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Wet vs Dry Vinyl Installation

We are frequently asked why we recommend the wet installation method over the dry method for some of our decals. We’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each method in this blog post and why we recommend either method for particular decal sets that we sell.

First, we’ll explain the basics of each method starting with the wet method. The wet method involves making a soap solution using a mixture of baby shampoo and water to get both the application surface and the adhesive side of the decal wet before applying the decal. The shampoo gives the solution a bit of viscosity to allow the installer to slide the decal around and position it perfectly on the intended target (in our case embossed letters or chrome emblems). Plain water will work to some extent, but usually only to lift and reapply the decal before it sticks. The decal won’t slide around one the application surface as easily with plain water.

The dry method utilizes transfer tape to ‘transfer’ the decal from the backing paper to the application surface, where the decal is simply applied like a sticker. After the decal is applied, the transfer tape is removed to reveal the decal.

The main advantage of the wet method is that ensures perfect placement of the decal and minimizes the chances of messing up the installation. The decal can be moved around or removed and reapplied as needed to get the decal positioned perfectly.  The decal will not stick to itself when wet, making it easier to handle during the installation, and any bubbles that are trapped under the decal can easily be pushed out before the decal dries. Because our vinyl adhesive is solvent-based, the soap solution will not affect the decal’s ability to adhere to the surface once the solution has fully dried.

The only real disadvantage to the wet method is that it takes longer to install the decals and you must wait for the decals to dry before they fully adhere to the application surface. Depending on the temperature and humidity this can take up to several hours.

The dry method is a quick and easy way to install decals. As stated previously, it’s just like applying a sticker: peel and stick (and peel, to remove the transfer tape)!

The drawback to the dry method is that you get only one chance to apply the decal perfectly. Once the decal is applied it cannot be removed without destroying it. There is also a greater chance of trapping bubbles under the decal. While bubbles cannot be pushed out, they do normally go away within a couple of weeks. Finally, the dry method can only be used on flat or slightly curved surfaces. It cannot be used on domed surfaces or recessed/embossed surfaces.

At CDD Graphics, we evaluate both installation methods on all of our decals to determine and recommend the best method for our customers to use. The wet method is usually recommended for the larger, simple designs and any application where the application surface is recessed or embossed. Using transfer tape over a domed surface would be like trying to wrap a piece of paper around a volleyball without wrinkling the paper!

We recommend the dry method for many of our smaller emblem inlay/overlay decals and the complex/multi-part decals. Transfer tape is required for multi-part decals to hold all the parts of the decal together during the transfer from the backing paper to the application surface.

While we provide detailed instructions for most of our decals based on our installation evaluations, these are recommendations only and our customers are free to install their decals using any method they wish. In general, decals without transfer tape applied should always be installed wet, while decals with transfer tape can be installed dry or wet. If the wet method is chosen for a decal with transfer tape, the transfer tape cannot be removed until the decal has completely dried.

We hope this answers any questions you may have regarding the installation of our decals. If you have any other questions our support team is available to answer them.