How Long Does Screen Printing Last [5 Influencing Factors To Consider]

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It’s happened to all of us. We love the print on our t-shirt, only to find it wasn’t meant to be.

The design either faded after a few washes, or the ink began to crack and peel.

So, how long do these printed garments (specifically screen prints) last? And is there anything we can do to slow down the process of this happening?

Key Takeaways

How many washes can screen printed designs withstand?

A screen printed graphic will withstand 30 to 50 washes. This figure varies depending on ink quality, the quality of the fabric and even how well the ink has been applied.

The importance of ink curing

Failure to cure water-based or plastisol ink will affect durability (particularly if you put it in the wash straight after). Make sure the ink is fully cured in order to extend the print’s life expectancy.

What diminishes screen printing the most?

The biggest factor is the treatment of the garment. Like anything, how you care for something will determine its life expectancy. Hot water washes, heavy detergent, frequent drying and even how you fold clothing significantly weakens the print.

Screen printing is a bit like tattoos – they can last if you take care of them. But if you don’t, they will fade and deteriorate sooner. Their life expectancy also depends on how well the ink is applied!

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    However, there are tips to extend the life of your screen prints, such as the ones discussed we are about to discuss.

    How Screen Printing Works

    Just like any printing process, this process starts with a design. Once the design is finalized, it’s time to prepare the screen.

    The screen is coated with a light-sensitive material and then exposed to light. After the screen is exposed, the next step is to wash it out.

    The areas of the screen that are exposed to light are washed away, leaving only the stencil of your design.

    Screen printing process to add design to shirts and other clothing
    Screen printing process uses light exposure to work

    It’s time to set up the equipment and get printing!

    This is a printing technique where a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a substrate. The exception is in areas made impermeable to the ink by a blocking stencil.

    A blade (or squeegee) is moved across the screen to fill the open mesh apertures with the ink. A reverse stroke causes the screen to touch the substrate briefly along a line of contact.

    This pulls the ink through the mesh apertures as the screen springs back after the blade has passed.

    One color is printed at a time. Therefore, several screens can be used to produce a multi-coloured design.

    If you’re looking for a detailed explanation on how screen printing works, then this article is for you!

    The Durability of Screen Printing

    This printing technique has been around for centuries. It’s a versatile and durable method used on a variety of product pieces.

    It is used on t-shirts, posters, and other promotional materials. The durability of the design depends on the screen printing ink, the substrate used and other factors we will cover.

    Screen printing is durable when applied properly. However, this depends on many factors.

    Ink type is one of the biggest factors in determining the durability of a screen print. For example, water-based inks or a plastic-based ink, like plastisol may be applied.

    Water-based ink is the most common ink used in this process. While it is good for creating vibrant colors, it’s not as durable as other ink types.

    How long do screen printed t-shirts last?

    Screen printed shirts are a popular choice for apparel because they are budget-friendly. But how long do these prints last?

    With special care, a screen-printed t-shirt may last for years, or an entire lifetime. But there are a few things that can shorten the lifespan of the print. For example:

    • Frequent machine washing
    • Frequent machine drying
    • Exposure to sunlight
    • Improper storage.

    A shirt printed with high quality ink on a high quality material will last longer than lower quality ink on a cheaper shirt.

    To extend the lifespan of your design and t shirt, be sure to wash it in cold water and hang it to dry. Avoid ironing the printed area, but rather iron the reverse side of where the printed area is.

    How long do discharge printed shirts last?

    If you’re looking for a durable and stylish shirt, consider a discharge printed shirt.

    Discharge printing is a process that removes color from the fabric, creating a vintage-inspired, soft print. These shirts are typically made from 100% cotton or similar materials and can last for years with proper care.

    To ensure the longevity of your discharge printed shirt, follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer. This type of printing is an affordable and vibrant alternative to traditional screen printing.

    How many washes does screen printing last on average?

    Most screen printing designs will last between 30 and 50 machine washes. This is around the time the first signs of fading appear. 

    If printing on quality fabric, the life of the print can be extended using fabric conditioner. Using a mild detergent on a cool setting will help prolong the life of your fabric and design.

    Tip: Turn your t-shirt inside out before putting it in the washing machine. This protects the design from coming in direct contact with other garments that may have zips, buttons or other potentially damaging items.

    Does screen printing or digital printing last longer?

    When choosing between screen printing and digital or DTG printing, durability should be considered.

    Screen printing is more durable and resistant to fading. The ink used for screen printing is thicker and more resistant to fading. This makes it ideal for outdoor signs or frequently worn shirts.

    This ink is pushed through a fine mesh screen onto the fabric, resulting in a long-lasting print as long as it is cured properly. 

    Digital printing uses heat to transfer ink, which can cause cracking and peeling over time. This is especially true if the fabric is stretched or bent.

