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Repairing Damage to Vinyl Areas Print E-mail

In the middle of December I became the owner of 3 inflatables that had been vandalized:  A 6' rotating globe, a 6' snow globe, and an 8' carousel.

The 2 globes were both slashed across the front, through the clear vinyl.  The cuts were nearly 5 feet long, and for the most part 'clean' - that is the cut was not jagged.  I tried multiple ways of repairing them:

Clear packing tape worked well, but it's not weather proof.  The first rain caused the tape to pop off.  Per a suggestion, I tried to find clear 3M VHB (very high bond) tape.  I eventually found it from one company, but when it arrived, the tape was nothing like I needed.  It turned out to be double sided tape used to hold things like heat sinks to electrical parts, etc.  I'm quite sure the clear packing-tape-like VHB tape exists, but I could not find it.  I even talked with 3M's technical support people who couldn't come up with a tape that did what I wanted.

I then turned my attention to trying to use a vinyl patch kit similar to what is used for pool liners.  I ordered 2 kits from eBay, but they too were not what I needed when they arrived.  The patch material wasn't really 'clear'.  Yes, it was clear when placed directly on top of something, but the texture of the patch made it opaque a few inches away.  Since we are talking about something that must be 'seen through', the repair material needs to be CRYSTAL clear.

I went to my local KMart and purchased a vinyl table cloth, figuring I could use that as my patch material.  However, the table cloth was far too thin - it actually turned into a goop when I tried the vinyl 'glue' on it.

I then turned to clear freezer bags as material.  However, since they are not made with vinyl, the glue does not stick/react with them. 

Finally, I went to a JoAnn fabrics store, where I purchased 2 of feet of 16ga vinyl.  It's nice and thick, a little thicker than even the snow globe vinyl.  SUCCESS!

Clear Vinyl Repair:

This is what worked for me.  This may or may not work for you.  The solvent used here could be dangerous:  work with ample ventilation, be sure to wear protective gear, rubber (NOT vinyl!) gloves, as well as eye protection!  This repair will not work unless BOTH the patch and what you are repairing are made of vinyl.

Secure the patch material and the 'glue'.  I used 16ga vinyl from JoAnn fabrics, but you should be able to get it at any fabric store.  16ga seemed to work great for me, but you should NOT go thinner. 

I used a Cyclohexanone based adhesive for this repair.  I recommend it over others since it's not actually an adhesive at all, but a solvent.  Instead of 'gluing' the vinyl, it partially 'melts' it.  When it all cures the vinyl has 'welded' itself.  Cylcohexanone also does NOT react with many other plastics - something we will exploit during the repair.  The glue I used came with a vinyl pool repair kit.

Since I was repairing long cuts, I Cut the vinyl into manageable length strips, all 2 1/2" wide.  You could try to go narrower here, but remember:  Less surface area = weaker repair.  The easiest way to cut the vinyl is with a sharp razer knife and a straight edge.  Of course, you can shape the patch to whatever shape it is that you are trying to repair.  If it's a round hole, make it round, or create a custom patch based on your damage.  The longest patch I would recommend is about 2 ft long.  After that, it gets to be unmanageable.  Remember, you can't fold this back on itself like you would book wall paper.

Cut the patch to length, plus at least 1 inch on each side.  You want the patch to start before the damage, and end after it.  Be sure to round off the corners of the patch which will make it stronger and more difficult to 'peel' off.  If you are working with cuts longer than 2 feet, you'll need multiple patches.

If you need to use multiple patches, try to consider where those patches will be in relation to what is 'inside' the globe.  For instance, it may be better to use 3 patches instead of 2 if that means the overlapped area is not going to be directly in front of a character's face, etc.  In general, you want whole patches in the center and overlapped areas to the sides - if possible.
Cut a couple of freezer bags down the side and then across the bottom (so they open up flat).  Place them inside the globe, under the area to be repaired.  Since the adhesive does not react with the type of plastic used in the freezer bag, We are using it to protect the other areas of the globe from the glue.
Work the globe so the area to be repaired is as flat as possible with the damage touching.  You won't get it completely flat since this is a sphere we are working on, but you can get close.  You may want to use clamps to hold everything down.  A helper is a big asset here:  He can stretch and manipulate things getting the damage to line up while you apply the patch.


Clean the area to be repaired with rubbing alcohol.  Clean the patch as well and allow both to dry.  Try not to touch them without gloves on - the oils from your hands will make the repair weaker.

Apply the adhesive to the patch using a solvent brush.  Apply the adhesive down the length of the patch and use the brush to ensure it goes all the way to the edge.  Try to work quickly here so the solvent doesn't sit in just the center for too long:  You want the entire patch activated with the adhesive for around the same length of time.
Apply the patch to the damaged area.  DON'T press down hard!  Right now you just want to get the patch on the globe, and the 2 halves aligned as best as possible.  Start at one end and lightly apply the patch.  Try to align it before it touches the globe.  Work from one end to the other.

Once the patch is applied, LIGHTLY work the adhesive around that is under the patch.  The idea here is that you want to move some of that glue from the patch onto the globe where it will activate the vinyl there.  Pushing too hard will force the glue out, and not doing this step will result in poor adhesion.  Work from the center out to the edges.

After a few minutes, LIGHTLY 'work' the repair area -- I used a wall paper seam roller.  Try to get as many bubbles out as you can, but remember that since this is a sphere and you are doing the repairs flat, you can never get ALL the bubbles/folds out.  Beware that since the glue partially melts the vinyl things will be a bit delicate.  If you over-work the repair area the vinyl patch or the globe itself will stretch causing MORE pleats and bubbles.  All you want here is to make sure that the patch is attached to the vinyl. 
Allow the repair to 'cure' for about 1/2 hour or so, then carefully remove the freezer bag.  It's best to reach in and fold the bag back on itself so you don't get glue on the rest of the globe.  It's important to get those protective bags out since they hold onto extra glue that leaked from the seam.  The longer that extra glue is in contact with the vinyl, the weaker the vinyl becomes.  HOWEVER, try not to disturb the repair area - we want the whole thing to set up nicely.

Wait 24 hours before inflating and checking your work.  Don't be surprised if you have a couple of areas that didn't fully adhere or you have some small air leaks.  For non-snowing type globes small leaks are perfectly fine.  There is enough pressure coming from the inflation fan that a few small leaks are no big deal.

If however your repair was on a snow-globe, you'll need to do a bit more work on those leaks.  The small pellets used in snow globes will find their way out of a leak.  Examine each leak carefully to see what the best way to repair it will be. 

Small pleats that form on the inside of the snow globe are usually easily repaired with a bit more glue and a clothes pin to hold the pleat together.  For flat areas, simply use a bit more glue and then stack something heavy on top of the repaired area.

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