So… are stickers waterproof? It depends. More accurately, it depends on the materials used for the sticker. Sticker materials based on paper or cardstock for instance, are generally not waterproof, though they can be made water-resistant by adding a plastic laminate or similar water-impermeable coating. A UV coating on cardstock for example, adds water-resistance on the side it’s applied. Stickers that use an adhesive that dissolves or degrades in water also can’t be considered waterproof. Likewise, stickers that use water-soluble inks and pigments can not be considered waterproof.
To make stickers waterproof in the real sense of the word, the materials, adhesives, and inks used have to be capable of surviving immersion for extended periods. Vinyl and BOPP (bi-axially oriented polypropylene) are two of the most common materials for waterproof stickers. Sticker stocks made from vinyl and BOPP typically also use waterproof adhesives. A professional printer will normally use the appropriate waterproof inks with these stocks as well. But given the differences between different sticker makers, it’s impossible to tell for sure if stickers are waterproof until they have been tested.
The easiest way to test waterproofing is to order a sticker or stock sample from your sticker printer. Many online printers, including UPrinting, provide free stock samples that could be easily tested for waterproofing or any other purpose.
Waterproof vs. Water-resistant
Waterproofing shouldn’t be confused with water-resistance. A waterproof sticker will function, even when submerged in water, for at least a few years. A water-resistant sticker will degrade in a short, indeterminate period of time, dependent on the materials. It’s useful to think of “waterproof” as a near-absolute imperviousness to water, and “water-resistant” as a quality that could be measured on a scale.
Many popular sticker materials, including some varieties of paper and cardstock offer significant water resistance. To increase this, as mentioned earlier, add a coating. Regardless, water-resistant stickers will eventually succumb to moisture, which makes them unsuitable for applications where you would need extended immersion or exposure to moisture.
Applications for Waterproof Stickers
Waterproof stickers are useful in a variety of common applications. Using a sticker that’s merely water-resistant in these applications wouldn’t be a very good idea.
Outdoor use. Stickers meant for extended outdoor use, such as on the outside surface of windows, should be made from waterproof materials. This will ensure good performance in different weather conditions.
Cars and other vehicles. Similarly, waterproof stickers are the best choice on farm and construction machinery, delivery vans, trucks, trailers, and other vehicles. Waterproof stickers will fare better in the elements compared to a regular sticker.
Boats and marine equipment. Stickers for boats and marine equipment should also be waterproof for obvious reasons. This goes for stickers inside boats as well. Even if the stickers aren’t immersed, they are constantly exposed to mist from the water.
High-humidity environments. Whether we’re talking about the Florida Everglades or merely a damp basement, high humidity levels can be very harsh on normal stickers. Waterproof stickers will outlast regular stickers in these conditions.
Food packaging. Waterproof stickers are perfect for packaging food items that have to go through refrigeration or immersion — such as in a bucket of ice water. Regular stickers can disintegrate and possibly make your products unfit to sell.
No, not all stickers are waterproof. To make stickers waterproof, you need the right combination of stocks, adhesives, and inks. It’s also important to know where a truly waterproof sticker should be used. The materials used on a sticker can give you an idea whether it’s waterproof or merely water-resistant, but the only way to be sure is to order a sample to test for yourself.
Here are a few more articles on stickers you might find interesting:
- Sticker Printing 101: Stickers That Leave an Impression
- A Simple Guide to Making Better Stickers and Labels
- Custom UV Stickers Printing – Guerrilla Marketing
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Arthur Piccio is a feature writer and subject matter expert for theUPrinting Blog.