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The Science Behind Static Cling Window Graphics

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cling window graphic

Window graphics are undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of signage, with everyday use ranging from storefront signage to vehicle graphics to artsy designs used simply to liven up your window. Regardless of where your sign is being placed, there are several options to choose from: sticker, decal, or cling.

If you’re looking for a window graphic that will be easily transferred or removed and reapplied, odds are you’re going to be working with a static cling.

First, let’s debunk the myth about static clings…

If Bill Nye the Science Guy taught us anything, it’s that two like charges (positive and positive or negative and negative) repel each other, while opposites attract. So then why is it that static clings stick to all sorts of materials with the same charge, including metal, plastic, and even themselves?

The simple answer is that, contrary to what their name implies, static clings don’t actually use any form of static electricity to cling to the applied surface. Instead, the thin vinyl material acts as thousands of mini suction cups, clinging to the surface when even a little bit of pressure is applied. The trick? The surface must be non-porous.

So what surfaces work?

For the purpose of signage application, glass is the best option when it comes to static clings – a very good thing considering that a good majority of static clings are applied to glass storefronts. However, metal and some plastics will do the trick as well.

What environmental factors can affect the effectiveness of static clings?

Static clings are designed to be used both indoors and out, but the quality and lifespan of your sign can vary greatly depending on its placement. While outdoor signs have their use, they are much less practical due to their reaction to different environmental factors; high humidity can cause the material to begin to peel or even fall of completely, dirt can reduce the sticking capabilities of your vinyl and get under the material over time, and constant changes in temperature can effect the lifespan of your vinyl.

If you want your sign to be read from the outside, there’s no need to give up on static clings quite yet. A design with “inside glass” can be created by simply printing the reverse of your graphics on top of clear vinyl, so that it will be seen correctly from the other side of the window with out subjecting the material to any harsh environmental factors!

Can my static cling lose its stick?

Unfortunately, yes. There are several things that can reduce the stickiness of your static cling when applied either to the sign itself or to the surface it adheres to.

  • Strong chemical cleaners: While it is recommended to clean a surface before applying a static cling to ensure that there is no residue that will interfere with the stick, it’s best to avoid strong chemicals, as they can deteriorate the sticking ability, especially after repeated use.
  • Humidity or extreme dryness: As we mentioned before, humidity or extreme dryness can cause water to build up between the sign and the surface it’s stuck to, creating a thin layer of moisture that will cause the sign to peel or fall off.
  • Dirt: Dirt functions in the same way as humidity in the sense that any buildup between the sign and the applied material can create problems.
  • Age: This is simply one factor that you can’t avoid. Most static clings will last a year or more with proper care, but sitting out in the open can do damage within that time period and cause the material to lose some of its sticking ability.

Hopefully a better understanding of how static clings actually work and the effect that different environments and situations can have on them can help with the decision between a sticker, decal, or cling for your window graphics.