May 16, 2024

Four Tips for Prolonging Your Printed Project’s Lifespan

Different kinds of projects have different lifespan requirements. For example, retail promotional campaign graphics might only be up for a brief time, but environmental graphics in higher education buildings, athletic facilities, hotels, and hospitals require a long-term solution.
Our inks are guaranteed for up to three years and individual material warranties can range from one to 10 years, but the environmental conditions of your project can either expedite or slow the natural degradation that comes with aging. Over time, plastics yellow, fog, and/or become brittle; vinyl peels and/or fades; untreated wood expands; and both fabric and cardboard vibrancy decreases. If repeated exposure to direct sunlight, human hands, and/or chemical solvents is added to the mix, your graphics will be up against more than just the test of time. In addition to strategic material selection – which you can make with your Infinity Images account representative – consider the following four tips to help you prolong your printed project’s lifespan.

1. LIMIT EXPOSURE TO THE ELEMENTS

Direct exposure to the sun – whether retail storefront window graphics or outdoor athletic stadium banners – can cause ink to fade and materials to degrade. Keeping direct exposure to the sun in mind, it’s important to consider the direction your window and/or outdoor graphics face. South-facing graphics will experience the largest amount of sunlight, while north-facing will receive the least.
Repeated exposure to precipitation and moisture also expedites the deterioration process. We stock several pressure-sensitive vinyls (PSVs) that are specifically made for outdoor use, but over time, precipitation can still cause the edges of graphics to wear away. Eventually, moisture may seep behind the printed substrate and cause the adhesive to fail. This is much more likely for printed graphics on non-smooth surfaces like brick, concrete, or wood. 
Finally, heat and humidity cause most printed substrates to expand while cold temperatures cause most to contract. Substrates that repeatedly expand and contract will eventually warp or peel off. It’s important to note that seasonal temperature changes can also be artificially created indoors. If printed graphics sit directly in the line of air conditioning and/or heating vents, they will be similarly negatively affected.

2. ADD A LAMINATE OR COATING

While an additional expense, adding a laminate or coating to your printed material – e.g., vinyl, wood, acrylic, cardstock, or corrugate – will provide an extra layer of protection. We always recommend using a laminate for graphics that will be displayed for longer than six months and for all outdoor graphics regardless of the intended lifespan. Certain laminates have built-in UV protection, making projects much more resilient to the sun’s impact. They also help to protect the printed graphic from direct human contact (see below for additional information). Unfortunately, not all substrates are conducive to laminates and coatings. Make sure to speak with your Infinity Images account representative about your options. 
Note: We also offer a film that’s specifically designed to prevent graffiti from permanently tarnishing outdoor graphics. While graffiti is, of course, not a naturally occurring cause of deterioration, it’s certainly of note for outdoor graphics that will live in cities. Check out our Protect Your Outdoor Graphics with an Anti-Graffiti Film blog post for more information.

3. LIMIT THE FREQUENCY OF HUMAN TOUCH

The naturally occurring oils on human hands can cause ink to erode over time. If your printed graphics will be in high-touch zones (i.e., areas where people can easily come in direct contact with graphics), they are more likely to deteriorate faster without added protection. As mentioned above, adding a laminate or coating whenever possible, like on wall coverings in schools, daycare centers, public hallways or rooms, and/or street-level windows, is a great option. If your project involves printing on a transparent material – e.g., plexiglass, polycarbonate, glass, mylar, polyester films, or vinyl – we would recommend that you consider second surface printing. Second surface printing involves printing on the backside of the material, with the purpose of the image being seen through the transparent substrate. This would provide a layer of protection between the inks and your audience’s hands.

4. PROPERLY CLEAN YOUR GRAPHICS 

Just as our portfolio of bespoke materials varies, so do the cleaning, care, and maintenance needs for each substrate. Unless otherwise indicated, cleaning with solvents is not recommended and can actually speed up the erosion process of your graphics. Check out our Graphic Cleaning, Care, and Maintenance blog post for instructions on how to properly clean and care for cut graphic film, laminated graphic film, wallcoverings, fabric graphics, and floor graphics.

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