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I'm working on a project that involves permanently connecting two vinyl (PVC) inflatable pool toys like these: Pool Punisher

I'm wondering if this is possible by using a PVC cement or some sort of chemical weld for PVC? Any particular kind I should look for?

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My suggestion would be to use a different approach.

The float material

There are adhesives sold for repairing inflatable PVC boats. They do a great job, on a boat. But they may not be ideal for a pool toy.

High-quality inflatable boats are made from a coated fabric. The fabric provides the strength and the coating makes it waterproof and air-tight. If they need repair, a permanent repair uses a patch of similar material. The adhesive makes a permanent bond. Afterward, you still have fabric for strength, and a waterproof, air-tight surface. What happens to the original coating doesn't make much difference because it is then just an internal layer.

Moderate-quality inflatable boats can be made from just a thick sheet of PVC. The seams are typically heat-welded. If it needs a permanent repair, you would normally use a patch. The situation is similar to coated fabric. The vinyl is thick enough that the adhesive can do what it needs to do on the surface and you still have substantial unaffected vinyl below it for strength.

Cheap vinyl pool toys are made from a relatively thin sheet of PVC. It has enough strength to not burst. But whatever strength it has comes from the intact vinyl. When you glue vinyl, many of the adhesives that make a permanent bond with it affect the physical characteristics of some thickness of it. With a cheap pool toy, that is likely to be much of the thickness of the vinyl. So there would be very little thickness of vinyl for strength, and it may be prone to bursting in that area.

If you use a patch, the adhesive would go to the edges of the patch, so the border of the patch could end up a weak area. If you glue two of the toys together, each is a patch for the other, but you could have weak areas around the border.

The specific inflatable you linked to didn't get very good reviews. Some of the many 1-star reviews describe the material they're made from as cheap, light-weight vinyl, which wouldn't bode well for gluing. This question asks about permanently connecting them, but the lifetime might not be very long. And if they're permanently connected and one unit irreparably fails, you lose both.

PVC adhesives

The shiny PVC in pool toys can be hard to adhere to. The stuff that works well and retains flexibility generally affects the vinyl. PVC plumbing cement would make a chemical weld, but it would affect most of the thickness of the vinyl. It could make it more brittle or weaker. It might not, but finding out would be an expensive test.

There are some adhesives that bond with the surface but don't affect it to a significant depth. They're sold as part of a patch kit or separately in tiny tubes. It would get expensive on the scale of your project.

Alternate approach

If it was my project, just on the basis of the product reviews, I wouldn't risk two inflatables by permanently joining them (even if you could do it inexpensively for the adhesive and at low risk of the adhesive weakening the wall).

I would tape them together with waterproof duct tape, which you could get in a matching color or a camo pattern. Apply the tape to the clean, dry inflatables, and do it when you are ready to put them in the water. Wipe the surface down with alcohol, and inflate them to normal pressure. The sides will balloon out so you can tape them where they will be in contact when inflated, and you will be applying the tape to the stretched surface (this is much harder to do with adhesive).

The tape may not last a whole season. Just apply new tape as needed. If you deflate them, the stretched vinyl will shrink again. Repeated deflation and inflation may loosen the tape's grip. If it comes loose, replace it. The amount of tape used would be pretty inexpensive, and applying it doesn't take much time.

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  • Thank you for the thorough explanation. In this case however the use is for an art project, so a fully permanent bond is necessary, and visual fidelity is important. Is there any method you would recommend that creates a permanent bond other than the PVC glue? Dec 4, 2022 at 11:07
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    @EmmettPalaima, if it isn't going to be actively used in watersports and you can under-inflate it a little, that will make a difference (less likely to burst). I haven't successfully used anything for this purpose, so I'm hesitant to make a recommendation. I did a quick search of product recommendations for vinyl repair adhesives and they're a mixed bag. For example, these were often recommended: amazon.com/dp/B001XUMBIA, amazon.com/gp/product/B0000AY7XZ, amazon.com/gp/product/B07STFWJTL, amazon.com/gp/product/B001Q891SW. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Dec 4, 2022 at 14:47
  • The reviews are mixed. I would look for products that can be used to glue thin PVC, like pool toys, and read the 1 and 2 star reviews to see what issues people had with it. Look for the patch coming off or re-tearing. I saw one review where the person fixed a small hole, it weakened the material, and they ended up with a huge hole. Ones that can be used for inflatable pool toys will address the similar issues of stretching and pressure. Give it way longer to fully cure than the minimum time on the package (after it's dry, solvent has to migrate back out of the vinyl).
    – fixer1234
    Dec 4, 2022 at 14:52
  • BTW, the linked products looked like ones that might work with thin PVC that will be inflated. But I didn't do a deep dive into the reviews.
    – fixer1234
    Dec 4, 2022 at 16:48

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