1-2 Working Days Delivery
Free Delivery on All Orders Over £99.00 Ex.VAT
All Orders Dispatched From UK
How to Safely Wash and Dry Screen Printed T-Shirts (Complete Care Guide)

How to Safely Wash and Dry Screen Printed T-Shirts (Complete Care Guide)

Printed t-shirts aren't just something to wear a few times and throw away. As well as being fun and fashionable garments to enjoy and show off, they are also often reminders of important occasions, whether that's a leavers party, a holiday or some other event for which the t-shirt is the only tangible souvenir. So you want to really look after them but also wear them - not store them in a glass cabinet.

Unfortunately, the one part of printed t-shirt care that can have a lasting effect is the washing and drying process. Valleys are carved in rock by rivers, so don't be surprised if your t-shirt starts to lose its pristine looks eventually after numerous washes. However, there are some ways you can ensure that you get the absolute most out of it through careful laundry. Here are our tips.

What kind of ink is it?

First, have a look at the type of ink. If you get really close up, you'll see that the ink either sits on the surface and is relatively smooth to the touch or is soaked into the fabric and is soft to the touch. If it's smooth, it's probably plastic-based, and if it's soft, it's probably water-based.

Some opaque water-based inks exist, and they do sit on the surface more than standard water-based inks, but you'd generally treat them as if they were plastic-based when washing anyway. Opaque inks will always be used on darker fabrics, while white fabrics take opaque and translucent inks equally well.

One of the weaknesses of plastic-based inks is being scraped and scratched off through abrasion. If you're washing multiple garments, this can quite easily happen. One way to help minimise the risk is to turn your t-shirt inside out before washing. It prevents abrasion against other items in the machine, as well as the sides of the drum.

Another potential weakness is high temperature, which can melt the ink. You'll never get the water hot enough to melt it, but a hot iron could lift it off like treacle, so you're best off not ironing the garment at all.

Ignore the label's washing instructions

Most printed t-shirts have a label with washing instructions, but remember - that's for the shirt itself. T-shirt printing companies never really make their own t-shirts. Instead, they'd rather buy high-quality products such as Fruit of the Loom or Gildan tees and print onto them. But the instructions are for the blank t-shirts and don't take into account the inks printed on them.


Try and keep all of your t-shirts of a similar colour together and wash them together at as low a temperature as you can. 30 degrees Celsius is ideal, and modern detergents effectively remove grime and odours at this temperature. If you're finding stubborn stains or remaining odours, try it at 40 degrees, but not unless you have to. Don't go any higher than 40 degrees with either type of print, however.

If there's a particularly dirty area, you can use a commercially available spray to pre-treat it - it will start working on the stain while the rest of the tee is dry, then finish the job in the machine. Alternatively, you can dampen the stain with a fast-coloured cloth or sponge and a small amount of soap, then gently dab at it to remove most of the stain. Do not rub it, though, especially on the printed area.


Don't even think about it. The same applies to those harsh detergents you might see for cleaning white cotton tablecloths or oily overalls. It's just not necessary. 


Hand washing is a very gentle option that lets the detergent, rather than movement, remove the dirt. Just fill a bowl with tepid water, add a small cup of washing powder, mix it up and place your t-shirts in the water to soak for ten minutes. Then gently swirl for a minute before emptying the bowl and rinsing in tap water once or twice.


You should be OK spin-drying your t-shirts to remove most of the water, but a hot tumble dry isn't advisable, as it creates the perfect conditions for the inks to be worn away and possibly heat-damaged. Instead, if you've got time, lay your wet printed t-shirts on a horizontal drying frame (usually placed over a bath, shower, or outdoors), and just leave them to drip dry and air naturally.  Otherwise, hanging on a dryer should be fine, but wait till it's damp rather than dripping wet. The extra weight of the water can stretch the fabric, and that can actually cause damage to the ink, even though it does have some elasticity.


Follow these tips, and you'll be able to put your printed t-shirt through a dozen washes without any noticeable degradation. It's really all about knowing what will damage the inks, as they are more delicate than the fabric, so wash for the ink, and the clothing will look after itself. It might be a little more time-consuming than chucking a full machine on 50 degrees and tumble drying, but your clothes will thank you for it.