How to properly install and remove adhesive graphics

Many in our industry must deal with the annoyances of installing and removing wide-format adhesive graphics on a daily basis, especially printed vinyl. Plus, the past two years have seen more and more health-protocol graphics added to the mix because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, Peter Bourgeois, Territory Sales Manager for Western Canada and Northwest USA at Drytac Canada, offers some helpful tips.

When I do a training session on Drytac products with end users and installers, I usually start by asking if anyone has ever had an issue with an installation. Usually, a few people sheepishly put up their hand. I then ask this follow-up question: “Has anybody ever had an issue with the removal of a graphic?” – and just about everyone in the room puts up their hand!

When installing graphics, the first thoughts often relate to how easily an image will go up and how well it will anchor to the surface it’s mounted to. Often forgotten is what will happen at the end of the life of a specific graphic. Does it need to stay up for days, weeks, months or even years? The fact is that when installing graphics, equal consideration must be given to the clean removal of printed substrates, as well as their initial installation.

How to properly install and remove adhesive graphics

Knowing what will happen at the time of removal is critical to customer satisfaction. Complications in the clean removal of graphics can cause many issues in addition to costly clean-ups. In the worst case scenario, removals can also damage the surface to which the graphic is applied, leaving your customer extremely disappointed and potentially creating liability.

Businesses such as ours look at the entire lifespan of a graphic as well as its ‘refresh cycle’ and/or removal requirements of the printed product. Our adhesive scientists test and consider all these factors to give our customers what could be characterized as the ‘holy grail’ in adhesive graphics – that is, predictable installation and predictable removal. Our manufacturing facilities run tests that ensure that our customers have a proper understanding of how the adhesive bond of your graphic will go up, how long it will last, and most importantly, how it will come off.

Available options

The most common options available are permanent or removable adhesive substrates. Permanent is just that – the adhesive is designed to stay up long term and there are no expectations about how easily it will come off. Removable adhesives are much less aggressive. Depending on the surface you’ve mounted the graphic to, it should come off cleanly (although it may require some heat and ‘elbow grease’). It’s extremely important to remember that with time – usually six months to one year – a removable adhesive will become more permanent due to changes in the chemistry of the adhesive.

However, there’s now another option available. Re-positionable (or ‘peelable’) adhesives can be used multiple times and are designed to be easy to apply because they can be put down and picked up to ensure proper placement. They can be used multiple times and are residue-free upon removal. Whatever the challenge or the requirements, and whether using a professional installer or an inexperienced end user, the right adhesive will guarantee predictable installation and predictable removal.

The conclusion is clear: When you pay careful attention to the entire lifecycle of an adhesive graphic – and not just to the initial installation – you’ll help to eliminate customer disappointments and will hopefully earn much more repeat business in the process.

Peter Bourgeois
Author Peter Bourgeois is Territory Sales Manager for Western Canada and Northwest USA at Drytac Canada, headquartered in Brampton, Ontario. He’s played a major role in driving sales throughout these regions with a key focus on Drytac's wide-format graphics products, while helping to form valuable new partnerships and strengthen existing relationships across Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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