Laundry. It’s the gift that keeps on giving (…and giving and giving). While it can be the bane of our existence, there are a plethora of tips out there for not only doing it right but doing it in a way that keeps your clothes looking fresh and new. This is especially true for screen-printed t-shirts that require a little extra care.
Ink Cure Time
The most important thing to note is that custom garments need at least 24 hours before washing for the ink to cure properly onto the fabric. If you just picked up a freshly printed order, keep them in the box for at least a day.
Ignore the Label Instructions
It’s likely that your screen-printed shirt was not manufactured in the same place where it was printed. This could mean that the t-shirt label has not taken the screen-printing into consideration when making their care instructions. Things like heat, dry cleaning, and harsh chemicals could cause damage to screen-printed items.
If you don’t have your custom shop’s washing instructions, there are several tips to keep in mind to preserve the quality of your custom item, starting with checking your fabric. Cotton and wool absorb quite a bit of water, while nylon and polyester absorb less water. The more water the fabric takes on, the more likely it is to shrink. Pro tip: Preshrunk clothing is an option for your screen-printed t-shirts and minimizes the risk of shrinking substantially.
The way you sort your fabrics also plays an important role in quality washing. As the age-old adage goes, always separate your darks from your whites. Be sure that you’re not washing screen-printed t-shirts with any unlike colors in general. It’s not just the ink in your screen printing that’s a threat, but residual inks and dyes from other shirts could cause problems as well. If you’re washing a brand-new screen-printed t-shirt, sort your clothes like your grandmother is watching!
A third tip in the fabric realm is to also sort by similarly textured clothing. Towels and jeans, for example, can wreak havoc on your t-shirts. The rough texture of a towel can cause your freshly screen-printed shirt to peel or crack. By keeping fabrics of similar textures together, you’re not only preserving the appearance of your screen-printed t-shirt but all of your clothing.
This is an obvious one, but sometimes easy to miss. Turning a screen-printed t-shirt inside out prevents fading and pilling, keeping your shirt as bright and crisp as the day you bought it.
Now that you’ve checked your fabric, sorted your clothing, and turned it inside out, it’s time to add some detergent to your laundry load. While spot stain removers would be acceptable here, any harsh chemicals, like bleach, will be damaging to your t-shirt. Choose a laundry detergent known for being gentle on clothing.
In addition, it’s important to note that fabric softeners can degrade the inks used in many screen-printed t-shirts. Opting for a gentler detergent can help keep your clothing soft and cuddly.
Cold Water & Air
Cold is a screen-printed shirt’s favorite temperature. As you’re getting ready to choose your wash cycle, make sure the dial on your machine points to ‘cold.’ This will prevent shrinkage and unsightly stretching.
The same goes for your dryer. If you decide to toss your clothing in the dryer, make sure to select your lowest heat option. If ‘air dry’ is an option, we recommend choosing it. The less heat that comes in contact with your shirt, the better. Pro tip: The best practice for keeping your screen-printed shirt in quality shape is removing the garment before it’s done drying and either laying it flat or hanging it to dry.
Hard and Soft Water
Before turning the water on to your machine, double-check to make sure your house isn’t plumbed with hard water. Hard water can quickly deteriorate the appearance of a screen-printed shirt. If you find that you do have hard water, you can pre-soak your garments in a gallon of water with 1 cup of vinegar before washing to protect your shirt from any potential damage.
If your washing machine has a gentle cycle, it’s time to get familiar with it. While your ‘normal cycle’ probably lists cottons as a subheading, the machine’s harsh, jerking motions can cause pilling to the fabric and damage to the screen-print. Keep it gentle. Your clothing will thank you.
Now that you’ve successfully washed your t-shirt and it’s still looking brand new, let’s keep it that way. If you find that your shirt has some wrinkles from hang drying, it’s okay to use an iron, so long as you don’t iron over any screen-printed or embroidered areas.
While hanging your t-shirt would be the best way to keep your screen printing looking crisp, we realize that not everyone has this ability. If you must fold it, avoid folding over any screen printed sections to prevent cracking or distorting the image.
If you keep these tips in mind, your screen-printed t-shirt will last you a lifetime!