Will Screen Printing Ink Wash Out?

Screen printing ink and washing

While it’s uncommon for screen printing ink to wash out, it does happen on occasion. Since there are two main types of ink used in screen printing, the question has two responses. Let’s take a look at how long screen printing ink lasts…

Water-Based Ink

Water-based ink is the newer ink on the scene. Unlike plastisol, it doesn’t sit on top of the shirt fiber. Instead, it soaks into the garment, altering the fiber itself instead of covering it. This has the benefit of feeling much softer to the touch than plastisol-based inks and allowing for more detail. A shirt printed with water-based ink will be much more breathable than one printed with plastisol.

Water-based inks also won’t chip or crack as plastisol-based inks can. The disadvantage is that the drying/curing time of water-based ink is significantly longer than that of plastisol. If not properly cured, water-based ink will fade quickly in the wash. Another shortcoming of water-based ink is that it isn’t ideal for dark-colored garments.

Since water-based ink is thinner and soaks into the fabric instead of covering it, the ink won’t show up on the darkest of fabrics. If you’re a water-based ink user, stick to white, beige, and other light-colored shirts for bases. Water-based ink will not wash out of a shirt if applied correctly. If done correctly with high-quality ink, water-based ink screen printing can last as long as plastisol ink screen printing, but there is more margin for error.

Plastisol Ink

When people picture a screen printed shirt, they are usually thinking of plastisol. This ink, which has been the standard of the screen printing world for a long time, is actually a plastic polymer. Since plastisol is technically solid, it will not sink into the fabric of the shirt, but instead binds permanently to the fibers and lies on top. This is why plastisol can be used on shirts of any color. 

Even on a jet black shirt, plastisol will be as brilliant as ever. The brightness of plastisol can’t be beaten. Both water-based inks and plastisol ink are finicky when it comes to washing. The biggest concern with plastisol is that the design can chip or crack with too much heat or rough laundering.

While water-based ink may be softer to the touch, plastisol cures much faster and is easier to work with overall. Just like water-based ink, properly applied plastisol will not wash out. But what about vinyl? Does that wash out faster or last longer? 

Vinyl or Screen Printed Shirts?

  • With all the talk about our new vinyl graphic capabilities and the great features they offer, I think this would be a good time to take a deeper look into the differences between vinyl and screen printing when making a t-shirt. Both options will give you a high-quality, long-lasting product, and in most cases, either option will work just as well as the other.

Run Sizes

  • VINYL: Vinyl is well suited for very small runs (which we would consider anything from 1 to 12 shirts), this is because the setup time is much quicker than that of screen printing. This doesn’t make it a faster overall method though, as every shirt still requires individual setup, which becomes too time-consuming beyond the 12-shirt mark.

    SCREEN PRINTING: Our minimum order quantity (sometimes referred to as MOQ) for screen printing is 24 shirts, as it takes much longer to set up than vinyl. Once the setup is finished though, nothing will need to change from shirt to shirt (as long as the design stays the same), making it much quicker to print larger orders.

    Vinyl is best suited for small runs (under 24), screen printing is more cost-effective for large runs.

Image detail and color(s)

  • VINYL: Vinyl is well suited for very small runs (which we would consider anything from 1 to 12 shirts), this is because the setup time is much quicker than that of screen printing. This doesn’t make it a faster overall method though, as every shirt still requires individual setup, which becomes too time-consuming beyond the 12-shirt mark.

    SCREEN PRINTING: Our minimum order quantity (sometimes referred to as MOQ) for screen printing is 24 shirts, as it takes much longer to set up than vinyl. Once the setup is finished though, nothing will need to change from shirt to shirt (as long as the design stays the same), making it much quicker to print larger orders.

    Vinyl is best suited for small runs (under 24), screen printing is more cost-effective for large runs.

Lifespan

  • Both vinyl heat transfers and screen printed ink should last years under normal use, but vinyl does tend to fade quicker.

    VINYL: Vinyl heat transfers applied to t-shirts should last years under normal use. Here are the care instructions:

    • Do not dry clean
    • Machine wash WARM w/mild detergent
    • Dry at normal setting
    • No chlorine bleach
    • Wait 24 hours before the first wash

    SCREEN PRINTING: Screen printed graphics should last the life of the garment under normal use.

  • READ: The Correct Way to Use Screen Print Tees for Branding

High Quality Screen Printing Services

  • So let’s face it, screen printing is the better option compared to vinyl shirts. So what are you waiting for? Contact T-Shirt Labs today to start designing your custom shirts, hats, and more with our award-winning design team! Then let our stellar pros get to work making your garments and packing them up for you to open like a kid at Christmas. 

    Let’s Get Shirt Done! Screen printing Near Me

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