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Guidance for Heat Pressing Industrial/Workwear Garments

The branding of industrial workwear apparel with heat transfers can involve an unexpected learning curve. When you compare fusing heat transfers on your average cotton, polyester, or blended garments, there are many more things to keep in mind when applying heat transfers to work garments. Industrial workwear garments tend to be of thicker material and have a coarse texture, which can be a challenge when fusing heat transfers.

Knowing the limitations of the heat transfers your company produces, or purchases, is critical. Workwear is typically made for heavy usage, subjected to constant wear and tear, and are washed frequently. If you are not sure of your transfer’s durability, put them to the test. Ten high-temperature wash tests should get you started. Make sure the temperature of the water is at least up to 140 F, and the wash duration is a minimum of one hour and a half. Dry in between each wash cycle with the hottest setting on the dryer for an hour. After 10 wash and dry cycles, you should have an answer on whether or not your transfer product is durable enough to be used for industrial workwear.

Knowledge of the material content and whether the industrial apparel has a coating or treatment is essential. If the garment is darker and contains more than 50% polyester in the makeup of the garment, consider using a transfer product that is capable of blocking dye from migrating through the transfer once applied. Waterproof and fire-retardant coatings are used quite a bit with the manufacturing of industrial apparel. Just know that coated fabrics can affect the adhesion of the transfer to the material.

That said, always test for proper adhesion. One down-and-dirty way of doing this is the scratch and pick test. Apply the transfer to the garment and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours. When time is up, the first step is to try and get your fingernail under the edge of the applied transfer and start picking at it. Try and peel the transfer off. The harder it is to pick off the transfer, the more durable it is.

With today’s wide variety of fabrics available and new material technologies introduced regularly, the name of the game is testing. When choosing a transfer product or dialing in a heat press application protocol, testing should be done and recorded every time you introduce a new material/fabric into your shop.

The workwear market is ever-expanding. In the past, workwear mainly encompassed labor-intensive industries. Today, many offices, medical facilities, and desk jobs use workwear to set apart staff members from the public or to advertise their specific services via the branding on their garments.

Here are some examples of workwear in the market today:

  1. Industrial workwear (coveralls, jackets, pants, gloves)
  2. Medical (scrubs, gowns, bedsheets, PPE)
  3. Public services (PD, FD, EMS, airlines)
  4. Restaurants and hotels (uniforms, bedsheets, apparel to sell to the public)
  5. Schools (uniforms)
  6. Delivery services (UPS, FedEx, Amazon)
  7. Repair services (plumbers, technicians)

The importance of branded workwear as a way of showing professionalism in the industrial and corporate market is rising. The types of fabrics used for workwear is continually evolving, as new technology such as lightweight and adaptable materials are created for use in different work environments. As such, testing of your transfers is paramount to service your customers.

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Sean Savitch, Insta Graphic Systems

Sean Savitch

Sean Savitch currently holds the position of research and development specialist for Insta Graphic Systems. He has been associated with the imprinting of textiles for more than 20 years, working with innovative applications and new technologies in large print shops throughout North America. Read the company blog at instagraphicsystems.wordpress.com.

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