How to Protect Clear Vinyl During Fabrication

Clear vinyl can be a delicate and finicky material to work with. It can easily get scratched so extra care should always be taken when sewing, installing, cleaning and storing canvas that includes sheets of clear vinyl. In fact, it’s so easily scratched, DIYers often have a hard time sewing it into dodgers and enclosure panels without damaging the vinyl during fabrication. We’re going to share some quick tips for protecting your clear vinyl while you’re sewing it (plus some bonus tips for storage!).

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Tip 1: Pattern with the Backer Paper

All pressed polished sheets of clear vinyl come rolled with paper. As you unroll your vinyl, leave that sheet of paper underneath. The paper can then act as a buffer between the vinyl and the table top while you measure, pattern and cut your vinyl to size. Then, the paper can also be used to re-roll any excess vinyl for storage.

Tip 2: Cushion Clear Vinyl with Soft Fabric

This second tip is similar to the first, but turns it up a notch. Always keep a layer of a soft fabric between the clear vinyl and the table. This not only keeps the vinyl from getting scratched, but it also makes the vinyl easier to maneuver because the fabric slides on the table better than the vinyl, which can be sticky. You can even leave the fabric under the vinyl while you sew, although you will need to take care to not sew this extra fabric into your project. If you don’t have a tabletop surface to work on and are sewing on the floor, lay a flat bed sheet on the floor underneath your work area to protect the clear vinyl from the floor.

Tip 3: Pay Attention to Scratch Points

A “scratch point” is any sharp object or corner in your work area that could possibly scratch your vinyl as you work and maneuver it around. Be sure to always be aware of where potential scratch points are so they can be avoided. This is also a good practice for when you are transporting your clear vinyl projects to your boat.

Other Tips For Clear Vinyl

  • Don’t leave your clear vinyl rolled up for long periods of time. Storing it stacked with towels in between layers is best. If you must roll it for off-season storage, roll it with a soft sheet or a towel in between the layers of vinyl.
  • Be sure to keep your vinyl clean and protected. Learn more about caring for your vinyl in this How to Clean & Care for Your Clear Vinyl post.
  • When installing your clear vinyl projects on your boat, be sure that the vinyl isn’t resting directly against any of the metal support poles. If you have a spot where the vinyl is touching the metal, you can make a quick anti-scorching divider to protect the clear vinyl.

You can find clear vinyl for your next dodger, enclosure or other project at Sailrite.com.

Do you have any creative ways you’ve devised for keeping clear vinyl scratch free? Share your methods in the comments!

11 comments
  1. Craig said:

    I usually keep my templateing material under it, since it is normally the same shape as as the plastic and ill fold the pattern edge underneath the side im sewing

  2. Mary Ellen Spinar said:

    I cut out the vinyl and the paper together and sew it right into the seam. I don’t remove until installing the windows as it protects the vinyl thru the whole process. It rips right off and leaves an occasional “chad” in a stitch to be pulled out but it’s well worth the clean up to avoid scratches. I carry a pair of tweezers in my tool bag. Other fabricators tape the sunbrella cutout for the vinyl right back over the vinyl for the same reason.

  3. Nikki said:

    Thanks for the great tips, Craig & Mary Ellen!

  4. Cathy said:

    I use plastic bags from the dry cleaners. Cut the bag open, secure the corners. Lay the window/canvas on top, staple to the canvas at the edges, sew through all layers. Then the staples can be removed and the stitching holds the plastic in place until I remove it. Just like Mary Ellen has described.

    • Nikki said:

      That’s an ingenious idea, Cathy! Thanks for sharing.:)

  5. Thank you for your words of advice. Wish we would have read this last summer! We had an infestation of flying ants cover our boat in one of our favorite anchorages. We were desperate to be rid of them so sprayed ‘Off’ and (gulp!) it ruined our vinyl dodger! It now looks like we’re looking through water so has decreased our visibility. So, rather than paying an exorbitant price to have it redone we will likely put up with it for awhile and re-do ourselves one day. Live and learn!!

  6. Cindi said:

    I put a layer of plastic wrap on both sides of cut pieces, remove on final install. Works great for me! No more scratches.

  7. Ray Brulé said:

    All good ideas. One particular scratch point, I’ve found, is the buckle used to secure the two halves of the case. It’s tricky to cover that buckle and not sew the protective material into the vinyl.

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