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The Basics of Screen Printed Shirt Care

Posted on 26 April 2024

The Basics of Screen Printed Shirt Care

Welcome! Whether you're sporting a screen-printed tee from your favourite band or wearing a custom hoodie showcasing your employer's brand, taking care of your screen-printed top is essential to keep it looking new for as long as possible. From washing to drying and storage to stain removal, we've got you covered. In this blog, we'll guide you through the basics of screen-printed shirt care.

These tips are beneficial for everyone — from individuals to businesses — aiming to maintain the quality and vibrancy of their printed apparel. So, let's dive into how you can keep your t-shirts, golf shirts, jackets, vests, etc., with custom screen printing in top-notch condition.

Understanding Screen Printed Apparel

Screen printing is a popular, time-honoured method for decorating apparel that involves several rounds of pushing ink through a mesh stencil onto fabric. This technique allows for layered, vibrant designs that are both durable and versatile.

Typically, screen-printed apparel includes a variety of fabrics such as cotton, polyester, and blends of both. Cotton is loved for its softness and breathability, making it a common choice for casual wear. Polyester, on the other hand, is durable and resistant to shrinking and wrinkles, and it is often used in sportswear. This is why screen printing on polyester is as effective as it is on other materials. Blends combine the best of both worlds, offering comfort and resilience. The choice of fabric not only affects the garment's feel and function but also how it should be cared for.

In addition to fabric types, the inks used in screen printing play a significant role. Plastisol ink is the most common due to its vibrant colours and durability. Water-based inks, while softer and more breathable, require a gentler touch when it comes to care. Remember to partner with a print house that uses the latest inks, those with the most modern durability additives meant to resist exposure, wear, and tear.

Common silk screen printing techniques create a layer of ink on top of the fabric. This layer can be affected by heat, harsh chemicals, and rough treatment. Proper care helps ensure the design remains clear and bright while keeping the fabric in good condition.

Washing Your Screen Printed Shirts

Taking proper care of your screen-printed shirts starts with how you wash them to preserve the print and the fabric.

Firstly, always turn your shirts inside out before placing them in the washer. This protects the screen-printed designs from the harsh environment inside an operating washing machine, reducing friction and exposure to other garments that can cause wear and tear.

With water temperature, cold or lukewarm is your best bet. Hot water can cause the ink to break down and the fabric to shrink, which might distort the printed design. Cooler temperatures help maintain the integrity of the ink and the shape of the garment. However, there are circumstances when washing with hot water is recommended, according to this Arm & Hammer article (in general situations that trump  protecting a screen print.)

The right cycle on your washing machine is also essential. Opt for a gentle cycle with slow spin speeds to minimize the agitation that can stress the fabric and the print. The gentler approach helps prevent cracking or peeling of the design.

Regarding detergents, choose mild or specialized ones that are free from bleach and harsh chemicals, as they can degrade the screen-printed ink over time. If you're unsure, a small amount of a gentle, eco-friendly detergent should work.

Finally, avoid overloading your washer. A crowded tub can lead to excessive rubbing, stress on the printed areas, and a less effective cleansing overall. Washing your screen-printed shirts separately or with similar items can provide a safer cleaning environment, ensuring your garments come out as good as new.

A screen-printed onesie hanging on an outdoor clothesline.

Drying Your Screen Printed Apparel

After washing, drying your screen-printed items correctly is next in importance in preventing damage to screen-printed apparel. For the sake of the environment and your energy bills, air dry your clothes, screen-printed or not, whenever possible.

Lay screen-printed garments flat or hang them up to dry in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight, which can fade a print over time. If you use a dryer, opt for the lowest heat setting and remove the screen-printed clothing while they are still slightly damp to reduce the risk of shrinking and cracking the print.

Avoid wringing out screen-printed clothing, as this can distort the fabric and the printed design. Instead, gently squeeze out excess water or let the garment drip dry. Proper drying not only maintains the shape and size of your screen-printed apparel but also protects the integrity of the printed design, ensuring your garments stay fresh and vibrant longer.

Ironing Screen Printed Items

It's best to turn a garment inside out before ironing to protect the printed design. If you need to iron directly on the print, try a thin cloth or parchment paper between the iron and the print to act as a protective barrier.

Use a low heat setting on your iron, as high temperatures can melt the screen print, causing it to stick to the iron or distort. Avoid steam, as the moisture can affect the ink differently than the fabric, leading to uneven textures or washing out the design.

By ironing your screen-printed items with care, you ensure the fabric remains smooth and wrinkle-free without compromising the integrity of the design. The cautious approach helps defeat one of the most common screen printing myths, that screen-printed clothing designs will inevitably flake off. Proper care maintains the print's appearance and prolongs its lifespan, ensuring that your screen-printed apparel remains a staple in your wardrobe for years to come.

Storing Your Screen-Printed Shirts

Avoid hanging screen-printed shirts for long periods, as this can stretch the fabric and eventually distort the print over time. Instead, fold your screen-printed shirts and sweaters and store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Also, be mindful to keep them separated from rough materials that can scratch or wear down the print.

Handling Stains and Repairs

When dealing with fresh stains on screen-printed garments, act quickly but gently. Avoid harsh chemicals and rubbing. Instead, lightly dab the stained area with a mild detergent solution and rinse. Never apply heat to a stain before it's completely removed, as this can set it permanently. For repairs, especially on the printed area, consult with a professional. DIY fixes may cause more harm than good, affecting the garment's appearance and durability.

Long-Term Care and Maintenance

Consistent care extends the life of your screen-printed apparel. Regularly inspect your screen-printed clothing for signs of wear and address issues promptly to prevent further damage. Follow the specific washing, drying, and storage guidelines covered above to maintain the fabric and print quality.

Remember, the longevity of your screen-printed shirts largely depends on the care they receive and who you partner with when you need to design custom t-shirts. By investing a little time and effort into research and maintenance, you can enjoy your vibrant, detailed prints for years to come!

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