5 Pro Tips for Washing Screen-Printed Apparel and More…
Pro Tips for Washing Screen-Printed Apparel
Screen printing is a beautiful (and low-cost) option for custom apparel design that’s always popular—especially on t-shirts. A brightly colored garment design is eye-catching, and images can range from artfully simple to elaborately detailed. From team shirts to social causes to special events, screen printed shirts are everywhere, so we’ve decided to post our top 5 pro tips for washing screen-printed apparel.
Screen printing dates back 1,000 years to China and found its way into Europe in the late 18th century. In the 1960s, artists like Andy Warhol began using it to create fine art, and screen printing saw a massive surge in popularity that has continued ever since. Garment printing has become the most common use of this technique, and it makes up more than 50 percent of all screen printing done in the U.S.
Chances are, you own—or have owned—a screen printed piece of apparel, and if so, you may also have learned that these garments need a little extra TLC at laundry time if you want to keep the colors bright. With just a little extra attention, you can expect them to look great for many washings. Before we dive into the list of tips, it’s worth mentioning that the quality of the garment’s fabric and workmanship play a big role in how long you can expect it to look good. At US Logo, we offer apparel from the best names in the industry, trusted manufacturers whose products who have proven themselves over time.
Let the screen-printed apparel washing tips begin
- Pro Tip 1:
Cold water is your friend, and this isn’t just true of custom t-shirts; all clothing lasts longer when washed in cold water, and with current laundry detergent technology, there’s no reason to wash most clothing in hot water other than for sterilization purposes.
- Pro Tip 2:
Turn the garment inside-out before laundering. A washing machine is a rough environment for clothing because everything gets jostled and rubbed together throughout the process, which takes its toll on both fabric surfaces and screen printed designs.
- Pro Tip 3:
With this in mind, it also makes sense to wash similar types of clothes together, so that rougher garments don’t rub against softer ones. Yes, it’s also important to wash the correct colors together because garments can lose pigment in their first few washings, but the bigger concern with screen printed garments is that rougher fabrics can prematurely wear off the images. Even putting printed t-shirts in with towels can create a lot of unnecessary friction. This can also fluff up “pills,” or bits of furled fiber on the surface of the unprinted fabric.
- Pro Tip 4:
Avoid using bleach. The chlorine used in bleach rapidly deteriorates fabrics and inks alike, so it’s hard on all kinds of clothing, but it’s especially destructive to screen printed garments. Use a mild detergent instead, and touch up with a stain removing liquid to treat spots.
- Pro Tip 4:
Don’t dry screen-printed garments on the hot setting because the images are made from plastic inks. This is a big one because screened images can literally soften and malform at higher temperatures. And if you really want to keep the images and fabric looking great, remove the garments before they’re entirely dry. Put them on hangers and let the last bits of dampness evaporate in the open air. This minimizes stress in the molecular bonds between the image and fabric, and it can significantly increase the lifespan of both.
Screen Printed Apparel Care Instructions Recap
Home Laundry Care:
The chemistry behind silk-screening ink is now so advanced that a professionally printed shirt can look great for years. While old technologies only pushed ink into the fabric, current methods chemically bond the images with the fabric, making them far more permanent and resilient. But like many other types of quality apparel, a screened garment needs a little extra attention at wash time, if you want to keep it looking sensational. Here’s an in-depth checklist:
- Wash the garment in cold water, by hand, the first two times you launder it. If you’re not a hand-washer, run it on your washer’s gentle cycle.
- Use a mild detergent without bleaches or other additives.
- Don’t add bleach. Very bad for most clothing, but especially when it’s screen printed.
- Turn the garment inside out before laundering. (This is a great tip for any clothing, as it prevents “pills” from forming on the surface.
- Keep it cool! Always use a low water temperature (no hotter than 90 degrees). Higher temperatures can prematurely fade screened images. This also applies to garments in the “light load,” which you may be accustomed to washing at higher temperatures.
- Separate colors as you would with any colored laundry, washing similar colors together, darks together, etc.
- We mentioned cold dryer temperatures above, but if you really want to do this right, treat your screened garments like you do you delicate sweaters: forget the dryer and let them air dry. This trick can measurably increase the lifespan of any garment, and it’s a real lifesaver for screened images.
- Iron the garment inside out. Never place a hot iron directly on the surface of a screened image, even briefly.
A screen printed shirt can be dry cleaned like any other shirt, but here are a couple of general guidelines: Don’t use pre-spotting agents on dark colors, and be careful treating spots around screened images.
Ironing Your Screen-Printed Garments:
- Turn off the steam. You’ll get the best results by dry-ironing.
- Turn the garment inside out. Hot irons and plastic don’t mix.
- For best results, put a piece of cloth on each side of the fabric you’re ironing. This reduces surface temperature and preserves image-to-fabric bonds.
Details and Common Issues When Washing Screen-Printed Apparel
- “Pilling” is a constant laundry battle with many kinds of apparel, and contrary to urban myth, pills don’t just afflict cheap t shirts. If you tumble an $80 shirt through the dryer too many times without turning it inside out, the friction will loosen surface fibers, and boom: ya got pilling. You can treat pills with a fabric shaver, which works better on some fabrics than others, but the real solution is to turn garments inside out before laundering to reduce the surface friction that causes the problem.
- Shrinkage: we’ve all been terrorized by this little laundry monster. The good news is that the quality t shirts we use at US Logo are pre-shrunk, which dramatically minimizes problems when screened cotton garments are laundered. Still, cotton will be cotton (extremely comfortable, but a little unpredictable in terms of shrinkage), so use your normal, common sense when laundering custom printed cotton apparel, and go with low temperatures in both the washer and dryer.
- Hard water laundering is the microscopic equivalent of throwing rocks at your clothes. Tiny mineral particles are suspended in hard water, too small to feel with your fingers, but large enough to give fabric fibers a real beating. The same applies to screened images: if you throw tiny rocks at them, they’ll look worn and dull. Hard water can be an expensive problem to solve, but if you’re stuck with it, existing deposits can be removed by pre-soaking garments in a mix of 1 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of water, thus preventing long term mineral build-up in the fabric, which also dulls colors.
Today’s screen printed garments are incredibly resilient, and you can keep them looking great for years if you give them the same attention you would any nice piece of clothing. Do you have questions about this topic or custom screened apparel in general? Give us a call at (316) 264-1321 or stop by our “Big Red Showroom” at 521 N. West St. between 9 and 5, Monday through Friday.