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Best Practices in Screen Printing

Best Practices in Screen Printing

According to National Geographic, it takes about 715 gallons of water to make one t-shirt. Ensuring that you don’t waste t-shirts is not only important for your bottom line, it is also important to reduce your environmental impact. How can you ensure you don’t mess up shirts?

  1. Make sure your screen preparation is good! Degrease your screens every time you reclaim them. After you burn and wash out your screens, make sure there are no pinholes before you put the screens on the press.
  2. Use the right screens – if you are printing navy onto a white shirt, you probably don’t need to use a 110 mesh screen – go up to a 200 or even 255 mesh and you will get great results while using less ink. Even with white ink as an underbase, you can probably use a higher mesh screen than you are using – try going up a step on your next order and see if you still get good results.
  3. Try to sell the best t-shirt you can. While many shirts will probably end up as shop rags, the ones that keep getting worn are the ones that are comfortable and the ones that don’t wear out. In this sense, having the best artwork possible also helps keeping shirts out of the landfill too – a shirt you want to wear is a shirt that you will wear.
  4. Invest in a spot gun. If you end up with a little pinhole or a small area where ink shouldn’t be, spray the offending ink off instead of tossing the whole shirt.
  5. Ensure you are working in a clean environment. Stray ink around the shop will probably end up on a shirt somehow, so clean your messes as you make them.
  6. Avoid aerosols. Most aerosol products have a similar non-aerosol equivalent. Not only are you going to minimizing environmental impacts, you are going to end up with a cleaner and healthier shop. Chromaline’s TexTac is a great pallet adhesive, CCI SS-350 is a great press wash that dries quickly like many aerosol screen cleaners.
  7. Instead of using plastic spray bottles that degrade over time, use a non-aerosol sprayer like those used for brake cleaning.

Screen Room

The screen room is the area in which you are using the most water, as well as where you are going to be putting chemicals into your water system. Reducing your waste here is key!

Flattening down the sides of your emulsion while it’s wet will save you time and water during reclaim.
  1. Use the best quality product you can. Generally speaking, when you use a better quality product you can achieve similar results with less than a lower-quality product.
  2. After you coat your screens, scrape down the ridges from the edge of the scoop coater to make reclaim easier.
  3. Make sure you expose your screens properly – a properly-exposed screen will be easier to reclaim than an under- or over-exposed screen.
  4. Read the tech sheets for your chemicals to ensure you are using them right. Many chemical companies also have YouTube tutorials on how to best use their products!
  5. Make sure all ink is removed from the screen before reclaim. Scrape off as much ink as you can and then use as little solvent as possible to remove the rest.  Less ink means your emulsion remover can attack the emulsion itself, and not just sit on top of the ink film.
  6. Reclaim properly! You only need a few sprays of emulsion remover on each side. Scrub the emulsion remover in then let it sit for 30 seconds to a minute before you spray the emulsion off. Also, be sure you are diluting your emulsion remover properly. While some come Ready for Use, others can be reduced with water.
  7. At every step in your screen room process, think about how it affects your productivity further down the screen’s life. Adding 5 seconds to level off the emulsion after coating can save 30 seconds (and a bunch of water) during reclaim.
  8. Look at filtration systems that remove solids from your water before it makes it to the sewage system. Or, if you’re using a lot of water – look at recirculating or grey water systems to reuse the water you’re using.
  9. Use plumber’s tape and make sure you aren’t getting any leaks that are wasting water.
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