Heat Transfer Vinyl Durability

Heat Transfer Vinyl Durability: How Long Does It Last?

Any DIY hobbyist knows how handy HTV or Heat Transfer Vinyl is when it comes to personalizing crafts.

Whether it be adding a monogram to a tee, putting a quote on cushions, or sprucing up table mats with border patterns, HTV is the most effective way to bring creativity to mundane things at home.

But, how long does the artwork made from HTV last? Is it a reliable material or another temporary crafting tool?

In this article, we put the heat transfer vinyl durability to the test. We’ll be going through the properties of this material that make it durable, how long it actually lasts, and some tips on how to preserve your art for longer.

Before getting into all that, let’s look at what heat transfer vinyl really means.

What Is a Heat Transfer Vinyl?

What Is a Heat Transfer Vinyl

Heat Transfer Vinyl, or HTV for short, is a vinyl polymer used for a number of purposes, usually revolving around decorative, artistic, or commercial use.

Its most common use is on clothing, where it is cut into designs and patterns with a machine and applied with a heat press.

Out of its packaging, heat transfer vinyl has an adhesive or “sticky” side and a matte side. It can come in a roll or as individual sheets.

The matte side is where the cuttings are made. After inputting the desired pattern or design onto a vinyl cutter machine, the device makes a cutout of the outline of the design.

Then, the excess vinyl (parts that are not part of the design) are picked off using a weeding tool.

After cutting and weeding the vinyl, the cutouts of the design are laid out onto the fabric of choice carefully. Then, a heat press or hot iron is used to “transfer” the design onto the fabric.

There are many variations of heat transfer vinyl that are widely available in crafts stores. You can choose between an endless array of colors, patterns, sizes, and textures.

Some brands even offer pre-cut HTVs that only need to be weeded.

What Makes Heat Transfer Vinyl So Durable?

What Makes Heat Transfer Vinyl So Durable

The sole reason why HTV is so durable and is widely used to make long-lasting designs is its vinyl material. Vinyl holds several properties that allow it to maintain its structure for a long time.

Here are a few notable qualities of vinyl –

  • It has a strong structure that returns to its original shape even after wrinkling, washing, drying, etc.
  • Even with harsh heat and weather conditions, the material maintains its smooth, blemish-free, and wrinkle-free texture.
  • Since it’s a synthetic material, it repels moisture, humidity, and harsh heat that may damage its texture.
  • As it provides protection against heat, moisture, and humidity, the color of the vinyl stays vibrant for a long time.
  • Due to its synthetic nature, vinyl can be made in combination with other materials. There are many variations of vinyl available for different purposes that require different levels of durability.
  • Even with poor garment handling, the vinyl is able to maintain its structure for a long time without shrinking or deforming.

In the fashion industry, vinyl is used a lot to add designs to clothes used regularly. A specific kind of clothing is loungewear.

Vinyl designs and patterns are common on sweatshirts, t-shirts, hoodies, and even pajamas. This is because loungewear is worn regularly and is exposed to heat, moisture, humidity, and poor handling the most.

So, to combat these damaging conditions, vinyl is used to make the patterns last as long as possible.

How Long Does Heat Transfer Vinyl Last on Shirts?

How Long Does Heat Transfer Vinyl Last on Shirts

Although heat transfer vinyl is pretty durable in comparison to other materials used for designs on fabric, it does wear down at some point.

To summarize our point in the previous subtopic, vinyl is synthetic, preventing it from losing structure due to heat, moisture, or humidity exposure.

It can maintain its structure and not deform, wrinkle, or shrink over time. But, this all depends on the application process.

Usually, a roll or stack of heat transfer vinyl will come with its own set of instructions for applying on fabric.

These instructions are common and are sometimes identical to other heat transfer vinyl brands. But some HTVs can have a different temperature at which it sets.

The type of HTV you’re using may have a heat press temperature that is higher or lower than most HTVs.

Because of this, it’s crucial you check the instructions provided by the manufacturer and apply the HTV according to it.

In cases where the wrong heat is used, the vinyl will simply fail to bind to the fabric and shrivel up or damage the fabric itself.

On average, a properly heat-pressed vinyl design will last about 50 washes at max. Given that you take care of the fabric and handle it cautiously, it may last even longer.

Most vinyl designs stay as they are while the fabric wears out, but this depends on the quality.

You can’t expect to achieve amazing results with low-quality HTV. We recommend going for a brand that’s been around for a long time and is proven to be reliable.

This will ensure the longevity of your design, making the slightly extra cost worth it.

Vinyl vs Screen Printing Durability

Vinyl vs Screen Printing Durability

We already know what vinyl does, but what about screen printing? Screen printing, to put it simply, is a traditional method of adding designs to fabric.

Each layer of color is inside individual screens and used one at a time on the desired fabric. The ink from the screen then stains the fabric to make the design.

