Can adhesive vinyl be applied to plastic? That’s an excellent question, and the answer is … maybe. Because it depends on the type of plastic, the chemical formula. Some plastics take readily to adhesive vinyl graphics application, others don’t, and still others will work, but only if installed properly.

Can Adhesive Vinyl be Applied to Plastic? 

“Plastics aren’t all the same and require different surface preparations, For example, solvents may damage polystyrenes and poly-carbons tend to trap moisture. Determine the type of plastic and follow the cleaning recommendations for the specific material.” — Vehicle Graphics Surface Preparation for Various Substrates

According to experts, applying adhesive vinyl graphics to plastic can be a challenge. Some are friendly, and some are not. Outgassing is a possibility much of the time. Before considering wrapping a plastic substrate, you need to know its chemical composition.

Polycarbonates

Much of your home, auto, and office equipment use polycarbonates. Polycarbonate is resistant to weathering as well as impact. It is used extensively in bumpers. PC is also used for headlight lenses. It does well in adverse weather conditions, rain, snow, and cold. However, it may contain water which when covered with vinyl graphics can outgas forming water bubbles between the substrate and vinyl. An experienced applicator will determine the best method of installation, dry or wet.

Polymethacrylate (PMMA)

Polymethacrylate is used for windshields and windows. It’s highly resistant to pressure, sub-zero outside, and UV light. Since PMMA offers outstanding optical properties, is lightweight, is unaffected by temperature changes, it is often used instead of glass. Polymethacrylate is a clear, shatterproof plastic. So, most adhesives will stick to a PMMA surface; however wet installation may be the best to avoid outgassing.

Polyethylene

Plastic bags, containers, bottles, and tarps are all types of polyethylene.  Dry application using heat may be best for application. It’s used in glass reinforced vehicle bodies.

Polystyrene

Polystyrene is a hard plastic. For example, computer casings are made from polystyrene. This material can be wrapped, but outgassing varies from formula to formula and may cause separation. In vehicles polystyrene is used for knobs, trim, and instrument panels.

Styrofoam is a polystyrene plastic. However, Styrofoam isn’t the best substrate for adhesive vinyl.

Polyvinylchloride

Among other components polyvinyl chloride is used for instruments panels and door parts. “PVC is in most cases user-friendly for adhesive vinyl application; however the hardness of the plastic impacts the installation. Hard PVC will accept the vinyl, but may be difficult to remove while softer PVC may not offer the best adhesive surface.” — Can I Apply Vinyl to This?

So, Can Adhesive Vinyl be Applied to Plastic? 

Can adhesive vinyl be applied to plastic? The answer is yes, and no. Proper adhesion of vinyl graphics on plastics depends on several variables. Including  production, chemical make up, and more. Much of the success or failure will depend on the knowledge and experience of the applicator. Is a wet or dry installation best, or not at all? Other factors such as the condition and cleanliness of the surface as well as temperature and humidity during installation will impact the appearance and longevity of the graphic.

TKO has more certified, full-time, company employee, experienced vinyl graphic installers than any provider in North America. We know what works and what doesn’t. Contact Us for a free estimate. 

“We are proud to be a 3M™ MCS™ Certified Warranty Manufacturer, which means our customers receive consistent, outstanding products backed by 3M’s most comprehensive warranties. We are members of the United Application Standards Group (UASG), and master certified through the PDAA (Professional Decal Application Alliance), delivering the best installation services possible.” — About TKO Graphix