can you use adhesive vinyl on shirts?

It can be quite overwhelming to dive into the wonderful world of craft vinyl. There are SO many different options to choose from, and if you’re brand new, you probably don’t know where to begin. 

Whether it is adhesive vinyl or heat transfer vinyl, adding it to any project is the perfect way to make cool summer crafts! Perhaps you have a tote bag or a t-shirt laying around that your granny sewed for you? Or a pillow that you bought from a store?

Even plain-o’-socks start to look super spunky once you create beautiful designs on it with vinyl and personalize it for yourself!

There is a common question vinyl crafters ask all the time; which is better adhesive vinyl or heat transfer vinyl? Some people may think adhesive vinyl is better. Just stick it on to your shirt, and there you have it But is it? Let’s find out.

Can You Use Adhesive Vinyl On Shirts?

No. Adhesive vinyl cannot and should not be used on shirts. There is no easy way to get adhesive vinyl to stick to fabrics. The vinyl will likely come off during the wash, and if used on clothes, the constant movement when you wear them will most likely loosen the vinyl.

Adhesive vinyl is very similar to a sticker. One side is sticky, and it is applied onto the surface by merely pushing down to apply pressure. It is not a good choice for fabrics. While it may stick initially, it will not withstand washing and will soon peel off.

Can You Use Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) On Shirts?

Heat Transfer Vinyl is ideal for fabrics, as we are heating the adhesive that glues the vinyl onto the fabric.

The vinyl can be cut, weeded and placed on top of a bag or a T-shirt or any other type of clothing product with the help of a heat press or hot iron. For this reason, people also know this process as Iron-On Transfer.

Some of you will now be worrying about whether the heat transfer vinyl will last or not. Well, let’s find out.

How Long Does Heat Press Vinyl Last?

HTV is quite durable and lasts for a good time if you know how to maintain its qualities! Usually, with precaution and good care, a heat-pressed T-shirt may last for more than 50 washes or so! The heat transfer vinyl may stay intact while the fabric itself gets worn out!

Let’s talk about HTV durability in detail and give you a few secret recipes that will keep your print from getting peeled, cracked or wrinkled.

How Do You Make Heat Transfer Vinyl Last Long?

The following tricks may help you last the vinyl even longer than the fabric itself. These tricks include:

  1. Turning Your Clothes Inside-Out

This simple action gives the garment an extra layer of protection that it needs and keeps it safe in the washing machine. It also helps prevent the clothes from being damaged when rubbed with other clothes during the washing period.

  1. Setting The Water Temperature Right

When it comes to vinyl, the colder, the better. Using higher temperatures might result in peeling/cracking of your favorite prints permanently. So, when you wash a handkerchief or a T-shirt with heat transfer vinyl prints, choose cold or at least medium-warm temperature.

  1. Hanging-Dry

It’s best to let the fabric air-dry itself as vinyl doesn’t like high heat. Lay them on a drying rack, and with the help of natural resources, the fabric will be all dried up in just a few hours!

  1. Using Mild Detergent

Mix water and mild soap in a container and use a soft, non-abrasive tool to clean vinyl clothes.

What Should I Avoid While Using Heat Transfer Vinyl On Clothes?

With great power comes great responsibility. Well, vinyl may make everything outshine that regular white shirt of yours, but there are a few things to avoid when working with vinyl.

  1. Do NOT Iron

We may have mentioned this before, but again vinyl doesn’t like heat. The heat from an ironing machine is too much for HTV printed cloth. That’s why it’s better to turn the shirt inside out before ironing. You can also put a protective layer between the fabric and the iron for the best result.

  1. Dry-Cleaning Is A Big NO-NO

Vinyl adhesive system isn’t that much up to the mark. It is strongly recommended NOT to put your vinyl-printed T-shirt in the dryer. Use a natural source such as the sun or wind instead.

  1. Keep Away From Bleach

Bleach is vinyl’s biggest enemy. If you’re thinking about cleaning that yellow spot on your T-shirt from the peri-peri sauce from Nando’s you ate last night by dousing it in bleach, then I’ll have to stop you right there. 

Bleach contains harmful chemicals that react with vinyl and make it lose its strength.

  1. Avoid Using Fabric Softener

It’s recommended to ditch all sorts of fabric softeners while washing iron-on clothes. Any fabric softener used on the vinyl printed garment will end up stripping up your shirt altogether!

Why Heat Transfer Vinyl Is Best For Shirts?

A few reasons for HTV being the best option to design your shirts or any other fabric are,

  • Vinyl is a strong material that can easily handle even your messy fabric handling habits.
  • The material doesn’t shrink after washing nor deform in any way when exposed to heat or moisture.
Click on the picture if you want to look at the HTV I liked on Amazon.


The decision to use heat transfer vinyl or adhesive vinyl comes down to the type of project you wish to make. If your project is fabric-based, then heat transfer vinyl is more suited. But for hard surface-based, adhesive vinyl is more fitting.

Heat transfer vinyl usually is very durable as compared to adhesive vinyl. And most of the time, good quality vinyl can last longer than the shirt itself.

Still, there are specific criteria to follow if you truly want your vinyl to last that long. As mentioned in the article, you will have to take proper care of the fabric, follow the do’s and don’ts and your masterpiece vinyl will last a long time.