So, which lasts longer? Vinyl or screen printing? Here are a few things you should know about the durability of both these methods –


When comparing color vibrance over time, vinyl is the safest bet. This is because vinyl protects against humidity, moisture, heat, and other damaging conditions that tend to wear out the color. So, color in vinyl designs lasts much longer.

However, with screen printing, the vibrance of the colors depends on the quality of the ink. If the ink isn’t long-lasting, the color will fade out much quicker.

Plus, vinyl goes through peeling, which can be fixed. But with screen printing, once the colors wash away, there’s no way to reverse it except to have it redesigned.

Fabric Range

Again, vinyl takes the cake on this one. Heat transfer vinyl can be used on a vast range of fabrics. Whether it be polyester, cotton, canvas, or other blends of fabrics, vinyl can be applied with heat.

The vinyl can easily bind to almost any type of fabric without shrinking, wrinkling, or deforming.

Screen printing is also a versatile form of design making. However, since it has limited longevity, the designs made from screen printing wear off pretty quickly.


The durability of vinyl during washes depends on its adhesiveness. Good quality heat transfer vinyl will have strong adhesive backings that can bind to fabrics with greater force.

This will prevent the design from peeling, cracking, or wrinkling during washes.

As we’ve already covered, the longevity of screen-printing designs will depend on the quality of the ink. If the ink is too permeable to water, it will fade with a couple of washes.

But if the ink is of good quality, the design can last a lifetime (with minor fading).

How to Choose HTV for Long Lasting?

How to Choose HTV for Long Lasting

Now that you know all the qualities that make heat transfer vinyl durable and long-lasting, it’s time to get into what actually to look for while buying HTV.

As we’ve already mentioned, the longevity of the HTV depends on the quality of the material.

So, what makes a roll or stack of HTV “good quality”? Here are some points to remember –

1. Adhesiveness

The stronger the adhesive backing of the HTV is, the longer it will last. This is due to the strength at which the backing sticks to the fabric.

If there is weak bonding between the adhesive backing and the fabric, you will notice the vinyl peeling off or cracking after washing.

So, go for an HTV that has good adhesiveness.

2. Fabric Binding

There are a large number of HTV types out there. Stretch, silicone, flock, subli-dye blocker, foil, reflective, glitter HTV… the list goes on and on.

The point is not every HTV type is well suited for your DIY needs as it will not bind to every type of material.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re planning to use HTV on t-shirts. For the results to turn out satisfactory, you need a t-shirt HTV.

T-shirt HTV is formulated to bind onto fabrics that regular t-shirts are made of, such as cotton. Using specifically formulated HTVs will help the design last much longer.

3. Brand

Yes, the label on the HTV you use does matter a lot. New and inexperienced brands which produce HTV are likely to be of poor quality. This is because the brand is relatively small and is unable to produce well-formulated HTVs.

Brands that have been around for longer have already perfected their formulas and have proven to be reliable. That is why it’s highly recommended for DIY hobbyists to purchase from well-known brands.

Sure, the price might be a bit higher than smaller brands of HTV, but the quality makes it worth it.

4. Washing Machine Safe

Even if you don’t own a washing machine, try to get an HTV that is washing machine safe.

We all know already that the synthetic nature of HTV allows it to repel damage from heat, humidity, and moisture.

But, a washing machine-safe HTV has higher protection from these damaging conditions, enabling it to be more durable.

So, if you want your designs to last a long time, consider going for HTV that’s safe to go in the washer.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I heat press on my old t-shirts?

Yes, you can use a heat press on old t-shirts. However, the etiquette of heat pressing on shirts at home is slightly different.

It’s recommended that before you begin pressing on the vinyl, heat press the shirt for about 5 seconds. This helps to get rid of any moisture that might interfere with the vinyl binding onto the fabric.

2. Can you wash heat transfer vinyl?

With proper care and handling, heat transfer vinyl can last about 50 washes before it starts to show the signs of wearing out. To avoid this, try to wash the clothing by hand rather than by machine.

Turn the shirt inside out before washing to limit rubbing on the design. And of course, use a washing machine safe HTV.

3. Why does some vinyl start peeling just after being printed?

It’s because the vinyl is not being ironed on properly. When you add too much or too less of heat, the vinyl starts to curl and lift from the fabric.

You also need to consider if you’re pressing on for too long or lifting the heat press too quickly.

To be on the safe side, do as it says on the instructions provided by the manufacturers of the HTV you’re using.

Final Words

To summarize, heat transfer vinyl durability is definitely impressive, but it all depends on the kind of HTV you’re using and its application process.

It won’t matter how high quality or reliable the HTV label is if you’re doing the heat pressing wrong. So, be cautious of the instructions at all times.

HTV itself is a fairly durable material. It takes a lot for the material to lose its shape or deform beyond repair. Basically, there’s almost no room for mistakes with this one.

But to be extra safe, always wash the fabric inside out and by hand, limit the use of ironing tools, and try to rub on the design as little as possible.