How To Wash Printed T-shirts

Printed cotton T-shirts require some special care during washing and drying to ensure that the print lasts as long as possible before it cracks, fades, or peels. If it’s treated well, a high quality printed shirt should make it through at least 35 washes before the print starts to fade. Thinner, lower quality shirts do age faster than shirts of higher quality, but proper care will still maximize their looks and lifespan.

Caring for your print

• Read the garment care tags on each of your tees, so you can wash them accordingly. Do, however, remember that prints may require more gentle treatment than the shirt fabric does, and in particular – regardless of what the garment care tag says, don’t dry clean plastisol inks! They rarely mix well with dry cleaning chemicals.

• Separate white garments from colored ones, and inspect for stains.

• If required, apply a good quality stain remover to the stains (generally avoiding the printed design) and set the tees aside for a while prior to washing them so the stain remover has a chance to work. Read and closely follow the directions for whichever stain remover you’re using.

• Turn each printed T-shirt shirt inside-out, so the design is on the inside and the amount of rubbing it receives during washing and drying is minimized. This step is important!

• Wash your T-shirts with similar soft fabrics only – no heavy jeans or jackets – to minimize the amount of rubbing they’ll receive.

• Wash in cold water with normal detergent, at the recommended soap-water ratio for the detergent – a gentle hand wash, or a “delicates” cycle in a washing machine is usually fine. You can wash your shirts gently with warm water if they are particularly dirty, but avoid using hot water and excessive agitation (both of which are exceedingly unfriendly to prints and shirt sizes). Stick to gentle washing with cold water to minimize shrinkage and color loss.

• If you use a dryer, be sure to use the cool setting only for your printed T-shirts so they don’t shrink, stretch or melt! Generally, the safest bet is to air dry your tees, rather than tumble dry them. The less friction applied to a print, the better. If you place a hanger through the neck hole of the shirt, you may end up with a stretched neck hole and/or lumps in the shoulders or sleeves from the edges of the hanger, so it’s usually better to hang the shirt by its sleeves, or drape the shirt over the bar at the bottom of a triangular-shaped hanger.

• Once they’re dry, iron and fold the shirts. If the print is plastisol ink, don’t iron the design – plastisol is a thermoplastic, and can melt. Water-based inks, which are absorbed into the fibres of the T-shirt, are usually resistant to ironing.

Note – If the ink still peels off the shirt, or washes out in random, spotty areas after only a couple of careful washes, the most likely cause is ink washout. Ink washout occurs when ink is insufficiently cured after printing, and therefore fails to adhere properly to the fabric. If you experience this problem, discuss it with your printer – the fault is most likely with the print itself, rather than insufficient care being taken during washing and drying.