Graphic Failure – Low or No V.O.C. Paints

Uh Oh!! – Graphic Failure? Low or No VOC paints are likely the culprit and are here to stay.

I still see the problem occurring as a new one to PSP’s as well as installers leading to a frustrated customer. With open communication between vendor, client, and installer this should not pose a threat to future projects in most situations with some simple wall prep.

The first time I experienced the wrath of the VOC paint was 2013. It was a premium 3m film that had been used for years prior on many surfaces and finishes of paint. This was our go to wall graphic vinyl. My customer called in a panic and explained the graphic is “falling” off the wall after 24 hours of installation. I gathered the 411 and eliminated the usual suspects. Next, I asked if the contractor left the paint can for touch up. He did so my customer took a picture of it. There it was in the photograph “Low VOC Latex”. I shook my head with disgust and went on to find a solution.

  • What are V.O.C.’s?? Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted by different gases and solids found in paints. According to the EPA, levels of select organic pollutants were found to be 2 to 5 times higher inside a home than outside it. That’s why it’s important to choose low and zero VOC products. It’s especially important when selecting paint as it remains in the home for several years.
  • Why do VOC’s want to rain on my parade? I like to write articles like this to help refine my own knowledge (plus I hate sleep). I could not come up with a definitive answer. Only the following… Paint formulations are trade secrets. That makes it difficult for film suppliers understand why the adhesion is effected. It seems like the paint dries with a teflon like surface. Great for wiping crayons off the wall from your kids though!
  • The Solution: 3M™ Enhanced Adhesion Cleaning Method. Clean an area on the wall TWICE with a mixture of 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and 30 percent water. Allow the solution for flash off prior to graphic installation. While this is not an answer to every scenario. It will increase adhesion characteristics of a wall to prevent graphic failure.

As you could imagine wiping paint with a solution of alcohol and water on your gloss or semi gloss painted wall can effect the sheen of it. Trying to do this with a spot graphic would be challenging. Perhaps offering a mechanically fastened graphic would be a better option.

Also, please note that different colors naturally create more or less VOC in the paint. If you prep and successfully install a graphic on a beige wall, the same prep may not work on a Blue color from the same manufacturer.


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