How to Take Care of a Heat Press Printed Shirt

How to Take Care of a Heat Press Printed Shirt

Heat press printed shirts can be fairly long-lasting, especially if done well and with quality materials. That having been said, they also require special care if they are to last as long as possible.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a heat press printed shirt that has not been cared for properly. The design or print can become wrinkled, for instance, or can flake off over time. It can also melt, thus obscuring the original design. It can even turn a different color via color leaching—something that often happens with dark shirts that have white or very light prints on them.

You hardly want to spend money on a beautiful shirt only to have those things happen to it. All heat press prints will suffer some degradation over time, yes, but if you treat them well, it should be barely noticeable for the first years of ownership.

How Heat Press Printed Shirts Are Produced

It pays to know first how these shirts are made. The name gives away most of it, in fact. In a heat press shirt production line, a machine with a hot plate is usually employed to help press a design into a piece of clothing.

The design is a transfer. The simplest way of imagining these is to think of the “kiddy tattoos” that come on clear transfer film. Once you remove the white (plain) backing, you can simply stick the transfer film onto your arm and rub it on so that the “tattoo” transfers to your skin. The heat press transfer is not all that different: it just happens with a different type of transfer film/paint, fabric instead of your skin, and a high-heat press instead of your finger.

The heat is actually needed so that the transfer “sticks” properly to the fabric. This already tells you that heat affects the dyes involved in this sort of printing. As such, unwisely-applied heat is often a culprit in the wearing-out of shirts produced with this method.


How to Wash a Heat Press Printed Shirt

Washing a heat press printed shirt really is not that difficult, all things considered. There are certainly more sensitive types of fabric and clothing, after all, such as those that should only be hand-washed. By contrast, heat press printed shirts can be thrown into the washer.

That said, there are still some rules to follow when using a washing machine to launder these garments. Here are all of the ones worth remembering:

  1. Always wash these garments in cold or cool water. A few washes in warm water will not destroy a well-made heat press printed shirt, but it certainly will not help it either. As mentioned above, heat affects the print on these shirts, so it can soften and loosen it enough for the design to be damaged by other elements in the washer.

Then there is the fact that the heat can also affect the fabric of the shirt. Cotton shirts tend to expand and then shrink at the end of a high-heat wash, for example. Once the shrinking is done, this will leave you with a print that is suddenly too big for the shirt to which it is sticking. The result? An oddly wrinkled, crumpled-looking print.

  1. Turn these shirts inside out before popping them into the washing machine. Another factor that contributes to the print wearing down is friction, after all. Washing them with the print side out only leads to the design being knocked into and rubbed by the other garments in the wash.

This is very much like taking a pencil eraser and rubbing it over a pen sketch. Do it several times and the sketch seems fine, but if you keep it up, you will begin to notice even the penned lines starting to blur and fade. The same thing can happen to the print on your shirts if you wash them with the print side out all the time.

  1. Use the delicate cycle on the washer. Again this helps to reduce the friction bumping and rubbing your print design against another surface.
  2. Never use bleach on a heat press printed shirt—unless you are spot cleaning it and keeping the bleach well away from the printed area. Bleach will mar a print more quickly than you might realize. The pity of it is that a fair number of laundry detergents now have a small amount of bleach in them. You may want to check the ingredients of your detergent before using it on your heat press printed shirt.
  3. Never use an ultra-strong detergent on these shirts. For one thing, these often contain bleach, as mentioned above. For another, the stronger detergents can have reactions with the dyes used in heat press printing and can ruin the design.

How to Dry and Iron a Heat Press Printed Shirt

Given that both of these tasks typically involve heat and we have already pointed out its bad effects on prints, one might say the best route to take is just to avoid them. That is, it would be best to just let these shirts dry on the line and under the sun and never iron them. Still, there are times when line-drying is not an option. There are also a lot of prints that can now take a little bit of ironing—but never directly, as we will explain below.

  1. Never use the high heat setting on the dryer for these shirts. That will ruin the design as surely as ironing directly over the print. If you must use the dryer at all, use the lowest heat setting.
  2. Do not let these shirts stay too long in the dryer, even on the lowest heat setting.
  3. Do not iron these shirts directly. If you must iron them at all, iron them only from the back (turn the shirt inside out and iron the fabric behind the shirt). Furthermore, keep contact fleeting so as to avoid destruction of the print. The longer the heat is in touch with the print (even just the cloth behind it), the more it can distort and deform it.

One response to “How to Take Care of a Heat Press Printed Shirt”

  1. […] not ideal for dark shirts again because a lot of the dyes used are somewhat translucent. It also tends to suffer quite badly from rough treatment—being thrown in a very hot dryer, for example. Furthermore, it can feel a bit thick, which is not […]