How to Wash Screen-Printed Shirts: Everything You Need to Know

How to Wash Screen-Printed Shirts: Everything You Need to Know

Screen printing is a popular way to print designs on t shirts and other garments, but it's important to wash them correctly in order to maintain the quality of the print. Everyone has their favorite shirt with a design they love. We want your custom-printed shirts to look amazing for many years to come.

We field hundreds of calls from new customers everyday. Many of these calls are general questions about shirt quality, durability, and screen printing. In this article, we hope to cover the most common questions and concerns you might have. We'll explain everything you need to know about how to wash and dry your printed shirts.

Here are the topics we will cover: washing and drying, shrinkage, ink cracking, color fading, and more. So whether you're the one wearing the screen printed t shirts or the one who designed it, make sure you read this article before handing them out or throwing your printed tees in the wash!

 How do I wash screen printed t shirts?   

You've created a masterpiece. Let's make sure to wash and care for it, to keep it looking great!

Your Design on a Shirt!

Follow these simple steps when washing and drying your screen printed t shirts so you can keep wearing them over and over.

Turn Inside Out. Wash in Cold Water. Avoid Chemicals. Line Dry

  • Turn Inside Out
  • Wash in Cold Water (avoid hot water)
  • Choose the washing machine's gentle cycle.
  • Avoid bleach (especially chlorine bleach), fabric softener, and stain removers.
  • Hang Dry if possible (or tumble dry on lowest heat setting)

 Will my printed t shirts shrink?   

One of the most common questions we get asked is about shrinkage. This greatly depends on the fabric blend.

  • T Shirts that are made of 100% Preshrunk Cotton, will shrink. The preshrinking process that is done during shirt manufacturing minimizes shrinkage. Acceptable shrinkage for 100% Preshrunk Cotton Printed Shirts is 5-7%.
  • T Shirts that are made of 50% Preshrunk Cotton /50% Polyester, will shrink less than 100% cotton. Acceptable shrinkage is 3-5%
  • T Shirts that are made of 100% Polyester, often called Performance, Moisture Wicking, or Dri-Fit will not shrink.

If you don't want your screen printed t shirt to shrink, wash in cold water and hang dry. Always turn your shirt inside out to protect the screen printed design.
Don't use high heat clothes dryers

Will the printed shirts disintegrate when laundered?   

This is a common misconception. People think that the screen printed shirts will breakdown completely during laundry.

This isn't true! The shirt and the printed imagery are specifically designed to withstand regular and repeated laundering. This is not something you should worry about.

You can be sure your shirts won't breakdown when you wash them.

Will my screen printed ink wash away?   

This is another common misconception. If your garment was professionally printed with high-quality plastisol inks or inks intended for printing on garments, your design will not wash away.

Plastisol inks are the most commonly used inks for screen printing on garments. They are specifically designed to be durable and withstand repeated washings.

The inks are cured (or heat-set) during the screen printing process, which means the image is bonded to the t shirt fabric.

As long as you follow the washing instructions, your screen printed t shirt will last for 100 washes.

At Bolt Printing, we have systems and processes in place so this won't happen. But if you are working with another screen printer, make sure they use high quality inks that are designed for garment printing.

 Will the shirt color fade?   

This is a common question, especially for darker garments. The short answer is: yes, all garments will eventually fade. But with proper care, you can significantly slow down the fading process when washing screen printed shirts.

To help prevent fading, always wash your garment inside out in cold water. This will protect the garment's color from fades caused by sun exposure and other environmental factors.

In addition, avoid using bleach or fabric softeners as these can also cause colors to fade. Finally, hang drying (or tumble drying on low heat) will also help keep your garment looking new for longer.

By following these simple washing instructions, you can prolong the life of your screen printed shirt and keep it looking its best.

 Will the printed ink crack or peel off?   

This is usually a result of incorrect wash instructions. Following these simple wash instructions will help prevent your printed design from cracking or peeling.

Here's our recommendation to wash your screen printed shirt:

  • Always wash your screen printed t shirts inside out. This will protect the printed design from abrasion.
  • Wash in cold water. Hot water can cause the ink to crack.
  • Avoid using fabric softener, stain removers or bleach. These chemicals can break down the ink over time and cause it to crack or peel.
  • If you must use a dryer, tumble dry on the lowest setting. A hot dryer can cause the ink to crack and ruin screen printed garments.

Can I use bleach on my customized t shirts?   

No. We do not recommend using bleach (especially chlorine bleach) on any of our screen printed garments. Bleach may discolor the shirt and degrade the printed design.

 Can I use a fabric softener when washing my custom tees?   

No. We do not recommend using a fabric softener on any screen printed t-shirts. Fabric softeners can break down the fabric threads.

 What about stain removers? Are they safe on custom apparel?   

Using stain removers on your printed shirts is also not recommended. Stain removers might discolor the garment and might break down the printed ink on your tees.

 Will the custom t shirt bleed?   

The custom shirt should not bleed when you wash screen printed shirts.

If you have selected a garment dyed shirt; it requires special care. Garment-dyed goods should ALWAYS BE WASHED SEPARATELY BEFORE WEARING to avoid bleeding issues.

Due to the nature of the dyeing process pigment dyed shades, loose pigments may remain on the surface of the garments even after the first wash. These can rub off onto other garments in your wash cycle.

 Will the white ink turn pink?   

The white ink printed on your tees should not change color. Although it can occur if the shirts were not printed properly. We have systematic processes in place to prevent this from happening.

This is called Dye Migration; when the dye color of the screen printed garment absorbs into the screen printing ink. This is more likely to happen with 100% polyester garments or garment dyed colors in the red color family (red, charcoal or purple).

The only way to completely prevent dye migration is to use a barrier layer between the ink and the shirt. If you are working with a reputable printer, they will take measures to prevent migration. These include using inks that have been specifically formulated to resist dye migration and properly handling of the shirt during printing and packaging.

Bolt Printing is home to industry experts who have been providing quality custom shirts for over 10 years   

We are a hands-on company and stand behind the custom printed and embroidered products that we sell. Everything is done in-our-building including customer service, artwork preparation and the actual screen printing of your shirts. We are available, dependable and reliable we are passionate about helping our customers and our work.

We're experts!

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any other questions about how to wash screen printed shirts?

If you have other questions that we might have missed let us know. You can always reach us via phone or live chat during regular business hours or use the contact form.

We are here to guide and help you when you are ready to order your custom screen printed shirts.