How to Protect Vinyl Decals

If you got yourself a brand-new vinyl deal for your home, you want it to be protected. Decals are a great way to breathe new life into a bland space or leverage a plain wall or window into an opportunity to advertise.

Decals can deteriorate, fade, and fall off the surface they were transferred to if you don’t take the proper steps to keep them in place. If you’ve gone to all the trouble of designing, purchasing, and applying a decal, that’s probably the last thing you want to happen.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to protect vinyl decals.

What this article covers:

Sealing

how to protect vinyl decal

Sealing is a good approach to preserve wall decals or any vinyl decal for that matter.

Using sealant protects the surface of whatever you use it on while giving it a glossy appearance.

When it comes to applying a seal, there are typically 3 different approaches and each depends on the surface to which the vinyl is being applied.

The first is a lacquer or polyurethane spray, the second is a dishwasher podge, and finally, we have an epoxy resin kit.

Applying a Seal to Wooden Surfaces

Custom vinyl wall decals on wood look professional and stylish, but the execution is probably the most difficult out of all the surfaces.

protecting vinyl decals

The first step to preparing vinyl on wood is to ensure that it’s sanded and smoothed out. Working on a wooden surface is the perfect opportunity to put lacquer over your vinyl decal. It’s just as effective a sealant as things like polyurethane and polycrylic over vinyl, but it looks a little more professional and luxurious.

Bear in mind that if you’re using lacquer or any other sort of finish, you must give it enough time to dry. If it’s a warm, dry day, you’re going to need at least 24 hours. If it’s humid, the moisture in the air is going to make the setting process take a bit longer.

Placing a vinyl decal on a piece of wood that’s dripping in the lacquer can cause the solvents to mix and leads to bubbling.

If your vinyl decal is bubbling, there could be a few causes. It could be anything from an incorrect application process to applying too much sealant before the decal is properly set.

Applying a Seal to Trays or Plastic

Trays are relatively simple when it comes to transferring a decal to them. You don’t need to worry about smoothing the surface.

For these surfaces, we recommend an epoxy resin kit. They’re super easy to use and are the most affordable out of the lot.

Once the decal is on the tray, ensure that it covers the entire surface area. Taking a lighter and moving it across the tray will cause any bubbles left behind from the epoxy resin to pop and fade away.

If you want to know how to store vinyl decals on these trays, consider covering them up with poster board. This keeps dust and debris away from the tray while it’s left to dry.

Plastic plaques are also nice additions to your home, especially if there’s a vinyl decal on them.

These plaques are placed outside and no matter what outdoor vinyl you’re using, the decal is bound to peel. The reason for this is due to the temperature outside is cooler and more humid.

protecting vinyl decal

We find that using polyurethane spray as a seal on plastic works well. It’s important to note that if you’re applying this spray to an item you are in a well-ventilated area.

Polyurethane is toxic and has a strong odor so we recommend applying it outside or in a well-ventilated, large room with a fan blowing.

Simply spray the entire surface area of the plaque and leave it out to dry for around 30 to 60 minutes.

There’s no limit to the number of coats you apply since it’s a spray. The more you apply, the thicker the finish.

Smaller Items

If you have a mug with a decal on it and accidentally throw it into the dishwasher, chances are the decal will rub off and deteriorates.

What if we told you that sealing the mug after the decal is transferred prevents that from happening?

This is where you want to use a dishwasher podge that covers the entire mug. If the podge isn’t completely covering the mug and is only over the decal, you could see some brush marks. The space between where the podge ends is also an opportune space for water to get in and start lifting your decal.

The dishwasher podge is a seal that’s used in arts and crafts projects, allowing for a smooth finish on your items that go inside the dishwasher.

Take a small brush and lightly go over the mug or whatever small item has a decal on it. You want roughly 3 coats of the podge before leaving it out to dry.

The only problem with using the podge is that it takes 28 days to cure once applied to the mug.

protect vinyl decal

Liquid Over Laminate

If your vinyl decals are outside and facing the conditions of the harsh sun, they are going to need some protection if you want to see them last for a while.

Liquid overlaminate typically comes in a package including the brush and tray so you won’t need to worry about purchasing individual components.

You want to ensure that the roller is saturated with the overlaminate, and once that’s finished, you can begin rolling across the vinyl.

The rolling should be done up and down without being too rough on the decal. Pressing too hard could cause the decal to shift, especially if it was recently applied.

The liquid overlaminate self-levels in about 30 minutes, removing the bubbles and adding a glossy aesthetic to the already beautiful vinyl decal.

If you want to add a coat once the 30 minutes have passed, then feel free to do so.

Clear Coating

If you want to know how to protect your vinyl decals, you need to know how to clear coat over vinyl decals.

Clear coating is a type of finish that can either be a lacquer or a synthetic liquid. It’s applied over objects to create a glossy look while adding an extra layer of protection.

Not only does it enhance the appearance of the object containing the decal, but it increases the durability of whatever it’s applied to.

vinyl decal protection

How Is a Clear Coating Applied?

