Archive for Vinyl FAQs

I often hear the question, “can my vinyl get wet?”. The simple answer is yes it can. There are very few types of vinyl that cannot get wet. This question most commonly comes from Cricut vinyl users. The Cricut vinyl that Provo Craft packages is largely marketed as an indoor product. This is correct only in the sense that it will perform best indoors.

You see Cricut vinyl is Oracal 631 and yes this is an ideal indoor product. Maybe the question comes from it having a water based adhesive. I can certainly see where this may lead you to believe that it cannot get wet. However this same logic would say that many things cannot get wet. So without getting into a boring explanation of why it can get wet just know that the adhesive is not made of sugar an water is not going to hurt it unless it is constantly submerged like on a boat or submarine for example.

As far as your regular types of Cricut vinyl are concerned water is not an issue, but there is a new kid in town. This is the inkjet printable vinyl. Provo Craft does have a new printable product for the Cricut imagine. I must say I am baffled as to why this was the product they chose. It cannot get wet. The colors will run if it does get wet. The reason this baffles me is that there are inkjet printable vinyls available that are waterproof without any special steps, just print and use.

These types of inkjet printable vinyl are great for many uses. Granted they do have a much longer life span in indoor applications, but most any vinyl will hold up fine outdoors for a year or two. Plus it really doesn’t matter what the vinyl is, Cricut vinyl or otherwise, it will be compatible with your machine. This is just the nature of vinyl and vinyl cutters, they pretty much all work together.

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What Kind Of Vinyl?

I could really go on for many pages about what the best vinyl is for each application but I don’t want to bore you so I will try and keep this as short as possible.

There are basically only two types of vinyl. Sign making vinyl and heat transfer vinyl. Within these two types I suppose you have some subcategories as well. Basically you have your heat transfer vinyl that is for fabric, often used for making aparal. Then you have sign vinyl for everything else.

I am going to focus more on sign vinyl for this post. First off all vinyl can be used indoors and outdoors. If you ever hear of something being called “indoor” or “outdoor” vinyl this is only a classification of the environment that it is best suited for.

Oracal 631 is often referred to as “Indoor” vinyl. This is the best environment for Oracal 631, but you can have great success with it outdoors as well. The characteristics of 631 make it a short term outdoor performer. It is a common misconception that this vinyl will be destroyed if it gets wet. This just is not true. It does have a water-based adhesive and potentially could be damaged by water, but it is typically only a harsh type of water like high pressure or hot that will damage it. I have seen Oracal 631 hold up just fine outdoors for several years.

So on the flip side of course “outdoor” vinyl like Oracal 651 is well suited for outdoor use it can be used inside as well. It does have a solvent based permanent adhesive which is part of what makes it so great for outdoor use. But it can still be used indoors. It’s kind of like saying an automobile is for outdoor use so you can’t park it in the garage. Any vinyl will last almost indefinitely in a typical indoor application. The downside is that the more aggressive adhesive potentially could cause a bit of damage when removed. Just warm things up with a hairdryer and this is likely not a problem.

Now one last thing I want to touch on is decorating dishes. This is a very popular trend. It can be done but a few words of caution. This is not a purpose that vinyl was intended for. Of course the vinyls like Oracal 651, 751, and 951 are the best choices to use for such a project. They work best because of the more aggressive adhesive. However vinyl was not designed to go in the dishwasher. This is quite a harsh environment. The best way to remove unwanted vinyl is with heat. The dishwasher is hot. So if you really want to decorate some dishes it is probably best to stay away from the “indoor” vinyl. And you want to generally consider it just that a decoration. If you need to wash it, hand wash it. This way it will last a long time. My experience is that the best case scenario you will get about 5 trips through a dishwasher.

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Transfer tape really is a crucial element in making and applying vinyl designs.  Sure if you are making small one piece items or large simple items you may be able to get away without it.  But 99% of the time you really do need it. 

When the vinyl is still attached to the original backing all of the elements of your design are exactly where they are supposed to be.  The point of the transfer tape is to lift everything off of the backing and expose the adhesive.  It will accomplish this all at the same time while retaining everything in perfect alignment. 

Now the vinyl has a more aggressive adhesive than the transfer tape does. So when you stick your vinyl down to something the vinyl will stay behind, again still in perfect alignment, and the transfer tape comes off leaving your finished project.

Now this works best when you do what is commonly referred to as a “kiss cut”.  This means that you only cut through the vinyl and not the backing too.  Then you remove or “weed” out the unwanted vinyl leaving behind a square of backing material with your cut vinyl design sitting on it. 

This video below from our friends at ExpressionsVinyl.com helps to clarify how this all works.  If you are confused about the cutting you can check out our post on cutting vinyl.

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You must first ask yourself, what am I doing with this vinyl?  The simple answer really is that any adhesive vinyl is good for just about anywhere.  However there are some different characteristics that make certain types better for certain applications. 

The most popular type of vinyl sold for machines such as the Cricut is Oracal 631.  This is a calendared film with a water based temporary adhesive.  This is a fantastic vinyl for many different reasons.   First of all it is affordable.  There are some vinyls out there that have some superior performance characteristics, but they cost an arm and a leg.  This film is among the least expensive out their and you really get the most bang for your buck out of it. 

This film also has the removable adhesive.  Often people think that this means it can be peeled up and stuck down again and again.  That may be true for a time or two depending on all the circumstances, but most likely it is really only good for one application.  The best part about this adhesive is that it is just aggressive enough for most applications, not to strong not to weak.  Another common misconception is that this vinyl can’t get wet.  That just simply is not true. Water will not hurt this or most any vinyl. 

So this is one of the best general purpose products.  Now with that being said we will move on to the “outdoor” type of vinyl.  Oracal 651 is often considered an outdoor vinyl.  This doesn’t mean that it cannot be used indoors.  Oracal 631 is often considered indoor vinyl but it can be used outdoors as well.  The “outdoor” vinyls typically have a more aggressive solvent based adhesive.  The films themselves are also more resistant to UV rays.   These types of vinyl are often designed for use on vehicles which experience some very harsh outdoor weather conditions.  The only real downside is that the highly aggressive adhesive can be difficult to remove sometimes and can cause damage to more delicate surfaces. 

Oracal 651 is much like Oracal 631 in that it is designed to perform well at a good price.  It may well be the best all around vinyl for all it’s characteristics.  There are other types of outdoor vinyls that have their place such as Oracal 751 and 951.  These are sometimes referred to as permanent vinyl.  Oracal 651 is pretty much just as permanent as these are, but the 751 and 951 have a slightly longer lifespan for outdoor applications. 

Finally there is heat transfer or T-shirt vinyl.  This of course is for adhering to fabrics.  All the other types of vinyl have a pressure sensitive adhesive just like an ordinary sticker.  You know what happens to a sticker on fabric.  It’s good for awhile and then it falls off.  T-shirt vinyl uses heat to activate and attach to fabric.  It will also attach to many other substrates but is specifically designed for fabric.

Categories : Vinyl FAQs