How to remove screen printing from fabric is a useful thing to know, especially if you want to clean up your screen printing errors or refresh a T-shirt that has an old design.
So, how do you remove screen print from clothes? There are three main ways to remove screen print ink from fabric: using chemical solvents, using heat or water, or using abrasive force to strip the ink from the fabric. How well these methods work depends on the type of fabric that you have.
Screen printing can be easily removed with various techniques, but how well they work depends on the type of fabric you have and how big the design is. Let’s take a look at some simple ways to help you remove screen print from your clothes.
How To Remove Screen Print
Screen printing is a technique of transferring designs onto a surface that uses mesh to transfer ink. Thanks to a blocking stencil used in this process, the design is “printed” neatly onto the surface, and it can be set aside to dry.
This process is actually quite popular in various industries since it doesn’t require any complicated equipment to create pressure or heat to transfer the design. The ink used is water-based or plastisol ink; it can be easily removed at home with some simple steps.
There are three main ways to remove screen print ink from fabric: using chemical solvents, using heat or water, or using abrasive force to strip the ink from the fabric.
While chemical solvents work really well to remove ink, a lot of synthetic fabrics react poorly to strong chemicals. Similarly, heat can be utilized to remove ink, but it may also melt and distort the fabric.
Using abrasive force to strip the ink is safe for the fabric, but it can be really tiring since you have to physically rub the fabric to remove the ink. This method can work well for small designs, but stripping a large design can take a lot of time and effort.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can remove this kind of ink.
1. Acetone For Natural Fabrics
Acetone is a very popular household product – you likely have some acetone in your house right now in the form of your nail polish remover. This is a very strong chemical that can dissolve not only nail polish but also screen print ink.
If you don’t have acetone at home, then this one is a good choice.
This is a very strong and harsh chemical that can dry out your hands, so you should be careful when working with acetone. You can use protective gloves if you have them.
This method will also work best with natural fabric. If your fabric has more than 50% synthetic fibers (such as polyester), acetone can likely damage the fabric. If that’s the case, you can use another method on this list to remove the screen print.
Depending on the fabric, the acetone can even warp the fabric or strip away the colors of the fabric as well – it is very, very strong. If you’re unsure whether it’s safe to use this method, you can test it on a small area first before moving on.
If you are sure that acetone won’t damage your fabric, you can use a cotton ball to pick up some acetone, then rub the acetone on the design. The acetone will dissolve the ink, and you can easily peel the ink off of the fabric.
After the ink has been completely removed, you should wash your shirt to remove all the acetone residue from the fabric. Then, your shirt should be as good as new!
2. Plastisol Remover
We’ve mentioned that screen printing commonly uses plastisol ink, so a plastisol remover is probably the most suitable solution to remove this type of ink.
Again, since this is a harsh chemical, make sure to take safety precautions when working with the solution. You should always wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area when working with a chemical like this one.
How to remove screen print from clothes with plastisol remove:
- With a soft cloth that is as big as the design, soak it in the plastisol remover (this one is a great choice).
- Rinse off the excess, and lay it on top of your screen print design for about half an hour. This time, will allow the ink to dissolve properly.
- After a proper amount of time, the ink should flake off of the fabric. Then, you can just peel off the ink or use a brush to scrape away the design.
- Wash the item thoroughly to remove any remover residue. Plastisol remover has a very strong chemical scent, so washing the item will help you remove this scent before wearing it again.
3. Rubbing Alcohol/Mineral Spirit
If you know that your screen print ink is water-based ink, then rubbing alcohol or mineral spirit (like this one) can work similarly to acetone and plastisol remover.
These are excellent thinners that can dissolve your ink. You can follow the steps similar to working with the plastisol remover to remove water-based screen print ink.
Rubbing alcohol and mineral spirit may also be damaging for synthetic fabrics. If you are not sure, test it on a small area first before permanently damaging your clothing.
Heat makes the ink stick to a surface, but with screenprint ink, it can actually melt the ink and transfer it onto another surface. This method is excellent for all kinds of fabric, mainly because you won’t need to use any harsh chemicals that may damage your hands or your fabric.
To use this method, you will need to have a large piece of kraft paper, with one dull side and one shiny side. The shiner side will work to absorb the screen print.
Place the shiny side of the kraft paper on top of the design, and with a dry iron on low heat, go over the paper to heat up the ink. After some time, the ink can melt off of the fabric and stick on your kraft paper.
If there’s still some ink left on the fabric, you can scrape it off with your fingernails.
5. Coldwater Rinse On Fresh Ink
If you have a screen-printing business and need to fix a mistake that was freshly painted on the fabric, then a cold water rinse works just fine.
This is because the ink used in screen printing is water-based, which means that water can act as a thinner to remove it. This method works only with cold water since heat can set the ink permanently.
So if the ink is still fresh, you can simply rinse it under cold water, and the ink will wash away like it’s nothing.
6. Sugar Scrub
Scrubbing with sugar can create a light abrasive force that can remove the screen print. This method works well if you only have a small design, but it can get a bit tiring if you’re scrubbing a big design for a long time.