The clear coating should only be applied when the vinyl decal is set and all ready on the surface.

Clear coats are applied using a sprayer and for the first coat, you want it to be light and do so in a swaying motion.

The problem with putting a heavy coat on, in the beginning, is the coat’s solvents causing the adhesive on the vinyl to wear off.

Once the first coat is on, you want to wait for around 10 minutes before applying the second and third coats. 

Since we already have a lighter coat acting as a base, we can now add a thicker coat.

We must wait another 10 minutes between adding the second and third coats. These coats are wetter than the first coat so adding a wet coat too quickly will cause the coating to drip.

Post Coat

After waiting for a day or two, there’s one more step to ensuring that everything is perfect. You’re going to need a felt block or sandpaper as well as a sprayer with some water.

When you clear coat over vinyl decals, you’ll notice a buildup of the coating around the edges after it’s dry.

This can be rectified by spraying some water over the area and using a semi-rigid felt block to lightly scrub over the edges.

This smooths the coat so that a final coat can be added at the end.

protection of vinyl decal

A felt block will be gentler than sandpaper and allows our final decal design to have a straight and clean polish.

You want to ensure that any peel or imperfection that’s noticeable is removed using the felt block and you should be left with an almost matte look.

If you have a vinyl decal on a more intricately designed object like a piece of a motorbike, you’ll have areas that the felt block can’t reach.

For this, you want to use red scotch with some water and continue scrubbing.

The Flow Coats

This is the final step of our coating process.

Instead of doing a light coat first, you would have a more medium coat. This is combining the swift motion of a clear coat and the freestyled thick coat.

The second coat should be applied roughly 5 minutes after the first coat and this one is going to be thick. This means you can go at your rhythm until you feel like the coat is thick enough.

However, this doesn’t mean you should add an excessive amount of coating. If you notice the coating starts to droop or bubble, ease up on the trigger. 

Plus, you still need to make room for one more coat.

The final coat is that final glossy finish, and to achieve a gloss, it needs to be wet.

All you need to do now is wait for around an hour and voila, you have a protected, glossy vinyl decal on the surface of your choice.

Vinyl Shield

protection of vinyl decals

 

A vinyl shield is a protective layer that goes over the vinyl decal, preventing the decal from deteriorating and making it dishwasher friendly.

It’s a clear mask material that has an adhesive backside to allow for more protection when transferred onto non-textured surfaces.  

It’s also UV protective so your decals won’t need to face the harsh sun alone.

Vinyl Shield is a good way to protect your items and decals from scratches.

How to Apply Vinyl Shield

You need to design your decal first using the software of your choice. 

To get the measurements of the vinyl shield itself, you need to offset the measurement of the decal by at least 0.5 inches.

Once you have those two separate designs, you want to use your vinyl cutter with the vinyl material of your choice.

You then weave out the pieces of the vinyl you don’t want to use, and you should be all set to go.

The vinyl shield itself is purchased as a roll of material, the same way you purchase vinyl.

The shield is placed into the vinyl cutter using the same measurements as the vinyl decal. You should be left with a roll of a vinyl shield with the outline of the decal.

Trim out the unwanted parts and you’ll be left with a clear block.

how to protect your vinyl decal

The vinyl shield comes with application tape so place that over the vinyl shield.

If you want to ensure that your layering is good, try using tracing paper so you can see exactly where the shield needs to be.

When it comes to layering, try applying the shield at an angle to ensure that no bubbles are present when rolling the shield over.

You can then use a tumbler to apply the vinyl decal on and you’re all set to go.

Protection From the Start

If you want to ensure that your vinyl decals remain in a good condition start with the initial transfer process.

Before you can think about transferring the vinyl, you need to make sure that everything is clean.

So, if you’re wanting to place your vinyl on a wall, it’s important to clean the surface. If the surface is dirty, the decal won’t stick and if it does, it will fall off sooner than later.

Dirt on a wall or surface also causes spots or bumps that interfere with the design of the decal itself. This takes away the beauty of the vinyl.

Cleaning a wall only requires a clean cloth and some alcohol to ensure that those nasty dirt molecules have vanished.

how to protect your vinyl decals

Whatever alcohol you use, make sure that it doesn’t contain ammonia as that can harm the transfer paper on the back of the decal.

Be sure to rub down the decal firmly with a squeegee to ensure that the transfer paper is applied properly.

Also, try not to apply the vinyl decal in wet and humid conditions. If you’re in a room that’s too cold, the walls will become moist and slippery.

Conclusion

We hope we’ve managed to show you how important protecting your vinyl decal is. If you’re going to go through all the effort of designing and applying a decal to a wall, window, or other furniture, it’s a shame not to put in the extra work to keep it looking great for as long as possible.

No decal is ever truly permanent, but with the right preparation and care, you can keep a high-quality decal around for a good five years without having to remove or replace it.

Given how inexpensive yet stylish these decals can be, it’s a bargain and well worth the time you put into it to protect it from the elements.

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