Beginner’s Guide: Why And How To Seal Vinyl?

Did you just apply vinyl to an object or surface?

Then you probably want that vinyl to last as long as possible.

Sealing your vinyl decals can make them last longer.

In this post, you’ll learn if you should seal your vinyl and how to.

Should I seal my vinyl decals?

Anyone that has worked with vinyl knows that terrible feeling when you see one of your vinyls slowly coming off the surface.

It starts with a tiny piece at the edge, and before you know it the entire design is ruined.

How long your vinyl lasts depends on the type/quality of the vinyl, the surface its on, and the conditions it has to endure.

Permanent vinyl lasts longer than regular vinyl, vinyl on smooth surfaces last longer than vinyl on rough surfaces, and vinyl that is exposed to the rain outside won’t last as long as vinyl in your living room.

In a lot of cases, vinyl will last a long time even if you don’t seal it.

So if you put vinyl on a smooth canvas and put it in your bedroom, there is really no need to apply a sealant.

However, you might want to apply a sealant if you are going to make:

  • Anything that you place outdoors
  • Cups and plates that can go in the dishwasher
  • Vinyl on rough surfaces such as wood or stainless steel

Moreover, besides making your vinyl last longer, some sealants can also give a nice finishing touch as well.

Does vinyl need to breath?

There is a common misconception that vinyl needs to breath and that therefore you shouldn’t apply any sealant.

However, this is false. You can seal vinyl without any problem.

Sometimes the vinyl underneath sealant might shrink a little over time. This is a property of the (cheap) vinyl itself and isn’t caused by the sealing process.

So for the best result you want to use both a sealant and good quality vinyl.

Different types of sealants

There are several types of sealants you can use for your vinyl. Each of them have their own pros and cons.

For example, some sealants might be better for a wooden sign that will need to withstand the rain outside, while others might be better for a mug that you want to be dishwasher-proof.

1 Mod podge

One of the most popular options is mud podge. It is cheap, pretty versatile, non-toxic, and you can find it in a lot of art and craft stores in either big or small bottles.

You apply it over your vinyl decal with a brush. So it is just like working with paint.

It works great on mugs or plates and you can choose from a variety of different finishes such as matte, glossy, or glitter.

The main downside is that you need to cure it for at least 28 days after you apply it. And by that time you probably already forgot about it.

Mod podge also has a special dishwasher safe version. But to be honest, it’s not the most reliable. The problem is that the 28 day drying time is for a very thin coating. If you apply it too thick you will have to wait even longer.

Pro: cheap, option of different finishes, readily available

Con: long curing time, not dishwasher safe

2 Triple thick

Triple thick is another cheap sealant that you can use. It is pretty similar to mod podge in that it’s cheap, non-toxic, and you apply it directly with a brush.

As the name suggest triple thick has a very thick consistency so the coating will also be thicker than mod podge.

If you are making a glitter mug, this means that you won’t be able to feel the glitter any more. Moreover, you don’t always want such a thick glossy layer for some of your projects.

Although triple thick doesn’t claim to be dishwasher safe, it does seem to hold up pretty well most of the time.

Pro: cheap, easy to make even coatings

Con: thick layers

3 Epoxy resin

Epoxy resin is a type of sealant that can be used for many things, including keeping your vinyl safe.

You prepare it by stirring two different liquid components together. This starts a chemical process in which the liquid slowly starts to harden.

There are different types of epoxy resins available. They can differ for example in their viscosity or their curing time.

However, epoxy is a heavy-duty sealant and regardless of which one you choose, your vinyl will last a long time and will be 100% dishwasher safe.

Of course there are some downsides as well. Some epoxy resins need to be stirred for more than 10 minutes before applying. And trust me when I say that that is much harder than it sounds.

Also, once you mix it you can’t reuse it again so you inevitably are going to wash a little every time you use it. And in comparison with the other options it is definitely more expensive.

Pro: 100% dishwasher safe, fast curing time, easy to apply even layers

Con: expensive, not reusable once mixed, needs to be stirred before use

4 Polycrylic

Polycrylic is another all-purpose sealer. What really sets it apart is that you can get it either as a spray or liquid. The spray makes it really easy to apply it even on big surfaces, similar to spray paint.

However, you can only apply a thin layer at a time. So if you want a thicker and more protective coating, you will have to let it dry between layers. So if patience isn’t your strong point, this might not be the best option for you.

Note that you want to go for polycrylic and not for polyurethane. These two compounds might sound similar to you, but polyurethane can actually cause damage or yellow staining to your vinyl. So make sure that you are buying polycrylic sealant.

Pro: easy to use spray

Con: can only make a thin layer at a time

Which sealant to use?

So we covered 4 different options to choose from, but which sealant should you use?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Use mod podge if you are a beginner or if you are on a low budget
  • Buy epoxy resin if you want the best protection or need your project to be 100% dishwasher proof
  • Go with polycrylic if you want a spray sealant

If you want to use epoxy resin but are worried that it is too expensive, you can also combine two different sealants. For example, you can do 2 layers of mod podge and then finish it with a single layer of epoxy resin. This way you can get the best of both worlds.

Sealing vinyl

Before you can seal any of your vinyl, you of course have to cut it with a vinyl cutter. And if you don’t have one yet, you might want to read our articles on which Silhouette vinyl cutter to buy or on which Cricut vinyl cutter to buy.

For now, I’ll assume that you have your vinyl decals ready and cleaned the surface that you want them to stick on.

Let’s see how you can seal vinyl on some of the most popular surfaces.

How to seal vinyl on tumblers

How to seal vinyl on a ceramic mug

How to seal vinyl on wood