How to Protect Screen Printed Shirts

Screen printed shirts look amazing and most people love them, but if you own one, it’s important to know how to care for it, or you may find that your shirt fades and loses its vibrancy more quickly.

There are quite a few important things to avoid when you’re dealing with screen-printed shirts, such as washing them at hot temperatures or putting them in the dryer. Avoiding fabric softener is also a great idea, as is choosing a mild detergent.

How Do You Wash A Screen Printed Shirt?

Although screen-printed shirts need less care than heat press shirts, washing still needs to be done with care to protect the design as much as possible and make sure that it lasts well.

You should check the shirt’s laundry instructions, make sure that you comply with these, and set your washing machine to a cool or cold wash. Something below 90 degrees F should be suitable for screen printing, but never wash at a hotter temperature than this, or the dye may be affected.

Before you put the shirt in the machine, turn it inside out so that the screen print is on the inside. This will help to protect it as the machine spins and cycles, and prevent other items from rubbing against it. Make sure you are using a mild detergent that won’t affect the screen printing.

If possible, try to avoid putting heavy items in with the shirt, especially jeans or things with buttons. There is a risk of these items snagging the threads as the machine agitates the clothing. Overloading your machine will also make this worse, so try to only put a reasonable amount of items in.

You may want to use a delicate setting on your machine if it has a suitable one, as this will reduce the risk of the shirt getting damaged or the material pilling. If you have a particularly precious shirt or your machine doesn’t have a suitable delicate wash, you may want to try handwashing it, as this will be much gentler on the design.

It is best to avoid using fabric softener when washing screen-printed items, as this is likely to degrade the inks that have been used, and it could cause fading.

How Do You Dry A Screen Printed Shirt?

When you get the shirt out of your machine, do not automatically toss it into your dryer – this is really important. It is best not to apply heat to screen printing, and even a low setting on your dryer should be avoided. Heat may cause the threads of the shirt to expand, and this could warp or spoil the design.

Instead, you should hang the shirt up straight, either on a hanger or across a flat surface so that it can dry without creases. It is a good idea to have a standard airer that you can use instead of your dryer if you have screen printed clothing. Don’t dry it on a radiator or in front of a fire.

Can You Dry-Clean Screen Printed Clothes?

No, you should not dry clean anything that has been screen printed. Dry cleaning uses a variety of chemicals, and these may stain the design or cause spotting on it. You should wash screen printed clothing by hand or in a standard washing machine, using only detergent. 

Other cleaning products, such as bleach, are likely to ruin a screen-printed shirt and should therefore be avoided.

Can You Iron Screen Printed Clothes?

It is better not to iron screen printed clothing if you can avoid it. There are many other ways to get wrinkles out of clothing, including:

  • Hanging up the clothing while it is still wet so that it dries without creases
  • Using a de-wrinkling spray
  • Lightly steaming the shirt near a shower

If you would rather use an iron, you can do so, but you should take several precautions to protect the screen printing. Set the iron to its coolest option, and put your screen printed clothing between two other pieces of cloth to further reduce the heat. This should be enough to prevent the iron from damaging the threads and warping the design.

You may also wish to avoid ironing directly on the design if you can. This might be tricky if the shirt is inside out as you may not be able to see the design very clearly, but if you can avoid it, do so.

How To Hand Wash A Screen Printed Shirt

If you don’t want to risk your screen-printed shirt in your washing machine, you might prefer to clean it by hand. This can be a fairly simple process and it will help you preserve the design for as long as possible. You can be much gentler than your machine, and there’s no risk of other dyes running and spoiling the shirt.

To do this, fill a large bowl with cool water and add a little detergent. If the shirt has any stains, treat these with a suitable stain removal spray before you wash the shirt. Next, turn the shirt inside out and submerge it in the water.

Allow the shirt to soak for around 10 minutes so that the fibers can absorb the detergent, and then take a soft cloth and gently rub at any stains or areas that are soiled. Once this has been done, swoosh the shirt around in the soapy water, and then take it out and rinse it thoroughly several times, until the water runs clear and there are no bubbles left.

Hang the shirt up on a hanger and place a bowl under it, as it is likely to be dripping.

Conclusion

Screen printing is much more durable than a heat transfer and the designs should last better, but it is still important to look after them and treat them with care. This will ensure your shirts last for as long as possible, retaining their vibrancy and shape. Using cool water and gentle washes on screen-printed will preserve them for years to come.

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Bryan E. Robinson is the owner of TshirtGrowth. He has sold t-shirts since 2006 through dropshipping, screen printing, vinyl printing, DTG, Print on Demand, and more. Bryan has created his own t-shirt designs through Photoshop, Canva, and other platforms, as well as worked with freelancers to create many of his designs. Besides t-shirts, Bryan has 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.

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