Clean and tidy: how to make floor graphics last

You might well have been inundated with orders for floor graphics, as transport hubs, retailers – even entire shopping streets, in some cases – bring in social distancing measures. Until fairly recently floor graphics have typically been used for applications like trade shows and promotional campaigns – short-term projects where the impact was more important than longevity. But now customers and print professionals are having to think more about how floor graphics can withstand heavy foot traffic for weeks or months without tearing or curling at the edges.


Choosing the right product 


The right solution for the job (and that could include the floor graphic vinyl, the ink, an over-laminate film and a specialist adhesive) will depend on its location. There are a lots of things to consider, but it's largely down to understanding the surface. Is it porous or impermeable? Is it outdoors or indoors? Is it on a slope? Will it get wet? It's essential to use the correct solution to make sure it won't create a slipping or tripping hazard, which is obviously dangerous for the public but also a legal consideration for your client. Get advice from a trusted manufacturer or supplier who specialises in floor graphics products to make sure you use the right combination. 


Removing old graphics 


Now you're on site with the printed floor decal, it's not just a case of sticking it on the ground - in fact, a preliminary site visit is recommended well beforehand to ascertain the conditions. You have to prepare the surface for the best, long-lasting adhesion and that may require removing old graphics. This can be the trickiest part, especially if they've been in place for a long time, or have been exposed to sunlight or were installed with a strong adhesive. Work with a heat gun to gently soften the adhesive and remove the vinyl, and use specialist a glue remover if needed, remembering to check the label to make sure it won't damage your new decal. 


Cleaning thoroughly 


The adhesion of your decal is only as good as the cleaning you do first. Once you've removed any old graphics or excess glue, use standard floor cleaner or a specialist product to clean the surface. Then, clean it again with an isopropyl alcohol (IPA) cleaner to remove oil or anything else that would stop the adhesive bonding properly. Next, make sure it's dry. If you're working outdoors a clean, dry surface is just as important as indoors but more difficult to achieve, so invest some time in this.


Installing the new floor graphic


Now your surface is clean and dry, it's time to apply the graphic – but take your time to get the best results. Slowly remove the liner, starting from one side or end of the decal, and use a squeegee to carefully apply the vinyl to the surface. Look out for steps and ridges between tiles or floorboards, or kinks or dents. For especially uneven surfaces, particularly outdoor surfaces like concrete, brick and asphalt, you may find it easier to use a heat gun to soften the vinyl and foam rollers instead of a squeegee. These tools will help mould the vinyl around the contours of the surface.


Now your floor graphic is installed properly, it should last for the duration of the project – with no trips or slips.