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Screen-printed garments can look absolutely amazing when they're fresh and new. With crisp, original graphics that pop out at the world, they're a great way of adding a touch of innovative style to your wardrobe. That being said, we've all seen worn, cracked screen-printed items of clothing before as well, and it doesn't look amazing. If you're considering getting a batch of garments made, you'll likely be wondering how long they'll stay looking fresh - the answer is, it depends.

factors that influence a screen-printed garment's lifespan

As with most things, there's no simple answer to that question posed above. There are multiple different factors that go into determining how long a screen-printed garment will last, from the type of fabric to what kind of activities the piece is worn for. Let's take a look at the most important influential factors to consider.


One of the most important factors when it comes to determining the lifespan of a screen-printed garment is the kind of fabric you choose to print on. First, if the fabric is particularly stretchy, each time the design is stretched, it will stress the printed section, increasing the probability that cracks will form.

Second, screen printing tends to adhere better to flatter weaves, as it can get more of a grip on the fabric. Fabrics that have high ridges or other elevated patterns tend to wear more quickly, meaning that the design will ultimately last for a smaller number of washes.


Another important factor to consider is the kind of ink used during the process. There are two main kinds of ink used for screen printing - water-based ink and plastisol ink. Both can produce very high-quality results; however, each has its own weakness. While extremely durable, plastisol ink has more of a tendency to chip and crack over time, as the prints it creates are slightly harder than water-based inks. Plastisol inks sit on top of the fabric, standing out more both in terms of texture and colour than alternative inks. This makes it extra important that you use a non-stretchy fabric as if you stretch the design itself; it will likely lead to it cracking.

Whereas plastisol inks sit on the surface of the fabric, water-based inks tend to soak into the fabric, leading to a more subtle effect. While garments printed with water-based inks probably won't crack, the effect is a lot less bright than with plastisol inks, and it can fade a lot quicker over time - especially if the ink isn't set properly.

Quality of the printing process

The overall quality of the printers and the printing process will also impact how long the garment lasts. For example, if the ink is applied in the wrong way (perhaps too much plastisol ink, or the printer forgetting to properly set water-based inks) then the design will be far more likely to wash out in the washing machine.

This makes it incredibly important that you choose a capable printing provider - if you're going to invest in a run of customised clothes, you might as well get it right.

Usage of the garment

Finally, the way that the garment is used and cared for will have a significant impact on how well it stands the test of time. Even the highest-quality screen-printed t-shirt won't last long if it's worn every day in a high-intensity environment - if you want an item to last for a long time, it needs to be looked after properly.

so, how many washes will it last?

As you can see, there are a vast number of different factors that need to be considered when judging how many washes a screen-printed garment will last. However, in general, most screen-printed items of clothing will start to fade after between 20 to 50 washes. That may sound like a big range, and it is - if you really look after your garment and only wash it on the gentlest of cycles, you may be able to extend the lifespan beyond 50 washes. On the other hand, if you wear your garment while you work out or during other strenuous activities such as manual labour, you may find that it doesn't even last for 20 washes before it starts to fade and crack.

In terms of a time frame, that's also very difficult to judge; if you look after the garment extremely well and manage to get 50 washes out of it, but you wear it all the time and need to clean it every week, that adds up to just one year or usage. On the other hand, if you only wear it on special occasions and store it in a cool, dry place, you could still be enjoying your item of clothing years down the line.

care tips to extend the lifespan

If you're looking to extend how long your screen-printed garment lasts, then below we've shared some basic care tips to help you out. 

  • Be sure to turn the garment inside out before washing it to protect the design.
  • Use mild washing liquids or powders, being sure to avoid any damaging chemicals like bleach.
  • Wash your garment on a cool cycle - hot water can lead to premature wear on scene printed designs.
  • Try to hand dry when possible - dryers and high-speed spins can damage the print by stretching and excessively heating it.
  • Don't iron the design without a protective cover, especially plastisol inks, as it can melt the ink.
  • Be sure to store the item in a cool, dry environment in the long run.

While there's no easy answer to how long a screen-printed garment will last, there's clearly a lot you can do to extend the expected lifetime. That starts by ensuring that the product is made to a very high-quality and ends by practising good product care. With the right approach, you can wash your screen-printed garment up to 50 times, allowing you to enjoy it for years and years to come.