How To Make Vinyl Stickers Sticky Again

How To Make Vinyl Stickers Sticky Again

Sometimes the adhesive on a sticker dries up or loses its tackiness. When this happens, can you make it re-stick again? Yes! It is possible to reactivate the adhesive on most stickers. This blog will walk you through the various ways this can be done, and the materials you need for each method.

Note that we are discussing vinyl stickers. Paper stickers are much more fragile and prone to tearing or absorbing too much moisture when re-activated. While the spray adhesive and extreme tack method can be applied to materials other than vinyl, you must be extra cautious and use as little adhesive as possible when re-sticking paper stickers.

What Are Vinyl Stickers

There are differences among vinyl stickers, labels, and decals. For the purpose of this blog, vinyl stickers include:

  • Glue-based stickers: has a graphic on one side and is affixed to a surface by use of a glue-based adhesive.
  • Window cling decals: uses static electricity, not adhesive, to adhere to glass.
  • Non magnetized vehicle decals: thicker vinyl with permanent adhesive.

Why Would You Need to Make Stickers Sticky Again?

There are many reasons why you may wish to re-stick a sticker. Some stickers are vintage and cannot be replaced. Some have special meanings – perhaps the sticker was a gift. Sometimes the sticker is more utilitarian, like a “baby on board” window cling or a car decal whose edges are peeling. It is not always necessary, or even possible, to replace a sticker. Therefore, knowing how to maintain and re-stick them is a valuable skill.

Removing Damaged or Dried out Stickers

The first step is to carefully remove the sticker from its surface.

Walls

If the adhesive is already dry and the sticker is lifting, all that may be needed to remove it from a wall is a gentle tug. Be very careful about this, though. Tug too hard and you can damage paint or tear the sticker. Use a hair dryer on a low setting or create a warm compress with hot water on a washcloth to help loosen up stuck spots. Use as little heat and moisture as possible as your sticker needs to be dry to move to the next step of making the adhesive tacky again.

Glass

There are no tricks to removing a static cling window decal. Chances are, the decal has already curled up around the edges or has completely fallen off. Simply peel it off and lay it flat. If it is curling, place the decal between two sheets of wax paper and place a book on it.

Vehicles

Removing vehicle decals is best left to the professionals. While you can re-stick lifting edges, which we will get to in a moment, do not attempt to remove larger pieces such as racing stripes, business signage, or decorative car murals. For smaller pieces like bumper stickers, apply gentle heat with a hairdryer, heat gun, or hot compress. This will reactivate the glue, so have some wax paper ready to lay the sticker on. (If your goal is to simply discard the sticker after removal and not reuse it, you can use a more aggressive method like a putty knife, Goo Gone or WD-40.)

Cleaning Residue from the Surface

Now that your sticker is removed, you must clean and dry the surface before putting the sticker back on it again. For walls and hard surfaces, any gentle commercial cleaner, or warm water with a little baking soda and lemon in it will do. This should be enough to loosen and wipe away the residue. If the residue is particularly stubborn, you may need to add a little heat and peel the excess away. Be careful of your surface paint when doing this.

For glass surfaces, use a commercial cleaner like Windex, or create your own cleaner with hot water and vinegar. Dry the surface with paper towel.

Re-sticking Your Stickers

There are several methods for re-sticking your stickers. The one you choose should be the method you feel most comfortable with, and the one where you have, or can easily get, the supplies.

The spray adhesive method

What you need:

  • Wax paper
  • A bottle of spray adhesive

What to do:

  • You are using an aerosol that sprays glue so don’t work in a drafty or windy area. However, do have good ventilation so you are not inhaling the glue or fumes.
  • Put the stickers with the graphic side down on the wax paper.
  • Spray the backs of the stickers.
  • Reapply right away if you want permanent stickers. Let the glue dry until it is tacky if you want removeable stickers.

The extreme method

What you need:

  • Wax paper
  • A strong adhesive like Gorilla Glue or E6000 Extreme Tack, or double-sided tape

What to do:

  • Place the sticker graphic side down on the wax paper
  • Carefully apply the Gorilla Glue (do not let it stick to your fingers!) or spray the Extreme Tack
  • If using double sided tape, you must first precut the tape to the shape of the sticker
  • CAUTION: Gorilla Glue is permanent and WILL damage your surface if you try to remove the sticker. Extreme Tack remains tacky after drying but creates a very strong hold. Double sided tape is very difficult to remove from your vinyl sticker. Only use these methods if you want a permanent hold and can position and stick it right the first time. You will not be able to easily reposition your sticker when using an extreme method.

The method for windows/glass

What you need:

  • A clean cloth
  • Cooking oil

What to do:

  • Use the clean cloth to wipe a very small amount of cooking oil onto the window decal being careful to not leave excess residue
  • Re-stick the decal to the clean window surface
  • Using your fingers or a plastic squeegee, push out air bubbles and smooth the surface flat

The method for cars

Again, we caution you not to re-stick large, professionally placed car decals on your own. These require a temperature controlled environment and a lot of experience to create a lasting bond (and to place the decal correctly). The method mentioned below is for small spot repairs like peeling edges or bumper stickers only.

What you need:

  • 3M Edge Sealer (or similar). Ensure it is a sealer formulated for vinyl or graphics.
  • A small paintbrush

What to do:

  • Carefully apply a very thin coat of sealer to the lifted edge or back of the bumper sticker
  • Gently press the sticker onto the vehicle surface and smooth it down, removing air bubbles with your fingers or a plastic squeegee

How Long do Re-tacked Stickers Last?

The longevity of your reactivated sticker is dependent on several factors. Static cling window decals, for example, will dry out again in direct sunlight, or can lose their cling in cold environments. However, it does not take much to re-activate them again. Adhesive-based stickers do best in room temperature, non-humid environments. Vehicle decals are subject to sunlight, car washes, and wind. Keep the vehicle in a garage when not in use, if possible. Durability is also affected by the method used. Spray adhesives are not as long lasting as the adhesives used in the extreme method, but spray adhesives allow you to remove the sticker again with much greater ease and creates much less chance of damage to sticker or the surface.

Conclusion

It is possible to make stickers sticky again. Paper stickers can tear or absorb too much moisture when reactivated. Vinyl stickers hold up better to removal and re-sticking. Always remove the sticker carefully. In some cases, a little heat via a hairdryer or warm compress helps. Clean the surface to remove excess residue. Stickers attach best to clean surfaces. Choose your re-sticking method carefully. Spray adhesives work best for most applications and are not permanent (unless you choose a permanent spray glue). Extreme methods can damage the sticker and the surface. Only use permanent methods if you have no intention of ever removing the sticker, and if you can place it perfectly in one try. Use professionals when it comes to re-sticking large car decals. To fix edges or re-stick smaller bumper stickers, edge sealer will do. Re-sticking glass decals is quick and easy. A little oil fixes dry window sticker vinyl and helps it regain its static cling.

Royal Elements sells a variety of vinyl for your sticker and crafting needs. Our selection includes glossy, matte, and clear printable vinyl, adhesive vinyl, printable heat transfer vinyl, and more! Our blog has many informative articles on crafting, products, troubleshooting, using a Cricut®, etc.

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