Screen printing is a common way of transferring a design to a t-shirt, but sometimes you don’t want the particular design you have on your t-shirt and want to remove it.
So, can you remove screen printing from a t-shirt and, if so, how exactly would you go about removing it?
Yes, you can remove screenprint ink from a t-shirt. The technique you will use will depend on the material of your t-shirt. For example, with a cotton t-shirt, you can remove the print by soaking it in nail polish remover with acetone, but with a polyester t-shirt, you need to wash it in warm water and scrub it with detergent and a hard brush.
What is the best method to remove screen printing from a t-shirt made from nylon without damaging the material? What are some other easy methods you can use to remove screen printing from cotton t-shirts? Let’s find out!
Removing Screen Printing From Cotton T-Shirts
Screen printing is the most prevalent method used to print a design or logo onto a t-shirt, so if you have a t-shirt with a design on it, it’s most likely screen printing. However, sometimes there will be occasions where you need to remove the screen printing from a t-shirt.
Some reasons you might need to remove a screen-printing design include:
- You are screen printing the t-shirt yourself and have made a mistake
- You bought a t-shirt from a thrift store and want to remove the cracked design on the front of the t-shirt
- You brought a t-shirt in a style you like, but it has words on that you don’t agree with
- You have a t-shirt from a past job that you want to take the logo off of so you can still wear the shirt
- You bought a t-shirt but didn’t like certain elements in the design on the shirt
These are very valid reasons to want to remove screen printing from a t-shirt. If you find yourself in one of these situations, you may be wondering how to remove the screen printing without damaging the t-shirt under the design.
The methods you can use to remove the screen print from your t-shirt will depend on the material the t-shirt is made from. So, you need to look at the t-shirts label and see which method in this article will apply to the t-shirt. First, we will look at how you can remove screen printing from a cotton t-shirt.
Use Nail Polish Remover Or Acetone
Nail polish containing acetone or the chemical acetone is perfect for dissolving cracked and old screen print designs on cotton t-shirts. This removal method is one of the most popular screen-printing removal methods for old designs as it is highly effective.
This method is usually recommended to people by t-shirt printing professionals, as most people already have nail polish remover containing acetone in their homes. However, if you don’t, you can easily find this type of nail polish remover at a store close to you, and it’s generally quite cheap.
You can also buy the chemical acetone; however, this will require you to follow proper safety precautions as the chemical is strong. So, you will need to wear gloves and safety glasses to use them. Due to this, most people opt for nail polish remover.
You need to immerse a cotton ball in the nail polish remover until the cotton ball is fully saturated with the liquid. Then gently dab the cotton ball onto the old screen print design and watch it slowly begin to come off the t-shirt. Repeat this until you have removed the design.
Use Plastisol Remover On The Design
Most businesses that do screen printing will use a screen-printing ink called plastisol, which makes this ink the most common screen-printing ink used today. Thankfully, this means you can buy a specialized ink remover that will easily remove the screen print design on your cotton T-shirt without damaging the fabric.
You can buy a plastisol remover that will dissolve the screen-printing ink with ease. This chemical is very strong, and you will need to wear gloves, eye protection, and work with it in a well-ventilated area.
To remove the screen-printing ink with this chemical, soak a soft cloth in the chemical and leave it there until the cloth is fully saturated with the liquid. While this is happening, you can place your t-shirt on a flat surface, design side up.
Carefully place it over the screen print design once the cloth is fully saturated with the plastisol remover. Leave it on the design for thirty minutes, and then carefully lift it to check if the design has dissolved.
If the design has dissolved, brush off any flacked ink off the t-shirt and use a different cloth to wipe off any residual plastisol remover from the fabric. Wash your t-shirt on a normal washing machine cycle with your regular detergent, and your t-shirt is design-free.
Use Spotting Fluid On The Design
A fun way to remove a screen print design from your cotton t-shirt is by using a spot removal gun with spot removal fluid. You can buy these machines from most local DIY stores, and they come in different sizes at different prices.
The more expensive ones are generally better and more effective at removing screen print designs from t-shirts. However, if you are patient and don’t mind going over the design multiple times, a cheaper one will still do the job.
These machines give you the control to remove the smallest details from a design without touching the rest of the design if you still want elements of the design on the t-shirt.
You will need to be careful using this screen-printing removal method as some spotting fluid can damage the fabric of the t-shirt. So, ensure you spray the liquid directly onto the design and nowhere else.
If you choose to utilize this method, be sure to wash your t-shirt in a regular wash with detergent to remove any leftover chemicals on the shirt before you wear it.
The Iron And Peel Technique
The iron and peel technique of removing a screen print design is one of the easiest methods to remove a design from a cotton t-shirt. For this ink removal method, you will need an iron and a large paper bag.
