The Ultimate Guide: Sealing HTV (Iron On Vinyl) on Wood Projects

Have you ever tried ironing vinyl onto wood? If you haven’t you should check out my guide. I did a series of 18 tests to find out how both Siser Easyweed HTV and Cricut Everyday Iron On vinyl adhere to painted, stained, unfinished, and finished wood.

But what about after the vinyl is on? What if the project needs to withstand some wear and tear?There must be a sealer for that right?

Right. There is.

What Has & Hasn’t Worked

Some of the projects I have ironed vinyl lettering on in the past needed to withstand some serious wear and tear. First and foremost – my daughter’s learning tower. After I put iron on lettering onto it I literally nearly closed my eyes as I brushed polycrylic finish overtop of the vinyl.

I knew I needed to seal the design because I’d have to wash the stool multiple times a day. Toddlers are messy. This was the last step after all my hard work building and finishing the stand, so I held my breath, brushed on the finish, and literally sat there watching it dry. Nothing happened (that’s what I was hoping for) so a couple of hours later I added another coat and then a third. The design has still held up perfectly.

My very first iron on project was a crib board that my husband made for a friend. It was right after I got my Cricut and I excitedly applied the iron on design. Lo and behold it worked well, but then I sprayed on a coat of Lacquer and gradually the design began to peel.

Needless to say I was pretty ticked as I scraped off my design, sanded the residue and vowed I’d never iron again.

In the end I painted the design on

But then I got curious again because a flawless iron on design looks like paint and takes a fraction of the time to apply. So here I am. Determined to find out what I can use to properly seal my iron on vinyl onto wood.

The Experiments

I knew I wanted to try my favourite finishes with this project. I think they are also the most common ones: spray lacquer, spray shellac, brushed on shellac, brushed on polycrylic, polyurethane, and I threw in mod podge because I figured it wouldn’t damage the iron on. I wanted to cover all my bases and hopefully some of yours.

Below in table format is my results. The iron on designs I was sealing over weren’t all perfectly adhered. Some of them were well adhered, but others were slightly wrinkled or peeling, but honestly this is the reality of ironing onto wood sometimes. it’s not always perfect. So I left the imperfect designs in so you can see for yourself what happened.

I’ve used the ☒ symbol to denote if the design peeled from the sealer and the ✓ to denote when the sealer didn’t affect the vinyl. I also added notes in specific cases.


My results may not be the same as yours, like I said not all my vinyl was perfectly adhered. If you have any tricks you think I should try for sealing HTV let me know in the comment section. I’d love to hear from you.

Spray Lacquer ✓ on a well adhered design on unfinished wood
☒ started to lift a design that wasn’t well adhered to interior enamel painted wood
Polyurethane ✓ on a well adhered design on unfinished wood
Spray Shellac ✓ Cricut design well adhered to stained wood
☒ Siser design well adhered to same piece of stained wood
Brush on Shellac ✓ on well adhered and poorly adhered designs on acrylic painted wood
Brush on Polycrylic ✓ on well adhered designs on acrylic painted wood
Mod Podge ✓ well adhered design to interior enamel painted wood

Spray Laquer

The purple Siser design began to peel slightly, but it wasn’t very well adhered to begin with.


Spray Shellac

The Siser design started to peel up, even though it was as well adhered to the wood as the Cricut design.

Brush on Shellac

The design on the left was wrinkled prior to brushing on the shellac from a test in a previous post.

Brush on Polycrylic

Mod Podge

Pros & Cons

  • Spray lacquer: It’s a good finish for most wood projects, and it seemed to work well over the well adhered vinyl design, but I’ve had mixed experiences with it. On my intricate design in the past it peeled it all up, even though it was well adhered, and the poorly adhered design also peeled from it.
  • Polyurethane: A very common finish for woodworkers surprised me in giving a great result over the iron on vinyl. I’m not sure if the design would have peeled if it was on a surface other than unfinished wood, but honestly it showed no signs of peeling even with me brushing my fingers over it after just one coat. I think this is a great option if you want beautifully finished wood and also sealed HTV.
  • Spray Shellac: This one gave me really inconsistent results for some reason. I did an extremely light coat and it resulted in one design looking great and the other one peeling. I’m not sure if that’s because the design was over stained wood that had a polycrylic finish on it already, but I’m thinking spray sealers may not be the way to go when sealing HTV designs.
  • Brush on Shellac: This one worked well, which is good news for me because it’s my favourite finish for wooden toys. It didn’t affect the design that was well adheres or the one that was poorly adhered, it just gave a glossy finish.
  • Brush on Polycrylic: This one is my usual choice for sealing HTV designs. It’s water based and dries clear. The results showed what I already experienced. It didn’t peel up the design at all and the design didn’t budge after me scraping it gently with my finger nails.
  • Mod Podge: This one also did a great job sealing the design. The only con is that it isn’t really an ideal wood finish. It definitely isn’t my first choice to finish a wood piece, but I guess you could finish the piece first, let it thoroughly dry, iron on your design and then seal it with mod podge.

My Recommendations

  • If your design is poorly adhered, I recommend just gently removing it and trying again. Chances are putting finish on top of it will just lift it more.
  • If you’re really concerned about the design lifting and ruining your project, or it’s a really intricate design maybe try mod podge or brush on polycrylic. I’ve had success with both of those on narrow fonts.
  • If you’re finishing a wood project and want to have a nice finish on the wood maybe try a brush on finish, it seems to allow more control.
  • Use spray finishes with caution. You may have better luck than me, but I won’t be risking it on a finished product.
  • If I’m doing a wooden toy project with iron on I’ll definitely be trying brush on shellac as a sealer
  • If I’m doing a project that requires a high shine heavy duty finish I’ll be trying brush on polyurethane to seal my vinyl in the future.
  • My favourite is still brush on polycrylic. I’d like to try spray polycrylic in the future, but they didn’t have it at the store I went to.

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In my next post I’ll be showing how I made this reversible, interchangeable kitchen sign for tiered tray décor. I ironed on the vinyl for the text and sealed it with brush on polycrylic.

Keep Me Posted!

Let me know what your experiences are with sealing HTV on wood. If you try anything different, or get different results, let me know. There are so many different factors to experiment with. Tag me on Instagram with your preferences or results @the_walnut_grove and pin this to Pinterest to refer back to.

Happy Crafting!