What You Need to Know About Craft Vinyl
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a common material used for crafting and is also found in apparel manufacturing, plumbing, flooring and many other household products and materials. Colored sheets of craft vinyl are also used for a variety of craft projects, and vinyl tablecloths are often upcycled into purses and tote bags. Vegan crafters may opt to use vinyl as a substitute for leather as well. It’s also waterproof, flexible and versatile, which makes it a desirable material for many craft projects.
So, what’s the problem? Despite its wide use, vinyl is a highly-toxic plastic that has been linked to many illnesses and is responsible for an abundance of environmental pollution.
Learn more about the devastating effects of PVC on the environment and our health, then find out where you can go to get eco-friendly alternatives.
Vinyl cutting is a fast growing niche in the arts and crafts market. It’s typically used with a Cricut or Silhouette Cameo machine to create decals, apparel, stencils, graphics and more.
ORACAL 631, a type of removable matte vinyl, is one of the more popular vinyl types used for these types of crafts. Generally, people use ORACAL 631 to make stencils, labels, window clings, removable wall décor and other temporary crafts.
ORACAL 651, or permanent vinyl, uses an adhesive and has a variety of craft uses. ORACAL 651 is commonly used for outdoor crafts due to its weather-resistant qualities, such as car decals, exterior windows or signs, and wood signs.
Heat-transfer vinyl, or “iron-on” vinyl, is used for fabric projects. HTV comes in a variety of colors and is often used to decorate shirts, dresses, felt, makeup bags, purses, socks, stuffed animals and other fabric projects.
These vinyl types come in a range of colors and often include embellishments such as glitter to enhance their look. Unfortunately, these appealing qualities for vinyl in crafting have a devastating effect on the environment.
The Harmful Effects of PVC
Plastic pollution is a huge problem for our oceans and marine life, and that includes the plastic in PVC. During manufacturing, use and disposal of vinyl, the substance emits a toxic chemical, dioxin, which is easily absorbed by the body and stored in the fatty tissue.
In animals, dioxin is stored and makes its way up the food chain, reaching its highest concentrations in the apex predators. Humans absorb this chemical through contact with vinyl, as well as through the affected food we eat.
Dioxin is known to be a toxic chemical, but it’s also been linked to illnesses of many vital systems, such as the reproductive and immune systems. It’s also been proven to cause cancer in lab animals and is classified as a human carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition to dioxin, vinyl also emits phthalates during use, which is another potentially carcinogenic toxin that affects several vital systems. Phthalates are found in all plastics, but they’re specifically used in PVC as a plasticizer to increase the transparency, durability, longevity and flexibility – the exact traits that make vinyl so attractive to crafters.
Using PVC Craft Vinyl With Laser Cutting Machines
Another concern of working with PVC in crafting is the growing popularity of laser cutting plotters, like Gloforge and Muse, which are common for home crafting. These machines are used for cutting paper, felt, fabric, metals, wood, and other materials.
Unfortunately, there are two significant risks to using a laser cutter with PVC:
- PVC can damage the machine. Cutting into PVC, pleather and artificial leather can ruin the optics, cause the metal to corrode and ruin the motion-control system, rendering a valuable machine useless.
- PVC emits pure chlorine gas when it’s cut. Chlorine gas is a poisonous gas and pulmonary irritant that can cause acute damage to the upper and lower respiratory tract. (It was even used as a chemical weapon during World War I.)
Learn more about general laser safety and laser-safe craft materials here.
Eco-Friendly, Non-Toxic Vinyl from the UK
Craft vinyl is highly popular, and until recently, there haven’t been many green options for crafters. At Eco-Friendly Crafts, we’re committed to providing you with high-quality, easy-to-use craft supplies that help to save the environment. Providing you with eco-friendly, PVC-free, self-adhesive vinyl has been a top priority, and we’re in the process of bringing some truly innovative products to the United States.
Our new craft vinyl is eco-friendly and completely PVC-free. It’s missing chlorine, the ingredient that is responsible for the dangerous dioxins that PVC emits. The absence of chlorine renders the life cycle environmental impact of vinyl less harmful and toxic than its chlorine counterparts, finally giving crafters a viable option for the versatility of vinyl without the environmental toll.
These vinyls are safe for use with children’s toys and crafts, food packaging and other vinyl crafts. They’re also preferred by the nuclear industry for labeling pipelines, due to the non-corrosive nature.
The new vinyl comes in matte or gloss, as well as a wide range of color options, so you’re sure to have the color you need for your unique craft project. This vinyl is also safe for use with your Cricut or Silhouette machine, since it has similar properties to conventional craft vinyl.
While the color range for pvc-free vinyl film is limited when compared to its more toxic alternative, we are able to print custom patterns and colors on demand.
Check out our pvc-free vinyl here.
Heat-Transfer Vinyl for Infant Wear
If you’re looking to personalize your projects, heat-transfer vinyl is the fastest and easiest way to do it. It can be used on a variety of fabric crafts, from clothing to purses to stuffed animals.
Unfortunately, many types heat-transfer vinyl has the same toxic properties as other types of vinyl, which can become a serious problem when dealing with projects for children. That small bit of adornment isn’t worth the potential health consequences.
Stahls’ HTV, however, is a heat-transfer vinyl CPSIA Certified as safe for use on infant wear. This means it has been independently lab-tested to ensure it’s phthalate- and lead-free, making it completely safe for children’s clothing. While it’s not quite as eco-friendly as plant based sign vinyl, it’s one that we feel is safe enough to carry. As always, we’ll be on the lookout and update our product lines as better alternatives hit the market. The majority of our HTV line is also laser cutter safe. Please reach out if you'd like more information on which ones are best for your projects and machines.
Go Green with Eco-Friendly Crafts
Going green shouldn’t mean sacrificing quality, but with our PVC-free, non-toxic vinyl, you can enjoy all your vinyl crafts without worrying about contributing to plastic pollution. Shop our full line of PVC-free vinyl and check out our other collections of eco-friendly craft supplies today!
Trying out our vinyl? Tag us on Instagram @ecofriendlycrafting and let us know what you think! Want product updates as our vinyl line launches? Sign up here for a chance to be a tester for the new line!
- EcoFriendlyCrafts Admin