    However, DTG printing has improved and can be nearly as durable as screen printing now, but, this depends on the type of ink and paper used.

    This printing method can be less expensive and faster than screen printing, but the type of ink and paper used should be considered.

    Washing Your Screen Printed Garment

    Assuming your screen printed garment is properly cared for, it should last as long as any other garment you own.

    How often you wear it and what you do in it will affect its longevity. With proper care, a screen printed garment can last a long time.

    How you wash your garments can impact print details and quality.

    To keep your screen printed garment looking its best, wash it in cold water with a mild detergent. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners. Hang or lay flat to dry. If you must iron your garment, do so on the back side only.

    At what temperature should I wash my garments?

    You can wash your screen printed garment at any temperature! However, we recommend washing it in cold water to prolong print and garment life.

    Hot water can fade the ink and shrink the fabric. If using hot water, turn garment inside out to protect the print.

    What type of detergent should I use?

    Extend the life of your screen print by using mild detergent when washing the garment.

    Avoid bleach and fabric softeners as they can cause premature fading. Harsh detergents with chemicals can also strip away the ink and cause fading.

    ​It’s recommended to use gentle, natural detergents to preserve the ink pigment and design.

    Storing your screen-printed garment

    Here are a few storing tips for your screen-printed garment so that it stays in good condition:

    • Wash the garment before wearing it. This will help set the ink and prevent it from fading or cracking over time.
    • Wash the garment inside out. This will help protect the print from wear and tear.
    • Hang the garment to dry (or lay it flat to dry). Avoid putting it in the dryer. This can cause the print to fade or crack.
    • Iron the garment on a low setting. This protects the design and fibers.
    • Do not dry clean.

    Should I hang or fold my garment?

    What other ways can you extend the life of your screen prints?

    First, it’s important to hang or fold your screen printed garment properly. If you’re hanging it, make sure to use hangers that won’t damage the printed design and details.

    Hanging your garments will prevent them from getting creased and wrinkled. Folding your garment will also prevent it from getting creases and wrinkles AND save on wardrobe space. But try to avoid folding down the line of the design.

    Ultimately, if you want to protect your clothing, then hanging is the preferred option!

    Things That Can Shorten the Lifespan of Your Screen Print

    Technology has come a long way since the early days of screen printing. There are now some very durable inks and fabrics on the market. However, there are still a few things that can shorten the lifespan of your screen print.

    The first thing to consider is the fabric you are printing on. Some fabrics, like polyester, are more resistant to fading and wear than others materials. If you are printing on a fabric that is not very durable, it is important to take extra care of it.

    Washing your printed garment inside out in cool water and hanging it to dry is the best way to care for it. Avoid hot water and dryers.

    Washing your garments in hot water

    Again, the answer depends. If you’re talking about a screen print on a garment made of 100% cotton, then it will likely last quite a while.

    However, if the garment is made of a different material, or if the screen print is applied directly to the skin, then it may not last as long. In general, a screen print should last through multiple washes in hot water without fading or peeling.

    If washed regularly in hot water, the print will fade sooner than if you take care to wash it in cold water.

    Putting your garment in the dryer on high heat

    It’s recommended hanging dry your screen-printed garments to extend their lifespan. But we understand that not everyone has that kind of time.

    If you must put your screen-printed garment in the dryer, make sure to put it on low heat (or no heat). Remove it as soon as it’s dry. This avoids unnecessary further heat exposure, which will further prevent the ink from fading.

    FAQ

    How long do screen printing screens last?

    Screen printing screens can last for years, if cared for properly. Storing screens in a cool, dry place and cleaning them after each use will help prolong their life.

    Periodically inspecting screens for damages and replacing them as needed will also help ensure that your screen printing project will go smoothly.

    Does screen printing fade?

    The answer is yes, screen printing can fade over time. However, there are ways to prevent this from happening. Screen printing inks are available in different formulations, some of which are more resistant to fading than others.

    You can also treat the fabric with a fabric protector before printing, which will help keep the ink from fading.

    Are screen prints permanent?

    Screen prints are not as permanent as other printing methods, such as digital printing. The ink can fade or crack over time. You can prolong the life of your screen print by storing it in a cool, dark place.

    Does screen printing last long on shirts?

    With proper care, a screen printed garment can last for many years. The key to making your screen printed shirt last is to wash it properly.

    Avoid washing it in hot water or drying it on high heat. Other things to avoid are harsh chemicals or bleach when cleaning the shirt.

    Conclusion

    Screen printing is one of the most durable printing methods available. With proper care, your screen printed garment with detailed designs will last for years.

    However, there are a few things that can shorten the lifespan of your screen print. First, frequently washing your garments in hot water or putting them in the dryer on high heat, will accelerate the fading and cracking process.

    Secondly, exposing your garment to harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, will also begin to degrade the design.

    Lastly, if you don’t store your garment properly, the print can become distorted and crack.

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