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Can You Laser Cut Vinyl? Is it Safe?

by Winnie Li Posted on July 20, 2023

Laser cutting is a fast, efficient, and highly precise cutting technique that uses a high-powered laser to cut through materials. Due to its versatility and precision, laser cutting has become popular across various industries, including the creative, arts, and crafts industries. 

Laser cutting is compatible with a wide range of materials, from thick industrial steel to paper. However, this process is not ideal for all materials. One such material is vinyl - a hugely popular material in the arts & crafts and numerous other industries.

In this article, we will explore laser cutting as a process and vinyl as a material before delving into laser cutting vinyl, its safety implications, and alternatives you can use.

vinyl cutting

In This Article

  • Understanding Laser Cutting and Vinyl
  • Can You Laser Cut Vinyl?
  • Laser Cutting Vinyl: How to?
  • Blade cutting as an alternative to laser cutting vinyl
  • FAQs of Laser Cutting Vinyl
  • Conclusion

Understanding Laser Cutting and Vinyl

Laser cutting is a material removal process in which a computer-controlled high-density laser beam cuts through materials based on premade designs. Laser cutting machines, also known as laser cutters, carry out this process. The machine focuses the laser beam onto the workpiece, effectively melting, vaporizing, or burning through the material. By adjusting the intensity of the power beam, you can control how deep the laser cuts into the workpiece. This control enables you to etch, engrave, or completely cut through a material.

As we discussed earlier, laser cutting is a highly versatile technology users employ to cut a wide range of materials in industrial and non-industrial applications. This article focuses on laser cutting for DIY, arts & crafts, and other creative applications, and not industrial laser cutting capable of cutting through thick slabs of hardened steel. In these applications, users commonly use laser cutting to work on wood, paper, leather, cardboard, acrylic, metals, and glass, among other materials.

laser cutting on various materials

Vinyl is a synthetic material typically derived from PVC (polyvinyl chloride). The third-largest selling plastic in the world, vinyl is widely used in numerous applications across various industries, including aerospace, textile, construction, fashion, health care, communication, and - arguably the most commonly known - arts & craft and music (vinyl records). This highly versatile material exists as rigid pipes as well as flimsy films and faux leather. Its ability to combine with additives to form variations with wide-ranging properties further enhances its versatility. In addition, it is tough, durable, and resistant to heat, moisture, and wear.

Given its widespread use, you are likely to come across vinyl daily. Much of vinyl usage is in non-industrial, domestic, creative, and arts & crafts applications, such as graphic clothing designs, signage, wallpapers, protective & decorative stickers, decals, fabric, and furniture.

laser cut vinyl projects

Can You Laser Cut Vinyl?

Laser cutting, being fast, efficient, and precise, is fast becoming one of the most popular cutting & engraving methods. Similarly, vinyl is one of the most ubiquitous arts and crafts materials. Thus, the question, “Can you cut vinyl using a laser cutter?” is hardly out of place. However, this question doesn't have an absolute, straightforward answer. Can you laser cut vinyl? Technically, yes, a cutter's laser beam can effectively cut through vinyl. Should you? Probably not.

The most commonly used form of vinyl contains PVC, which, when heated to high temperatures by a high-powered laser beam, combusts and reacts with oxygen in the environment to produce highly toxic chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid. These byproducts are not only harmful to your health but can also damage your laser cutter. Short-term exposure to chlorine gas causes mild to severe eye and nose irritation, wheezing, and other respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can have fatal implications. Similarly, hydrochloric acid is a highly corrosive compound that, in its concentrated form, can easily damage your skin and the metal parts of a laser cutter.

Another disadvantage of laser cutting vinyl, especially for thicker workpieces, is that laser cut vinyl may have a burnt look and discoloration on the edge finish.

Laser Cutting Vinyl: How to?

We have established that laser cutting vinyl can have immense adverse effects on your health and your laser cutter. However, there are a few ways to minimize these risks and safely laser cut vinyl.

Use laser safe vinyl

An advantage of vinyl being a versatile material that has existed for a long time is that numerous variations of it exist. One such variation is PVC-free vinyl. PVC-free vinyl, also called non-PVC vinyl and laser safe vinyl, are non-chlorinated materials such as PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate), PVB (polyvinyl butyral), and PVA (polyvinyl acetate) that do not contain chlorine. Companies such as 3M also produce proprietary non-PVC vinyl made from eco-friendly, non-toxic material. There are also vinyl-like materials derived from plastics such as PP, PET, and Polyester. The dangers of laser cutting PVC vinyl mainly stem from the chlorine content the material releases when melted. PVC-free vinyl materials do not contain chlorine and are therefore considered laser safe vinyl.

Opting for laser safe vinyl materials is crucial to minimize the risks associated with laser cutting vinyl. These are compatible with laser cutting machines and do not produce toxic byproducts when exposed to high temperatures. Look for vinyl products labeled as laser-safe or PVC-free to ensure compatibility and safety.