With this method, you simply have to sprinkle some sugar on the design and rub it with a cloth. The movement will strip away the screen print, and you can scrape off the residue with your nails.
This method works best if your design is old because, by then, the ink has already faded and cracked. Because of this, a little bit of force with a sugar scrub can go a long way, and you don’t need to apply a lot of pressure to rub the print off.
How To Remove Screen Printing From Polyester
Synthetic fibers such as polyester can easily be damaged by chemicals, so when you’re removing screen printing from polyester, you shouldn’t use acetone or plastisol remover, as they can distort the fabric. Ironing can also damage the fabric, so that won’t work either.
The best method to remove screen printing from polyester would be to use a dishwashing liquid. Dishwashing liquid isn’t harsh, but it’s very good at breaking down oils and stubborn residue.
You’ll need to wet your clothing first and then apply some dishwashing liquid on top of the print. From here, you can rub the design thoroughly to break it down. If you have a stiff brush, you can also use that to rub the design off of the fabric.
This method will take some time, but it will work with most types of screen printing ink without damaging the fabric. After the ink is completely gone, you can wash the item again with detergent, and it will be as good as new.
How To Get Screen Print Off Nylon
You can try using the iron method on nylon, but it can be a tricky synthetic fabric that will react poorly to harsh chemicals and heat.
Fortunately, something as simple as a water-displacing spray (such as WD40) can remove screen printing from nylon without damaging it. This is another strong solvent (similar to mineral spirit), but it won’t damage the nylon, which is why it’s great to use in this case.
If you have a can of WD40, you can spray it on top of the screen print and let the fabric absorb the spray.
Then, the ink will simply dissolve, and you can rub it off using a cloth or towel. Afterward, you can wash your clothing item to remove any residue of the WD40, and your screen print will be successfully removed.
How To Remove Logos From Clothing
Since logos are usually a very small screen print on a piece of clothing, you can simply use the sugar scrub method mentioned above to remove it.
If you are sure that your fabric won’t be damaged by harsh chemicals, you can also use acetone or rubbing alcohol, dab it on the logo to dissolve the ink, and peel the rest off of the fabric.
If your fabric is a synthetic fabric, you can use a dishwashing liquid and a stiff brush to remove it, similar to the method mentioned above.
How To Remove Print From Hoodies
If your hoodies are not made from synthetic fibers (or synthetic-blend materials), then you can use acetone. If it is, using a plastisol remover or rubbing alcohol will be the safer bet since these are friendlier to the fabric.
When removing screenprint from a hoodie, you’ll want to make sure that the chemicals won’t bleed through to the other side of the fabric. Just to be safe, you should use a piece of cardboard in between the two layers so that the backside of the hoodie isn’t affected.
Then, with your solution of choice, you can use a cotton ball or cloth to pick it up and rub it on your fabric to remove the screen print. The ink should flake off easily, and if there’s any residue, you can easily scrape it off.
Then, you can wash the hoodie to remove any chemical residue.
How To Remove Print From T-Shirts At Home
When removing a screen print from a T-shirt, you should check the clothing label to see if it’s a natural fiber or synthetic fiber. Whatever method that you use, you will want to make sure that it won’t damage your fabric.
If you have a natural fabric such as cotton, then you can safely use acetone or plastisol remover to remove the screen print ink. However, if your fabric has more than 50% synthetic fiber, then you will need to use dishwashing liquid or sugar scrub.
Since T-shirt fabrics are often very light, you will need to use a piece of cardboard in between the front and back of the shirt so that the chemicals don’t soak through and affect the other side of the shirt.
Then, you can use one of the methods mentioned above to remove the screen print.
Soilliam on YouTube uses the acetone technique. Check it out if you want to give that method a try.
How To Clean Screen Printing Residue
Whatever method that you use, chances are there’s going to be some bits of screen print ink stuck on your fabric still. No method above is 100% successful, so if you have followed them and there is still some residue left on the fabric, you shouldn’t be discouraged.
If there are still small bits of screen print ink left on your fabric, a sugar scrub is probably the best way to help you remove it. The small grain of the sugar will act as a light abrasive force that can strip away the screen print ink without further damaging the fabric.
If your ink is still fresh and you have tried the cold water rinse method, but there’s still some ink residue on the fabric, you can put the clothing item through a cold water cycle in the washing machine. The cold water, plus the friction caused by the washing machine, will help you remove the ink residue effectively.
Other Tips To Remove Screen Print
If a screen print design is too big, or you don’t want to risk damaging your fabric by using harsh chemicals or too much physical force, you can consider printing over it!
The best way to do this would be to use a heat transfer vinyl design. There are many excellent vinyl designs that you can find online, so you can just purchase one that you like and “print” this design over the screen print design that you don’t like.
This method works really well if you want a new design, and it saves you all of the steps required to remove an old screenprint design.
A lot of heat transfer designs require a heat press, but you can also find an iron-on vinyl design, which can work with domestic irons as well. This type of design can be transferred on top of screen print ink using heat, and the design can cover the old screen print ink without a trace!