In a business defined by pushing and pulling ink across a screen making a mess is an inevitability. Every time you mix inks or chemicals, clean a screen or break down a press there’s a chance stray colors could well end up where they shouldn’t.
It’s a fact. Embrace it. “Every printer’s got that pair of jeans or that shirt that has a million different colors splashed on it,” Texsource Georgia Sales Representative Scott Thompson said. “It comes with the territory. Your job is to make sure you don’t give yourself extra headaches because you got in a hurry and smeared ink on something meant for a customer.” Thompson offered his tips on stopping problems before they start and how you can save the day with a smart spot cleaning process.
Start Your Jobs the Right Way
By finishing your last job the right way.
That means inspecting and cleaning your tools and your workspace. The stray ink that ended up on the side of your press or ran down the side of the ink bucket has a funny way of showing back up when you least expect it. It becomes very easy to inadvertently transfer inky fingerprints to your next job, so take the time beforehand to reduce the likelihood of that happening.
Situational awareness is key, Thompson said. A heads-up printer can catch disasters in the making. This maxim especially applies to examining screens and tools before pouring ink and flooding an image. Pinholes in emulsion are easy to miss, especially in shops where screen exposure and printing duties are split among different employees. Look for pinholes or trouble spots post-exposure and be sure to address those with tape or blockout products. “Everyone has forgotten to tape up their registration marks at least once or missed pinholes during set-up,” Thompson said. “You’ll be better off if you catch that before you start your job than if you’re already a dozen shirts into your run.”
You Can Spot Clean
In situations where stray ink has already wound up on garments, you still have options to remedy the problem. You can turn to a spot treatment product like Texsource Tex-Blend Spot Remover Fluid, a solvent formulation that will get rid of plastisol and water-based inks, along with adhesive residue stains. Thompson said the product will work on both wet and cured inks but said you’ll have better results on cured inks. “Cured ink spots are easier to deal with than wet ink, which tends to smear much easier,” Thompson said. Some shops will use various nail polish removers. Thompson said that tactic could work in a pinch, but printers run the risk of damaging the underlying fabric.
The Spot Cleaning Process
The easiest way to approach the problem is to combine a spot remover fluid with a spot gun like Texsource’s SP1000. IMPORTANT: You’ll need gloves and eye protection as ink removers can be harsh and aggressive on skin and eyes. Take care to protect yourself.
You’ll also need something to separate the stained shirt layer from the fabric behind it. The goal is to keep the stain from bleeding into the fabric below it. A bucket works well in this application, but towels or fabrics can be placed beneath the affected shirt layer to soak up ink and cleaning fluid. Using the spot gun, spray the affected area until the ink dissolves and passes through the shirt’s fibers. Be mindful of splatter and exercise caution.
It’s Smart to Vent
Printers can also use a spot cleaning station, like Tekmar’s Exhaustex 1500 Exhauster Station, to capture the residual ink and solvent. A DIY approach is to cut a hole in the bottom of the cleaning bucket and fasten the hose of a wet/dry vacuum. Either solution will work. While it’s possible to correct ink errors after the fact, Thompson cautioned that it can be a time-intensive process that can hamper your efficiency. “The easiest way to deal with this is to catch these errors early,” Thompson said.