Screen printed garments, especially t-shirts, are always in-style. They are a great way to advertise a business or event; show love for an athlete, team, or cause; and screen-printed t-shirts are always a top selling souvenir item.

The screen-printing process became popular in the early 1960s when artist Andy Warhol created his iconic image of Marilyn Monroe, the Marilyn Diptych, using the screen-print process. Screen printing on garments became popular in the late 1960s and the trend continued. Today over half of all screen-printing in the United States is for garments.

With so many garments created via screen printing, many people are wondering how to care for the garments properly to keep them looking great. In the busy world, most people want to take care of tasks like laundry as quickly as possible. Read on to learn some helpful dos, don’ts, and details about caring for screen-printed garments.

Screen Print Care Do’s

  • Definitely wash screen-printed garments inside out. This protects the screen print from abrasions from other items sharing the washer.
  • Wash screen-printed items with those made of the same (or similar) fabrics to decrease pilling and lint transferring.
  • Use a very mild detergent or a product like Woolite™ when washing screen-printed clothing.
  • Always wash in cool water. All water temperatures below 90° Fahrenheit are safe for screen-printed garments.
  • Hand-wash the garment if possible or use the washing machine’s gentle cycle.
  • Hang the garment or lay it flat to dry.
  • Use a cool iron, if necessary, and iron the screen-printed garment inside out.
  • Iron the screen-printed garment between two pieces of cloth to protect the design.

Screen Print Care Don’ts

  • Don’t dry clean screen-printed items. The chemicals in the dry cleaning process can cause spotting or staining.
  • Avoid bleach, especially chlorine bleach; the agents in bleach will discolor fabric threads and the dyes used in screen-printing.
  • Do not use fabric softener on screen-printed garments. Fabric softeners degrade the ink used in the screen-printing process and
  • causes cracking and/or fading of the screen-printed areas.
  • If ironing the screen-printed item, do not use steam.

Details and common issues

Shrinkage: This common problem can be infuriating when a special garment is no longer wearable.A large number of manufacturers pre-shrink their fabric before shipping it for screen-printing and this is particularly helpful. Garments made from fabric that has not been pre-shrunk can shrink as much as one full size during their first washing. Heat from the dryer and hot water washing are the major causes of shrinking. This is especially true if the garment is 100% cotton. A good general rule is the higher the cotton content, the greater the potential shrinkage.

Pilling: The idea that only poor quality clothing will pill is a just a popular myth. All fabric regardless of quality has the potential for pilling. Friction the garment endures from wearing or washing causes pilling. The friction loosens the fabric’s fibers and pulls them away from the fabric. The fibers then form fuzzy balls or “pills” on the surface of the garment. A hand held fabric shaver can help eliminate pills, but turning a screen-printed garment inside out before washing is a better way to prevent them.

Hard water: The minerals found in hard water are an enemy of screen-printed garments. The minerals deposit in the fibers of the fabric and cause the fabric to become stiff. Hard water degrades the dyes used in screen-printing and the colors tend to fade or run. The same minerals also increase pilling of the fabric. Aside from purchasing a water softening system, the best way to protect screen-printed garments is to soak them in a gallon of water mixed with one cup of white vinegar prior to washing.

Preventing laundry mishaps that ruin screen-printed garments is not difficult, but it does require attention to a few details. Use these tips and keep favorite items looking great.