Some people may be skeptical of this method because when working with screen printing, you generally need to avoid applying heat to the design, as this could cause the design to harden. While this is true for some other scenarios, this is an exception.
Place the t-shirt on your ironing board, design side facing up, and turn on your iron to start heating it on a low setting without the steam. have a close look at the paper bag, and you should see that one side is shinier than the other. When you find the shiny side, place the paper bag on the screen print design with the shiny side facing the design.
Then run the hot iron over the paper bag several times. The heat from the iron should encourage the screen print design to stick to the paper bag, which will then peel the design away from the fabric of the t-shirt.
There might be some leftover ink on the fabric, but you can use a scraper or your fingernail to gently remove the small patches of ink.
Use A Coldwater Rinse For Fresh Ink
If you are in the process of creating the design on a cotton t-shirt and you made a mistake with the transfer, there is no need to worry or throw the t-shirt in the garbage and start over. You can fix this mistake pretty easily.
When working with fresh ink, you can generally remove the ink by rinsing the t-shirt in cold water. This removal method will only work on designs that have just been transferred to the t-shirt and not designs that have been on the t-shirt for days already.
So, as soon as you notice a mistake in the design while making the t-shirt, you need to place the t-shirt in your washing machine and put it through a cold rinse cycle or rinse the shirt by hand under cold running water. The fresh ink should wash away easily.
Let The Design Naturally Fade In The Wash
If you are in no rush to remove the screen print design from the t-shirt or the design is practically off already as it’s an old t-shirt, you could try to let the design fade naturally when you wash it multiple times.
The design on the t-shirt will fade naturally over time, and in the meantime, you can use the t-shirt as a home or sleeping t-shirt until the design comes off entirely. There are two problems with this method, though.
First, if the t-shirt is a colored t-shirt, the color might fade in the wash. Second, this method does take a long time to complete, so you will be wearing your t-shirt as a home or sleeping shirt for a long time before you are comfortable wearing it in public.
Use A Sugar Scrub To Remove The Design
If you are working with a fresher design but not quite fresh enough for the cold rinse method, if there is only a small portion of an old design left on the t-shirt, you can use the sugar scrub method to remove the ink from the screen print design.
For this method, you need a tablespoon of regular sugar. Place the sugar onto the screen print design and use your hand to rub the sugar over the design gently. If you don’t want to use your hand, you can also use a soft cloth.
Rub the sugar around the design in circular motions to gently rub the design off the fabric of the t-shirt. When the design has been rubbed off, use a soft brush to wipe away the sugar and ink from the t-shirt, and wash the t-shirt in a normal wash with detergent.
Removing Screen Print From Polyester T-Shirts
Removing screen printing from a polyester t-shirt is different from eliminating the designs from cotton t-shirts. This is due to polyester being a synthetic material, so it needs to be treated differently as it interacts with the ink if the screen printing differently.
With polyester t-shirts, you cannot use any methods mentioned above. Instead, you need to wash the t-shirt in warm water, apply some of your detergent to the design and scrub it with a hard brush until the design is off the t-shirt.
This is a labor-intensive task, but it is the only method. This synthetic material will not react well to chemical solvents like the plastisol remover, which can melt under high heat.
Removing Screen Printing From Nylon T-Shirts
Nylon is another t-shirt material that you need to treat differently from the two that have already been mentioned as this is also a synthetic material, but it’s made from different fibers than polyester.
To remove a screen-printed design off a nylon t-shirt, you can buy a can of WD40. Spray the WD40 liberally over the whole design and allow it to sit for about five minutes. Once this time is up, you need to scrub the design, with the WD40 on it, with an old towel.
The design should start dissolving, and you can brush it off with the towel. Then place your t-shirt in the washing machine with regular detergent to remove the WD40, and your shirt is ready to be worn.
Tips For Removing Screen Print From T-Shirts
If you are still having some trouble removing the screen printing from your t-shirt, here are a few tips that you can use that may help:
- When using the iron method, never use a steam iron as this will make the ink dry more, making it more difficult to remove.
- Washing the t-shirt by hand will help the print fade faster as you can focus the wash on the design better than in a washing machine.
- You can take your t-shirt to professional t-shirt printers and have them remove the screen print for you.
- When trying to remove the screen printing from a t-shirt, never wash it in a warm wash before starting, as this will harden the ink and make it difficult to remove.
Removing screen printing from your t-shirt can be a difficult task depending on the type of fabric your t-shirt is made from. Thankfully, there are methods to remove screen printing from basically all kinds of t-shirt material. Some materials may require more elbow grease to remove the design, but it will come off eventually. Good luck removing the screen printing from your t-shirt!
Bryan E. Robinson is the former 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 over 18 years of experience in online marketing with eCommerce, B2B SaaS, B2C products, and more.