Remember When Squeegees Were Plastic?

In the early day of cut lettering, the four-inch plastic squeegee was the most-used tool in the business. However they were just a cheap plastic mold—so cheap that many pressure-sensitive vinyl (PSV) manufacturers went ahead and put them in with the rolls of vinyl they sold you.

In our current era (where tools are the most valued assets in your shop), you have a huge array of squeegees to choose from. Yes you’ll still find those cheap, plastic four-inch squeegees today, but there are also six-inch and twelve-inch sizes too.

Our industry has cheap plastic to premium plastics to nylon blends to rubberized and even magnetic and aluminum squeegees—all for applying PSV and printed vinyl graphics faster, safer, and easier.

Labor is still the biggest cost in a graphics shop today. So having the right tools to do your job faster is invaluable and is typically paid for multiple times (all while lowering your labor costs per job)!

What you may not be aware of is that your squeegees can actually make you more money and that having just one squeegee to use is akin to working in the Stone Age.

Today shops have a multitude of squeegees for use. Some are dedicated to indoor use or initial application tapes and finishing, while others are designed for vehicle wraps and still others are dedicated for window applications and/or building applications.

In this article, we’ll look at many of the different types of squeegees that are available, rate how difficult they are to use, and point out the applications for which they exist today.

Squeegee3Polyethylene Plastic Squeegee

This is the cheap four-inch plastic squeegee our industry has always had, but as mentioned earlier, they’re also now available in six- and twelve-inch widths. These squeegees are designed to be a low-cost, disposable tool and are often times given to buyers with the graphics for those wishing to install themselves or as part of a graphics kit that’s sold to various buyers.

They’re ideal for vinyl, film, graphics, tape, silk screen, and pressure-sensitive applications.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 0 (super simple)

Select for this Application Type: Giveaway to clients, any application

Nylon and Nylon Blend Squeegee

Similar in shape and sizes to the cheap polyethylene squeegee, the nylon type squeegees are designed to be much more durable, giving longer life/use. They are also higher in cost (averaging three to four times the cost of a cheap plastic squeegee).

This squeegee is ideal for most medium and heavyweight films, graphics, vinyl, tapes, silk screen, and PSA needs.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 0 (super simple)

Application Type: Shop use; heavy use; maximum pressure

Squeegee Brayer

This is a unique squeegee with a blade edge on one side and a roller edge on the other side. This squeegee is designed to give you both options—typical squeegee use on one side and a completely “no friction” roller applicator on the other side. The brayer side (roller side) eliminates any drag or friction across your graphics. This is one way of eliminating scratches all together.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 2 (simple to learn)

Application Type: No scratches; multiple layers; banner hem tapes

Squeegee2Magnet Squeegee

This squeegee is unique as well, as it’s a rigid plastic squeegee that has very strong magnets embedded in it for use on metal or vehicle applications.

Some installers like to have their application tools in front of them at all times during an install. The magnet squeegee will stick to the metal body of a vehicle and not fall off, keeping your squeegee right in front of you at all times during your work. It can also be used to hold up your graphics in the initial stages of graphics application.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use)

Application Type: Vehicles; metals

Teflon Squeegee

The Teflon squeegee is extremely rigid, which helps eliminate cupping. The Teflon will not allow cyanoacrylates (super glue) or other industrial adhesives to adhere to its blades. It also gives the best slide across most PSV film surfaces. Less drag gives you an easier application with much less fatigue during use.

Teflon increases the price further but is worth every penny for its features and benefits.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use)

Application Type: Pressure-sensitive vinyls

Felt & Felt Edge Squeegee

This type of tool is typically a polyethylene squeegee with a glued-on felt edge or a solid felt block to give a similar smooth easy glide across PSV film surfaces. This is not a scratch-free product when used aggressively, but it does reduce friction similarly to a Teflon squeegee (and with a slightly lower cost in comparison).

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 3 (need to learn, so there are no scratches)

Application Type: Minimal scratches

WetEdge™ Squeegee

This is truly the vehicle wrap squeegee! The WetEdge™ squeegee is a Teflon squeegee with two layers of ultra-suede microfiber on one edge (looks similar to a felt squeegee but far more superior). The WetEdge squeegee offers ten-plus-times the durability of a felt edge squeegee.

The ultra-suede is used for its durability (they make leather jackets and furniture out of ultra-suede) and the microfiber because the fibers are so fine it offers absolutely no scratches.

It is called the WetEdge because most installers and vehicle wrappers will spray the fabric side with water or application fluid making the fabric edge moist. This gives the most amazing glide across a PSV films surface. It makes vehicle wraps easier than any other tool in the industry.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 1 (simple to use)

Application Type: Vehicle wraps; boats; motorcycles; no scratches

The Big Squeegee

This curved plastic tool also comes in various sizes. These are made in different types for different uses from application to hand lamination. The different sizes and types of tools require you to choose the right tool for the job.

The Big Squeegee line of tools can replace the need for a powered laminator in most small shops. (Note: They are a good addition to a shop, even one with a powered laminator.)

They make it easier to laminate small graphics and can reduce waste by not having to change the roll in the power laminator to do an odd job.

Most small jobs can be done faster and easier with the Big Squeegee than with a roll laminator.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 5 (requires some learning on how to use)

Application Type: Large graphic installs; laminating small graphics

Alumalite® Squeegees

The best of the best for a rigid squeegee. Available in several sizes (from eight inches wide up to fifty inches wide), the Alumalite® squeegees are all-aluminum and rigid as can be (regardless of width). The edges are all covered with felt to eliminate scratching and give great slide across PSV films.

One of the more unique features is how fast you can work with this line of squeegees. You can apply the graphic while removing the liner all at the same time. You can also take an hours’ worth of window graphics applications down to about ten minutes. (I’ve seen it myself!)

While these are considered a more expensive tool than your average squeegee, they pay for themselves relatively quickly and can make your install faster than you imagined.

Difficulty to Use Rating (0-5): 2 (simple to use)

Application Type: Large graphic installs; windows; building wraps; vehicles; floor graphics

Conclusion

In today’s graphics market, you can work hard or you can work smart. Working with multiple squeegees for multiple applications and installations is working smart, so you can choose how much harder you want to work on other aspects of the job.

The bottom line: You’re better off knowing about and utilizing many of the aforementioned squeegee products, so as to get your vinyl job completed faster, safer, and easier!

By Dave Harris, vice president/general manager of ImageOne Impact.

All photos: ImageOne Impact


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