How To Remove Screen Printing From Fabric: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Screening printing is a commonly used method that utilizes a mesh screen to transfer a unique design onto a substrate. Ink is forced through the mesh using a squeegee to create the artwork.

The reason for this method being popular? Being able to print in bulk and create multicolored and contrasting designs.

The substrate is not limited to garments. You can screen print on other materials such as metal, wood, paper, glass and more (as long as the surface is flat). Here is a more complete guide on what screen printing is. But for now we shall focus on how to remove it from your substrate!

Removing screen printing ink from fabric or items is something some will find themselves doing at some point. Artwork can become outdated and even unappealing. This is a straightforward process (unlike sublimation printing), because the thicker ink from screen printing does fully get absorbed by material fibers.

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    There are several techniques available depending on the type and quality of fabric. But in this guide we will share 7 types that will get the job done!

    In this guide we explain various ways of removing the print while preserving the fabric.

    Removing Screen Printing From Cotton Or Other Natural Fabrics

    Here are 7 ways of removing screen printing ink from cotton and other natural fabrics. Some of these methods involve the use of solvents. Always exercise caution and wear gloves and eyewear to be on the safe side.

    Screen print operator soaking ink with Acetone in order to remove artwork from a t-shirt.
    Acetone is one way of removing screen printing from fabric

    1. Using Acetone

    A white plastic bottle by Alliance Chemical containing 100% acetone in the contents

    Acetone may be used to remove screen printing from fabric such as t-shirts, hoodies or any garment for that matter. To do this, soak a soft cloth in solvent. Then dabbing whichever spot you want to remove the ink from.

    This is effective at removing ink from clothing, though it may take a few tries.

    Keep in mind that acetone can be quite damaging for your skin. So make sure to wear gloves before starting this process.

    Watch this video: Remove Screen Printing Using 100% Acetone [10 mins 13 secs]

    To save time, skip to timeline 02:06!

    2. Using nail polish remover

    Transparent bottle by Pronto containing nail polish remover.

    Nail polish remover is a great alternative to Acetone. Many nail polish removers are acetone based, with some of them containing even better dissolvers.

    To get rid of screen printing, you are going to need some cotton balls. Soak each cotton ball with some nail polish remover, then put it over the printed area and leave it for a while. Once the remover has had the time to react to the screen print design, use a stiff brush or a toothbrush to rub off the ink residue from the shirt.

    3. Iron and paper bag method

    Standard iron with temperature settings and spray that's green and white in color.

    This simple method should be used on more delicate cotton shirts.

    Set your iron to a temperature setting that is suitable for ironing cotton. Then press it over a piece of kraft paper to protect the fabric.
    Keep your shirt on the ironing board until the screen printed design starts melting. Finally, remove both the iron and the kraft paper.

    Once that’s done, you will need a wooden toothpick to rub off the remaining ink. Anything that’s strong and stiff with a sharp edge will do!

    Or if you are a little more daring you can try this:

    Watch this video: How To Remove Printing With An Iron [05 mins 08 secs]

    To save time, skip to timeline 00:23!

    4. Plastisol ink remover

    Transparent plastic bottle by Franmar containing Plastisol Ink Remover in its contents

    Another way to remove print from a shirt is by using plastisol remover. This store-bought mixture contains 90% water and 10% ammonia.

    You will need a plastic bottle with a sprayer to apply the plastisol on top of the design. After which you can rub the dissolved ink off.

    5. Use a spot fluid remover

    Alba industrial strength spot remover inside a white plastic bottle.

    These chemicals are found at screen printing supply stores. They are usually used with a gun for removing targeted smaller ink stains (spots). But they prove to work well for removing larger screen print areas with ease.

    While certainly a pricey method, it does come with a significantly lower risk of damaging the material.

    6. Washing machine cycle

    Washing can and will cause the screen printing on your garment to fade over time. To speed up the process, use hot water, a good amount of detergent and a fast cycle.

