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Decals Vs Durable Decals

Oliver StocktonWritten by Oliver Stockton, Managing Director, CILS



There is a big difference in performance between a decal, a vinyl decal and a durable decal. The type of decal used on a plastic model, or a vehicle is vastly different to that used in the aerospace industry.

What is a decal?

A decal is a print image on a substrate such as plastic, cloth, or paper that can be transferred to a surface upon contact mainly using heat or water. The word is short for the French word décalcomanie.


Durable Decal Label


‘Water slide’ Decals

Different versions include ‘water-slide’/ ‘water dip’ which have an image screen printed on a water-soluble adhesive layer on a water-resistant paper backing sheet that needs to be dipped in water to loosen the glue. The image then slides into place on the product.

If the decal is immersed in water for too long the adhesive will dissolve completely and won’t stick to your surface. The adhesive will dissolve further whenever it comes into contact with fluids for long periods of time and the label may fall off. They also dry out and fail with age.

‘Peel and stick’ Decals

An alternative is a vinyl ‘peel and stick’ decal. This isn’t technically a decal but what the sign industry calls ‘vinyl-cut-decals’ and are used for identifying fire, law enforcement, utility and recovery vehicles, usually with reflective graphics.

The design is cut in reverse into a self-adhesive vinyl material on a backing sheet with the waste removed from around the letters etc. A layer of transparent film with a very light coat weight of removable adhesive is then provided over the top.

The vinyl decal is removed from the backing sheet with all the spacing between the letters held in place by the removable film. The film is then applied to the surface, the decal is rubbed down and the removable film is peeled away leaving your letters etc. perfectly spaced.    

What Decals don’t we make at CILS International

We don’t manufacture ‘water slide’ decals because our place in the market is to provide durable identification that will last the lifetime of the product, neither do we work with the vinyl’s used in the signage industry.

Vinyl’s only have water based acrylic adhesives that will not meet the long-term performance expectations of our clients. Fleet and service vehicles are usually changed every 3 years or so and the decals are removed with very hot soapy water to break down the adhesive and remove the decal. This would not be ideal for our customers.

The decals we do make!

Because we manufacture labels made from durable materials such as polyester with solvent acrylic adhesives that cure and get harder with age, we are able to manufacture a very durable version of the ‘peel- and-stick’ decals. We call these ‘CILS durable decals’ and you wouldn’t want to stick these to your car! The CILS durable decal labels are exceptionally durable, making them perfect for resisting harsh environments and exposure to oil, fuels, weathering, abrasion and extreme temperatures.

At CILS international we manufacture durable decals for all industries where the label will never intentionally be removed.

How can we help you?

Let us know what decals you are looking for and one of our technical specialists will discuss our materials and production capabilities.

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