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The Best Time to Apply Window and Hood Car Decals

Hood stickers

When to apply window and hood decals, before or after waxing the car? And, how soon can you wash or expose your car to rain after installing window decals?

Question:  Should I put a decal on the hood of my car before or after I wax it?

Yes. You can do either without any problems, although there are some who advocate stripping the car down and waxing it first because then, when you want to remove the sticker, it is not going to have an area that looks different from the waxed area where the decal came from.

If you are worried about a vinyl car sticker or decal adhering to the wax, this is not at all an issue as the acrylic adhesives that are used with vinyl decals will adhere well to car wax. In fact, most graphics applicators agree with me that the super smooth surface will enhance the adherence to a vehicle.

Question:  I just put a window decal on my car and it looks like it’s going to rain. How soon after application can it get wet without ruining it? Or is there a wait period?

These are very good questions that we get asked quite frequently.

The Decal and Sticker Materials

First, though, let’s start by looking at the materials most outdoor vinyl decal stickers are made from. Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is the basis for most stickers that are purchased that will be used or may be used out of doors.

Rear window car stickersThis includes most signs that you see on businesses, street signs, road signs, highway signs, traffic control signs, banners, and on and on. PVC dominates the graphics business more than almost any other substrate and can be printed on as a substrate or applied to a substrate.

A primary property of PVC is that it is waterproof. Ponchos are made from PVC. And of course, they keep you quite dry. So, when decals are printed with a good waterproof ink, either screen printed or digitally printed (yes, there are also other methods of printing, but I don’t want to go off on a rabbit trail just now so I am mentioning the most popular pair), they are not going to have any problems at all with rainwater on the surface.

The Adhesive

Secondly, the adhesive used for outdoor PVC decals is usually an acrylic adhesive. While there are varying degrees of stickiness, acrylic adhesives are both very sticky and very waterproof. As stated earlier regarding PVC, it is used all over the graphics world, and so are acrylic adhesives.

Signs, decals, and decals stuck to signs or cars or transit buses or semi truck trailers…you may not see the acrylic adhesive, but you see the affect it has on the graphics you see every day driving to work, going to a coffee shop or a clothing store or the mall. Indoor and outdoor signs all are held together, at least the graphical elements, by this adhesive.

So, back to your car and the impending rain storm. The answer is that you can just let it pour on those decals, baby! They’re not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, wet application of graphics is very common, so you could feasibly apply them to your car while it’s raining, although we don’t recommend you do that, due to some other somewhat tricky factors, and because we have a lot more experience than you do with wet application of decals.


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Barry K. Brown

Barry Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!

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