual calculations and reduces the chances of errors that can occur with traditional mechanical scales.

Moreover, digital scales provide enhanced precision and accuracy. The advanced technology and engineering behind these scales allow for more precise measurements, ensuring reliable results. With digital scales, the tare feature optimizes precision by accurately deducting the weight of the container, enabling users to obtain accurate measurements of the net weight.

Furthermore, digital scales offer versatility and flexibility in weighing. They can accommodate various units of measurement, making it easier to switch between different measurement systems such as ounces, pounds, or grams. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for customers who need to weigh items in different units or are operating in a global market where different measurement systems are used.

What is a Tare Weight and How is it Calculated?

The tare weight refers to the weight of a container or box that holds items being measured on a scale. It is usually expressed in units of mass (such as pounds or kilograms). The tare weight is determined by placing the empty container on the scale and pressing the tare button. This action resets the display to zero, effectively subtracting the weight of the container from the total measurement.

By utilizing the tare function, any subsequent items placed inside the container are accurately weighed without including the weight of the container itself. The scale automatically calculates the net weight by subtracting the tare weight (previously determined and stored) from the combined weight of the container and the item.

And it doesn’t always have to be a box or tote that you tare off the scale. Sometimes it can be a person. For example, perhaps a mom or a nurse is holding a baby and needs to get a weight of the child. Or, perhaps a veterinarian needs to get a weight of a dog that wants no part of walking on a scale and standing still. 

*** Key Points to Remember Regarding Zero & Tare on Digital Scales ***

What does the tare function deduct from the weight measurement?
The tare function deducts the weight of the container or any other object from the overall weight measurement. By pressing the tare button after placing the container on the scale, the display is set to zero, effectively subtracting the weight of the container from the subsequent weight measurements.

What does “net” zero mean in relation to the tare function?
A complete “Net” Zero in relation to the tare function, refers to the balance or weight measurement after deducting the weight of the container or any other object. It represents the true weight of the substance being weighed without any additional factors.

When is the Tare function used?
Remember, the tare function is used when there is a need to disregard the weight of a container or any other object placed on the scale. It allows for weighing only the desired substance without including the weight of the container or any other item.

What is the difference between the Tare function and the total or gross zero function?
The tare function is not the same as the total or gross zero function. While the total or gross zero function applies when there is no weight on the scale at all, the tare function focuses on net zero, which is the balance after deducting the weight of the container.

It’s a good idea to have your scales calibrated on a regular basis with certified test weights by state certified scale technicians. This will make sure the zero of each scale or lab balance is set correctly and the span from zero to the max capacity is correct. Contact the service department by calling (919) 776-7737 to get your scales checked.