In the 1800s the first stickers were used to label pharmaceuticals, but nowadays there’s probably a skateboarder in your neighborhood using one as a band-aid. With so many different kinds of stickers on the market, durability is often the determining characteristic when choosing the sticker or label that’s right for the job. Follow our guide to learn more about how different stickers stack up to each other.
Breaking Down Sticker Life Expectancy:
1-2 Years Indoor – Paper Based Roll Labels
1-2 Years Outdoor – Vinyl/Synthetic Based Roll Labels
3-5 Years Outdoor – Full Color Stickers & Screen Printed Decals
Extended Use Indoor* – Full Color Stickers & Screen Printed Decals
* Extended Use is not clearly defined. Depending on the exposure to sunlight some stickers can last anywhere from 5 to 45 years.
FULL COLOR STICKERS:
Full color stickers can be printed on several different types of presses which may vary depending on whether the stickers are going to be on a roll or in individual sheets. When it comes to the longevity of a sticker the biggest part of the equation is not the press, but the inks being printed on them. Advances in digital printing make it possible to create long lasting stickers with vivid photographic prints.
Indoor Use: In a controlled environment where stickers are not in direct sunlight, they have the potential to last upward of 45 years when printed with quality inks.
Outdoor Use: Full color stickers are printed using a combination of Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow inks. Because of this 4-color process some prints will last longer than others. This is due to the fact that Yellow ink is more prone to fading. After six years under direct sunlight yellow ink can fade up to 30%. So it is fair to say that full color stickers can last about five years without major fading. To extend the durability of full color prints, a UV Coating can be added to help defend against UV rays.
Additional Protection: The sun is not the only element that can effect the lifespan of your stickers. Ink and UV Coatings sit on top of the vinyl stock so excessive contact can still cause scuffing to the ink. The best and easiest solution is to add clear lamination to provide a barrier between your print and the elements.
Roll labels are traditionally used for product and package labeling. Due to the wide variety of products on the market there are many variations on roll labels to suit anyone’s needs.
Roll labels are printed using flexographic presses. The inks used have an average lifetime of about 1-2 years with direct exposure to the sun. Lighter inks, like yellows, do have a tendency to fade faster while dark and black inks are much less prone to fading.
Paper Based Roll Labels: White Gloss paper, White Matte paper, Silver Foil and Gold Foil are a perfect solution for short term and indoor use cases. Paper based labels are ideal for mailing labels, envelope seals, clothing size labels and other uses where the label can be thrown out. They are also perfect for indoor uses such as labeling files and paperwork.
Paper based labels are also ideal for labeling products that will be stored or sold in dry places. Over time paper labels can crinkle when exposed to moisture — think about a beer bottle that’s been left in an ice bucket for too long.
Vinyl/Synthetic Based Roll Labels: White Vinyl, Yellow Vinyl and Clear Polypropelene roll labels are definitely more rugged and will hold up to most weather conditions. Paper based stocks can be torn in half, making them perfect for sealing envelopes, while vinyl stocks will stretch and can not tear as easily. Vinyl stocks are usually finished with a layer of lamination adding extra protection against moisture and scuffing.
Vinyl roll labels are often used for promotional purposes like skateboard and bumper stickers but they also make great product labels for items that might be left outdoors, like lawn equipment.
SCREEN PRINTED DECALS:
Screen printed decals use the traditional process of screen printing with UV inks to create very durable, bold stickers. Because of the thickness of the ink and durability of the vinyl stocks, these decals are usually finished without lamination and still have an expected lifetime of 3-5 years outdoors, making them ideal for bumper stickers and equipment branding.
While most stickers are used for labeling and giveaways, the overall quality of screen printed stickers make them ideal for resale. These are the stickers you’ll find in skateboard and snowboarding shops. They won’t fall apart or tear and they are will hold up to moisture better than most other options.
Screen printed stickers are generally only available on vinyl or synthetic stocks. Printing high quality UV inks on a paper sticker stock doesn’t really make sense since the inks would likely outlive the paper they’re printed on.
Screen printed stickers that are created for indoor use will last much longer than the expected five year life span.
Some use-cases require specialty stocks or inks in order to ensure that the sticker will survive in a given environment.
Removable Adhesive – Sometimes called “low-tac” adhesive, this option is used when a label needs to be removable without the customer needing to scrape the label away, leaving behind a gummy residue. The most use of this adhesive is price labels.
Repositionable Adhesive – Some removable adhesives are only good for a single use. Repositionable adhesive allows the user to remove and reapply a sticker many times.
Static Clings – Static Clings use a static charge to adhere to smooth glass surfaces. Because there is no adhesive at all, there will be no residue when the cling is removed. Static clings are repositionable, however repeated movement can cause the static cling to lose it’s charge.
Freezer Adhesive – If a product is going to be stored in temperatures between 50° and -5° F, freezer adhesive is the best option to ensure that cold won’t make the adhesive brittle enough to lose it’s adhesion.
Destructible Vinyl – Destructibles are meant for permanent placement. Any attempt to remove or tamper with the sticker will cause it to flake into pieces.
Voidable Decals – When these decals are removed the adhesive residue leaves behind the word “VOID” to show the label has been removed.
Super-Tac Adhesive – Super-Tac is an extremely strong adhesive that will allow permanent adhesion to porous or blemished surfaces like steel containers and barrels.
Cut Vinyl Decals – These decals are meant for permanent placement. Cut vinyl decals are unprinted colored vinyls that are cut into specified shapes. They are often used as a signage option for windows, automobiles and other outdoor applications. Cut vinyl decals are also a popular option for wall treatments and other decorative indoor uses.
Contact our sticker printing specialists with any additional questions about sticker durability or usage.