Cleaning and reclaiming your screens can be one of those tasks in your business you don’t want to do or you’d rather pay someone else to do. In case you find yourself in charge of this process, here are a few tips to make your life easier.
Use clean-up cards: These inexpensive, disposable ink cleaning tools are fantastic for getting that last bit of ink off your screens and reduces your clean-up time significantly. Removing most of your ink beforehand makes the cleaning/degreasing process a lot more efficient and effective.
Don’t leave ink on your screen: This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to see how this can be overlooked quite often. It’s a simple proactive thing you can do that can save you money. When you’re done using a screen for a print, use clean-up cards, a squeegee, or a spatula to scoop up the extra ink back into their containers for another day. Don’t leave excessive amounts of ink to dry on your screens. That’s throwing money away.
Use a good press wash: There are many different screen cleaners on the market. Consider one that can even be used on-press for those quick color changes. Again, breaking down as much ink as possible makes the whole process easier.
Use split tape: This special tape is used to mask off your screens’ edges and peels off easily without leaving any residue. Typically, they come in 3″ rolls, which helps make cleanup much more manageable. By using these tapes, you can cut down on labor costs and cleaners.
Use haze remover: The “ghosting” left behind by the stencil can be easily removed with haze remover. This extra step in the process helps ensure you get squeaky clean screens.
Make sure you’re using adequate water pressure: If you’re using anything other than a pressure washer to blow out the emulsion, you’re going to have a hard time getting that done. If you don’t have access to a pressure washer, head to your local do-it-yourself car wash, put a quarter in the machine, and clean those screens.
Refine your screen coating process: If your stencils are too thick, you’re using too much emulsion, and that emulsion is going to stick in some spots when you’re washing it out. If you notice any of this, make sure the next time you coat screens to put down less emulsion in more even coats. By practicing screen coating, you can help ensure you get even coverage that’s easier to break down when the time comes.
Don’t leave your emulsion remover on for too long: Only let the remover stay on screen for 15-30 seconds max; otherwise, it will permanently lock the emulsion into the screen, and all your hard work will be for nothing. Once you’ve sprayed it on and left it for about 30 seconds, take a scrub pad and scrub until you see the emulsion begin to break down and rinse.
Use a dip tank: We saved the best for last. Dip tanks are by far the easiest way to clean and reclaim screens. There’s no scrubbing or waiting. You dunk your screen into the tank with a solution for about four minutes and spray it out, and you’re done. Dip tanks are also relatively inexpensive, with smaller tanks going for less than $200.
These are all simple, proactive steps you can take to make the cleaning and reclaiming process easier.