Choose the right laser type

Certain types of lasers are better suited for cutting vinyl. CO2 lasers are typically more high-powered than their diode counterparts. These lasers are capable of cutting through thick hard materials. However, CO lasers are overpowered for vinyl and may cause excessive material heating. Diode lasers are better for vinyl cutting as they vaporize the material without producing excessive heat.

xTool M1 Diode Laser and Blade Cutter

xTool M1 vinyl laser cutter


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Safety measures of laser cutting vinyl

Another way to safely laser cut vinyl is by taking crucial safety precautions during the process. When laser cutting vinyl, it is essential to implement the following safety measures:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation in the workspace to minimize exposure to harmful gases.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety glasses and respiratory masks, to protect against airborne particles and fumes.
  • Operate the laser cutting machine within the recommended power and speed settings to minimize excessive heat production.
  • Regularly clean and maintain the laser cutting machine to prevent the buildup of PVC residue, which can lead to operational issues and potential hazards.

Blade cutting as an alternative to laser cutting vinyl

While cutting vinyl with a laser is possible, there are just too many requirements to make it a safe process. For starters, you need to procure laser safe vinyl, which is far less available and more costly than common vinyl. With the commonly-used variant you must take several safety measures requiring additional cost, time, and effort before you can laser cut vinyl. You must also consider your laser cutting machine, as diode lasers are better for cutting vinyl. Even if you are able to address these challenges, there's still the problem of having a burnt look on the edge finish.

All these inconveniences make laser cutting an impractical method for cutting vinyl. Thankfully, there's an excellent alternative - Blade cutting.

Blade cutting is a fast, efficient, precise, and safe way to cut vinyl. In this process, a computer-controlled blade cuts out patterns and geometry using design files uploaded to the machine. Rather than melt or vaporize the material as a laser would, the blade physically contacts and slices through the material. Because there's no heat involved, the vinyl does not melt to release toxic fumes. In addition, the blade leaves a clean-cut edge devoid of burn marks or discoloration. These characteristics make blade cutting safe and efficient.

While blade cutting is ideal for cutting thin materials such as vinyl, paper, cardboard, and fabric, laser cutting is superior for cutting, etching, and engraving various other materials, including wood, leather, acrylic, glass, and metals.

Creatives and DIYers love having the creative freedom of working with a wide range of materials and often face the dilemma of choosing between a laser cutter and a blade cutter. For most users, this means either sacrificing one for the other or splurging significant resources and space to get both machines.

What if you could have the best of both worlds in one compact, cost-effective, efficient machine? Introducing the xTool M1, the world's first desktop hybrid laser & blade cutter.

The xTool M1 is a desktop laser and blade cutting machine that combines laser cutting, laser engraving, and blade cutting in a compact, portable frame. You can add additional capabilities, such as rotary engraving, with separate accessories. This machine weighs less than 10 kg, occupies minimal space, and easily fits on any flat surface. By combining laser and blade cutting technologies, xTool M1 is compatible with a wide range of materials, from thin vinyl pieces to thick wood, giving you creative freedom in material selection. Note that different materials have varying material settings on the xTool M1.

xtool m1 projects

From setup to usage, Everything about the xTool M1 is designed to make things seamless for professionals and enthusiasts alike. The machine comes preassembled, eliminating the need for complex assembling and reducing installation time by 88%. The cutting process is even easier, requiring three simple steps:

  • Create a design in your preferred program or select one from sample projects in xTool's software.
  • Place the material in the work bed and align your design to the workpiece using the software's real-time preview.
  • Press the start button and sit back as the xTool M1 brings your design to life.

This machine's other time and effort-saving features include autofocus adjustment, material detection and measurement, and the ability to work on several workpieces simultaneously (batch processing).

xTool  M1 Diode Laser and Blade Cutter

xTool M1 laser cutter for vinyl


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FAQs of Laser Cutting Vinyl

Can you laser cut PVC vinyl? 

No, you cannot laser cut PVC vinyl. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, which is a type of plastic that contains chlorine. When you laser cut PVC vinyl, it releases toxic chlorine gas and hydrochloric acid, which can be harmful to your health and the environment. It can also damage your laser cutter by corroding the metal parts and lenses. 

What vinyl is safe for laser cutting?

Yes, diode laser cutters can cut vinyl, however you need to use laser safe vinyl that doesn't contain chloride and other harmful chemicals.

Can you cut vinyl with a diode laser?

The only vinyl that is safe for laser cutting is a special type of vinyl that does not contain chlorine or any other harmful chemicals.

Can you laser cut vinyl records?

Vinyl records contain PVC; hence we do not recommend laser cutting vinyl records. The above applies when you want to repurpose an old record. Producers don’t use laser cutting for producing new records as it damages the audio grooves and affects the record's playback quality. To manufacture vinyl records, producers first create a master record using a diamond chisel cutting technique. This record serves as a stamp or mold for producing other records via stamping or injection molding.


Laser cutting vinyl, when not done properly, can harmfully impact you, your machine, and those around you. We highly recommend using only laser safe vinyl to avoid the severe effects of this process. Another way to mitigate the risks associated with cutting vinyl with lasers is to take necessary safety precautions such as using PPE, using recommended machine settings, and operating in a well-ventilated environment.

Instead of finding ways to answer yes to the question, "Can you cut vinyl using a laser cutter?" a much better alternative is using blade cutters. Blade cutters are excellent for cutting vinyl. However, they aren't suitable for materials such as wood. Laser cutters are better for these materials. The xTool M1 is a desktop hybrid laser and blade cutter that combines the best of both technologies to give creatives maximum material selection freedom.

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