    Having the garment the right side out will expose the design surface more so than being inside out. This will erase the design quicker. However, it’s worth noting, this method requires some effort and will require multiple washes. It isn’t the quickest removal method.

    7. Cold water and sugar scrub

    Brown sugar scrub by Queens Botany inside a tub.

    Using cold water in your washing machine to harden the screen printing ink can make it susceptible to removal. Make sure to set the washing machine to work as long as possible to give the cold water time to do its job. Then use sugar scrub on the printings you want to remove. Apply enough sugar scrub to cover the design Finally, use a stiff brush to remove the ink suds and wash out the shirt.

    Tip: If you want to remove even more ink while washing, add concentrated vinegar to your cold water.

    Download PDF: → How to remove screen printing from natural fabrics

    How To Remove Screen Printing From Polyester Or Nylon Shirt

    If you have a polyester shirt or some other nylon fabric that you want to remove screen print from, there are several easy ways do so. Here are some of the main ones:

    Since polyester is way less porous than cotton is, the ink will never get as bound to the fabric. This is great, as it means that the screen print will be quite a bit easier to remove.

    1. Warm water and dish soap

    For this first way of removing screen printing from polyester, you will need to wash your shirt. This will be done with a mixture of warm water and a high concentration of dish soap to crack the ink.

    Afterwards, use a stiff brush to scrub off the pieces of the paint and wash the shirt again if necessary.

    2. Iron and craft paper

    Just as in the case of cotton shirts, you can use an iron and paper bag to remove screen printing from your polyester shirt.

    There is one thing to watch out however, and that is the temperature of your iron. As polyester is almost as prone to melting as the ink itself is, you will need to make sure that the temperature is low enough to not damage it.

    Thus, we recommend that you first try the hot iron on some other, spare piece of polyester. This will act as a test bed to make sure your shirt can sustain the heat.

    Additional tips:

    • When scrubbing off screen printing residue, make sure you don’t damage the fabric instead.
    • Always wear gloves when working chemicals intended to dissolve the ink, as they are just as likely to negatively affect your skin
    • Synthetic fabric is much easier to remove screen printing from, but is also easier to melt, so be extra careful when attempting to heat press it.
    • Multi colored design usually makes no difference to a single-color when removing it. It is the chemical composition of the ink that is important, not the color of the image.

    FAQ

    How do you remove fabric print?

    Removing fabric print can be done in multiple ways depending on the type of the print and the material said fabric is made from.
    Usually, you will need to either dissolve or otherwise scrub it off from your material and wash it afterwards to make sure it is completely clean.

    How do i remove a logo from clothing?

    Same as with any other kind of screen printing, you will need either chemicals or a hot iron and paper bag to remove it. 
    Different materials require different solutions, so make sure to check what your clothing is made from. Also, make sure that you don’t damage the material itself when removing the logo.

    How do I remove lettering from fabric?

    The way to do this is by dissolving or melting away the letters, then using a toothbrush to scrub off the remaining ink from the printed area. Some of the things you might need are Acetone, Nail polish remover and or a paper bag and hot iron, depending on what method you opt for.

    How do I remove a screen print mistake?

    Removing a fresh ink mistake is somewhat different that removing an already printed out image, as the ink hasn’t had the chance to set in completely. One of the ways is to quickly cool off the ink with cold water and then use a pressing iron and a paper towel, but there are others as well.

    Final thoughts

    In today’s society it is easier to throw out your clothing and simply buy a new ones that suits your current needs. Therefore, there’s no high demand for removing prints from clothing.

    Having said that, there is always that one piece of clothing that you love. One that might be comfortable, soft and keeps you warm. One that you simply cannot let go of, but at the same time, are too embarrassed to wear because you have out grown the design. It is times like this where these articles come in handy.

    Just be sure to determine what material the fabric is before starting the ink removal process!

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