Unfortunately for T-shirt prints, water is a universal solvent. It’s a chemical that when added with soaps, softeners, and bleach can have a potent effect on D2 prints over time. The tendency of the wash to break down the print affects not only D2 prints, but also white toner printer prints, transfers, and screen printing alike.
However, there are a few ways you and your customer can mitigate the effect washing can have on your prints. The following are some guidelines, but you’ll need to do your own testing and make sure to follow your manufacturer’s directions.
- Change the mixture of the wash. This one is obvious. You can separate all your D2 garments from the regular wash for special handling. Gather all the garments you have which are printed and wash them on a gentle cycle or hand wash them separately. Only use bleach on non-printed T-shirts if possible, or spot clean them and wash them first so you don’t have to bleach the whole load. Contrary to popular belief, water softeners don’t actually soften the water or make it more gentle on your prints. Softeners are designed to break down the cotton fibers and strip away dirt. This leaves your garments feeling softer.
- Limit the exposure of the print to the wash. Other items in your wash can scratch up the beautiful prints you have created. So, most manufacturers recommend turning your printed garments inside out to wash them. This protects the prints and makes the prints hold up longer. You can also spot wash your garments and wear them more than once between regular washings. You can also use gentle wash cycles or short timed cycles. Use cold water and a cool dryer to preserve the most details in your prints.
- Pretreat and post-treat the print differently. You simply must follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for pre-treating to get a good print, especially on dark garments. However, with white or light colored garments, some companies sell a separate pretreat for light garments which helps the colors pop and hold up better in the wash. If you’re not pre-treating your whites, give it a try. There are also post-treatment options which you may want to experiment with for certain fabrics.