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Will Screen Printing Ink Wash Out?

Are you wondering, will screen printing ink wash out? The answer may surprise you - so take a look at our complete guide and learn all there is to know!

Drew McCoy
Drew McCoy
Chief of T-Shirt Express, screen printing expert

One of the most common questions we get is - will screen printing ink wash out?

When it comes to printing your own apparel, one of the biggest concerns is whether the ink will wash out in the washing machine. And it’s a very valid concern, too, because it can happen.

So, what makes screen printing ink wash out in the washing machine? And how do you prevent that from happening? 

In this article, we will answer all of these pressing questions once and for all. In addition, we will talk about how many washes it takes before screen printing ink starts to fade, and what you can do to extend the lifespan of your screen printed shirts.

Let’s begin!

Will Screen Printing Ink Wash Out In The Washing Machine?

So, will screen printing ink wash out when you do the laundry? The answer depends on what type of ink was used during the screen printing process.

There are two main types of ink used in screen printing: water-based ink and plastisol ink. Plastisol ink is made up of a plastic polymer that sits on top of the fabric, resulting in bright and brilliant designs that can be used on garments of any color. Water-based ink, on the other hand, soaks into the fabric instead of covering it, resulting in a more breathable garment. However, the downside to water-based ink is that it doesn’t produce a vivid design on darker-colored garments. 

When the screen printing process is done correctly, both water-based and plastisol ink will not wash out. However, plastisol ink has the tendency to chip or crack when you wash it in very hot water or put it in a rough spin cycle. On the other hand, water-based ink will fade rapidly in the wash if it is not cured properly.

The bottom line? Yes, screen printing ink can wash out in the washing machine, but it does not occur often. If your screen-printed shirt is processed and taken care of properly, you can expect the design to last for a very long time.

What Causes Screen Printing Ink to Wash Out?

Both plastisol and water-based ink rarely wash out, but there are some circumstances when fading or washing out does happen:

Hard Water

Hard water is tap water that has high mineral content. These minerals can cause screen printing ink to break down, which can lead to colors bleeding or running in the wash. To prevent this, invest in a water softener for your house. 

Aside from preserving the quality of all your clothes (not just screen-printed ones), a water softener will also help avoid soap scum and water stains on your dishware, plumbing fixtures, and floors.

Improperly Cured Ink

Curing is the process of drying the design so it adheres to the fabric properly. If the ink is not fully cured, it will surely crack or fade in the washing machine. To prevent this from happening, proper curing times and temperatures must be applied.


Fibrillation occurs when the fibers of the shirt break through the ink on top. There are a number of reasons why this happens, which can range from using ink with subpar quality or printing a t-shirt made from the wrong material. Therefore, the best way to prevent fibrillation is to use good-quality ink on high-quality cotton.

How Many Washes Does Screen Printing Ink Last Before Starting To Fade?

In general, you can wash a screen-printed shirt 40 to 50 times before it starts to fade. Because the ink used in screen printing is thicker than the ink used for other printing methods, screen-printed garments can withstand a large number of washes while keeping the design intact.

However, it is also important to note that how you take care of your screen-printed shirt will also play into how long the ink lasts. 

How To Prevent Screen Printing Ink From Washing Out

Looking for some tips to prevent screen printing ink from washing out? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best ways to preserve the artwork in your clothing.

Use Cold Water

Cold water washes help keep garments in the best possible condition, screen-printed or otherwise. In contrast, washing your clothes in hot water can cause their color to fade away and the fabric to deteriorate much faster.

Hand Wash

Handwashing is the safest way to clean your screen-printed clothes. If handwashing is not possible, choose the delicate cycle on your washing machine.

Turn Your Clothes Inside Out

Always remember to turn your clothes inside out so that the print will not rub against other garments or get caught on something in the machine.

Don’t Iron The Print

Excessive heat can cause plastisol-printed designs to crack or chip. If you must iron your screen-printed shirt, place a towel or another shirt on top of it to prevent direct contact. Do not use any steam.

Avoid Using Fabric Softener

Unfortunately, the chemicals in liquid fabric softeners can cause screen printing ink to deteriorate, leading to it cracking or chipping away. Instead of fabric softener, use dryer sheets for that extra clean laundry scent.

Check The Care Label

It’s important to remember all of the tips that we have mentioned above, but checking the care label is still crucial. Before tossing a new screen-printed shirt in the washing machine, don’t forget to check the tag for proper care instructions. Some shirts can only be washed in a delicate cycle, while others retain their best quality when left unironed. Check the care label to be absolutely sure.

Will Screen Printing Ink Wash Out? Wrapping Up

Well, there you have it. We’ve answered the age old question: will screen printing ink wash out?

Screen printing ink won’t wash out if you go with the best of the best. Here at T-Shirt Express Ohio, we uphold high standards of quality when it comes to the inks we use and the shirts we print on. So, not only are our shirts made from high-quality fabric, but we can guarantee that our printed designs will last for ages.

Don’t settle for just good quality shirts. Get the best custom printed t shirts in bulk from T-Shirt Express Ohio today.

Ready to take the next step? Request a quote today.

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Written by

Drew McCoy

Head honcho at T-Shirt Express Ohio. 12 years in the screen printing industry. Over-thinker.