How to Waterproof Your Stickers

Quite a lot of things you buy these days come with a sticker. You can name many exceptions, like bottled water, canned foods, cups of coffee, shoelaces, jewelry, copy papers, gasoline, or some toiletries—you get the idea. But if it comes in a box and you buy it from a store, chances are you’ll see a sticker or two. Even frying pans and socks have stickers you must peel off before first use. The point is that stickers are extraordinarily commonplace – and for good reasons.

Thanks to their expressive and hard-to-miss nature, stickers are affordable yet powerful marketing tools. While some are annoying rather than pleasing, you have to notice them first to know that they’re, well, annoying. The good thing is that not every sticker has to be as ugly as those barcode stamps or “Made in Foreign Countries” labels.

Companies love putting stickers on their products, hoping you recite their brands each time you use anything they make. You don’t have to run a business to have custom stickers. Those companies use stickers to remind you how much money you’ve spent on them, which is effective. When you see a product sticker, the brand name is like a sudden ringing noise in the ears, and it will stay there for an irksome period.

You can copy the same trick to let your friends, families, exes, coworkers, and passersby be aware of your presence in the world and what you think about anything. In the office, you can put stickers on book covers, water bottles, lunch boxes, mugs, and the back of your chair as long as it’s not NSFW. While you’re on the road, bumper stickers will tell people that you voted in the last presidential election, how many times you’ve received the Employee of the Month award, or whether you’re a Martian disguised as a human. Also, the easiest way to personalize your laptops and phones, as everybody else’s may look the same as yours, is to put stickers on them (but not on the screen because it may cause some difficulties).

In short, stickers are excellent tools to say what you think about anything and let people know about it. They’re expressive and can be as creative as you want them to be. Whether you need it in full color, a transparent design, massive size to cover an entire window, holographic or chrome finish, there’s always a sticker to send the message on any surface. It doesn’t matter how simple or complex the graphics are; custom sticker printing can be done from conventional text-based formats to detailed illustrations.

Make Stickers That Last

You can have your stickers printed on a wide variety of materials. One of the most common is the typical “sticker paper,” which is just a regular sheet of paper with an adhesive surface at the back, covered with an easy peel-off layer. It comes in many options, such as textured, glossy, or matte finishes. There is also kraft paper in either dark or light brown color. Both types will work just fine with most home printers. Another popular choice is BOPP, a thin, transparent thermoplastic material often used to label kitchen and bathroom products. As a rule of thumb, choose sticker paper when the budget is tight, but go with BOPP for looks and durability.

Vinyl, however, is the best of the bunch. Sticker paper is cheap, but it’s not waterproof. On the other hand, BOPP produces excellent graphics and is resistant to chemicals. Still, they are best for thin labels instead of stickers. Regarding sticker materials, vinyl is the most durable, as it can withstand prolonged exposure to sunlight, water, and chemicals. It’s also thick and smooth to the touch. Furthermore, you can have it in any finish you like.

Most vinyl stickers are weatherproof, meaning they won’t fade under constant exposure to sunlight or when placed in cool and humid environments. You can put them on your car, bicycle, helmet, vacuum flask, or even metal lamp post, and you never have to worry about the stickers losing their colors and details for years. The sticker should remain intact even if you have one on a water bottle, and place it inside a refrigerator daily.

They’re also water-resistant, meaning they can get wet, but you can wipe off the water quickly; a dry cloth, paper towel, or regular tissue paper will do. However, remember that “water-resistant” and “waterproof” are different. A waterproof sticker is entirely impervious to water. Both the graphics and the adhesion are not affected in any way by water and moisture.

Make Your Stickers Waterproof

Not every sticker comes with waterproofing. However, you can do some tricks to make your stickers waterproof (as opposed to water-resistant), which calls for some explanation, so bear with us.

First and foremost, make sure that the sticker’s base material is waterproof. Vinyl, essentially a printable plastic product, is an excellent choice. And then there is the problem with the ink. If you DIY your stickers using an inkjet printer at home, chances are the printer uses water-based pigment ink or dye. While the vinyl itself is waterproof, the water-based ink isn’t. Unless you’re using industrial-grade sublimation ink, which is heat-treated into gas and fused with the material instead of printed on its surface, your stickers are not exactly waterproof. So, here’s what you can do to give your stickers better protection against water damage.

Spray Sealant

Most people will tell you that an aerosol spray sealant can give some waterproof properties to an otherwise regular vinyl sticker. They’re not wrong, but they’re not entirely correct, either. A spray sealant only puts another layer on top of the sticker, leaving an almost invisible shield over the graphics. The coating protects the sticker against water, but something else is also happening.

Vinyl material naturally contracts and expands when exposed to high and low temperatures. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s typical and expected. As the vinyl underneath continues to move slightly now and then, the sealant eventually cracks. Yes, the sealant works well, albeit for a limited time. For stickers on windows, car windshields, or anything typically exposed to sun and rain, spray sealant cannot offer lasting protection.

Laminating Sheets

The closest you can get to a completely waterproof sticker is to put a laminating sheet over it. FYI, laminate is a type of clear vinyl that is self-adhesive. When you overlay the laminate on top of the sticker, it simultaneously protects the ink and the vinyl. Most laminating sheets come in a relatively wide size, so you must cut the excess afterward. If you want it to be more effective, use a thermal laminating machine. Rather than using a self-adhesive sheet, the machine attaches the stickers to the protective layer using heat.

End Note

You only get waterproof stickers if you print them on vinyl (BOPP also works) using sublimation ink, or with a laminate finish. That being said, there are easy ways to give your stickers adequate protection from water. Spray sealant is an easy, quick method, although it won’t likely last long. The laminating sheet is the best you can get while keeping things affordable. It’s more effective than spray sealant; the sheets are available in any stationery or hobby store. And if a little bit more of a budget isn’t a problem, a thermal laminating machine is best.