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Blog_Mugs_headerThe newest trend in custom vinyl graphics is decorating drinkware; applying vinyl on mugs, cups, and glasses. Etsy, Printerest, and related web sites have lots of examples of cute custom mugs and glasses available for sale.

So naturally we’re getting lots of questions from inspired and entrepreneurial customers about the new trend.What kind of vinyl works best? What kinds of cups and glasses are suitable? Are the applied graphics dishwasher-safe?

Read on for the answers to all your drinkware decoration questions.

Vinyl recommendations

Whenever these kinds of non- industry application question arise, we consult the manufacturers. Dean Strohmenger, ORACAL’s Senior Product Support Specialist, says ORACAL is aware of the trend, but, because of the heat and detergents involved, doesn’t warrant vinyl for this application. Dean advises…

” The most successful applications will involve both smooth glassware and cast vinyl (751 or 951). 651 would also work as it also has a solvent-based adhesive and is much more economical, but conversely it is less conformable, so it has more of a size limitation when being applied to a cylindrical substrate such as a drinking glass. Plastic cups, to a lesser degree depending on the grade of plastic, can also be successful but would be limited to smooth surfaces only. ”

The reference to plastic cups is added because not all plastic is vinyl-friendly. Low-energy plastics like polystyrene and polyethylene have static charges that repel the adhesives used in vinyl film, resulting in edge curling and eventual failure of the decal. Make sure you do adequate testing before committing to putting vinyl graphics on plastic cups.

If you’re using mugs, glassware, or a vinyl-friendly plastic, your major concern is longevity of the graphic as the drinkware is cleaned. If your finished product is going to be tossed into a dishwasher, Dean recommends that the applied graphic be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours before washing so the adhesive has ample time to form a permanent bond with the drinking vessel. In our testing, EnduraGLOSS vinyl, ORACAL 651 and 751 all worked well on ceramic mugs. But there were differences in degree of success depending on the application technique.

Application Tips

Given the cautions noted above, it’s wise to remember that this can be a challenging application. Designing a graphic with a fancy, filligreed font isn’t a good idea. Use relatively simple shapes; the bolder the font, the better the bond. The better the bond, the more washfast it will be.

• Apply Dry or Wet? When applying vinyl to any substrate, you want to make sure you put it on straight. When you’re decorating a banner that’s going to hang across the street, you may be able to get away with having if just a tad off level. But when the application is literally right in front of the customer’s nose, it’s gotta be straight. So applying it dry without any way to measure or adjust is a little risky. To make doggone sure the graphic is level with top & bottom of the mug, you can apply it with a little application fluid, or use the tried-and-true hinge method.

In our testing, we used both wet and dry methods to apply vinyl to ceramic mugs. The ORACAL 751 graphic was applied with RapidTac. Since it has a permanent solvent adhesive, it should have handled the wet application well. But it’s hard to get all the fluid out from under the vinyl on such a severely curved surface, so it took quite a while for the adhesive to bond. In fact, the tape had to be left on overnight. When I finished removing it 14 hours later, one of the letters was still not completely set. This elongated cure time for the adhesive would also make the applied graphic more likely to fail in a dishwasher. So wet application is not the best method for these items. The EnduraGLOSS and ORACAL 651 graphics were applied dry with a vertical hinge (Fig 1), using Main Tape blue painter’s tape. This enabled me to remove the application tape almost immediately and it gave the applied vinyl plenty of time to set up before wash testing.



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