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How to Remove Screen Printing

This may not seem like something that one would see on a screen printing blog, but it is valuable for people to know how to remove screen printing from garments. The reason is because a screen printer may have made a mistake and want to save the shirt that they are working on. There are clients that want designs removed from their garments as well. 

This may not come be something that occurs consistently, but at least having the knowledge will help when the problem arises down the road. The methods are simple and easy to administer. However, it needs to be noted that some of these methods involve toxic chemicals with overpowering vapors. Make sure that the area is well ventilated before attempting any of these methods.

Care must be made to ensure that garments don't get damaged in the process. Scrubbing and scraping may be involved and this could ruin the garment. 

First of All, What is Screen Printing?

Screen printing is the concept of applying a thick ink onto fabric using a screen and a stencil. The ink is not water soluble so it does not wash away in the washing machine. The ink is most often made with plastisol. Most screen printing companies use this method to screen print. It works great for t-shirts and hoodies. 

The process usually starts with somebody creating a design. Then the colors are separated on a computer using a graphic design program. Typically it is Photoshop or Illustrator. Once the colors are separated a photo negative is made from the image. This photo negative is then burned into a screen. To burn the image, a screen is coated with emulsion then the screen is exposed to light and the image is burned into it. After it is burned, then the screen is washed in a washout sink. As the washing happens the image is revealed on the screen. Then that screen is affixed to a screen printing machine and a shirt is laid on the plate of the machine. The screen is pulled over the shirt and a healthy amount of plastisol ink is placed at the top of the screen. Then using a squeegee the ink is dragged over the design. Once this is done, the screen is removed. After it is removed the shirt is revealed with the design on it. The ink is still wet so it must be removed and put under a flash dryer or on a conveyor dryer. 

It seems king of complicated to explain it, but once the process has been performed a few times it is not difficult at all. 

What is Heat Press?

If screen printing seems too difficult there is another method called heat pressing. In this method a heat transfer design is applied onto the garment using a heat press. The heat press applies heat to the design and releases it from its backing and attaching it to the garment. This method is simpler but it cannot produce as many shirts as traditional screen printing. 

Both ways are very common and you can fix both when you need.

Screen Printing Removal Methods

There are many ways to remove screen printing designs. This depends on what is going on with the garment. What is the size of the design? What kind of fabric? All of these factors must be understood before removal can proceed. 

These techniques work whether you are just trying to remove errors or smudges. You’ll be able to remove logos. You can remove horrible designs. You will be able to get rid of unwanted things.

Wear gloves and work in a well ventilated area. The chemicals can be strong. If it is at all possible the work should happen outside. Safety first. Protect the surface. 

Finally, understand that when using these techniques that staying away from heat and hot water are important. Both heat and hot water will set the ink. This must not happen. 

Use Nail Polish Remover to Remove Screen Printing Ink

While this may be a household stable it is actually a chemical called acetone. This can be found at any drugstore. This method needs to be performed in a highly ventilated area. This method will not work on fabrics that are more than 50% polyester. With this method lightly dab a cotton ball soaked in the nail polish remover on top of the design. After a few minutes peel the design away. When finished wash the garment in cold water. 

It is always best to do a test on the garment to make sure that the nail polish remover won’t damage the garment. 

Spotting Fluid As A Screen Printing Ink Remover

This method requires an equipment purchase along with the fluid. This may be something that to invest in if a screen printer foresees a lot of mistakes that need to be fixed. In any agency there are bound to be mistakes. This method uses a gun that is filled with a fluid. The gun sprays the fluid at the back of the design. Eventually the design can be peeled away. This is the easiest method to use, but it can also be the costliest.

Plastisol Remover Removes Ink

Plastisol remover has a strong odor. This method definitely needs to be ventilated. The reason this stuff works well is because most of the designs are made from plastisol. This stuff is made for plastisol. The way to work it is to use a soft cloth that has been dipped into the remover. Take the cloth and place it on the design. Leave the cloth for about a half an hour. Then using a soft brush work the ink out of the design. Wipe away any excess ink. Then wash the garment in cold water. 

Iron and Peel to Remove Screen Printing Ink

This is the only method of removing the designs that uses heat. This method uses an iron and a brown paper bag. The goal is to melt the design onto the paper bag. You will place the paper bag onto the design and iron right onto the paper bag. The heat will help the design lift off of the garment. 

Screen Printing Will Fade With Washing

Every time  a screen printed garment is washed the design begins to fade. The garment can be washed over and over. It may take 50 times to get the design to fade. Eventually it will go away. The drawback to this method is that it may also fade the color of the garment. 

Sugar Scrub Removes Screen Printing Ink As Well

This is simple. You take a small amount of sugar and start rubbing it into the design. This works using abrasion. It gets into the nooks and crannies of the designs and slowly removes the designs. Work the sugar into the design, but don’t damage the garment. 

The Final Word on Removing Screen Printing

It is common for mistakes to happen in a screen printing business. Customers change their minds. Employees don't read the instructions on a work order correctly. Pinholes in screens happen. All hope is not lost. Garments can be recovered. Damage can be undone.

Be very careful not to damage the garment any further. Test the chemicals in areas that are inconspicuous. Don't scrub the garment too hard. This can fray the material. 

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