How To Remove Screen Printing From T-shirts?

Screen printing can be just the perfect hobby or a great start-up business for someone creative and determined. Individuals, groups and businesses all need special T-shirts printed all the time, to celebrate a specific day, a milestone or the fulfillment of a goal.

If your designs are creative and your work is flawless, this is a business that you can surely succeed in within a very few months. 

Removing Screen Printing from T-shirts

However, if you are new to screen printing, you might end up making a few mistakes while even buying an screen printing machine to ending up with a wrong design. Everyone does. There’s no need to worry if you drop some paint on a white T-shirt, or if you make a mistake in the design or the color of the design.

Any mistake made with screen printing is almost always reversible. You can remove the excess or the mistaken paint from even the whitest T-shirt, and no one will even know there has been a mistake. 

At the same time, you might want to completely remove the design you’ve made on a T-shirt because you don’t like it, or because you want to change something in the design. You might also want to use the same T-shirt again, by printing completely different words or designs on them.

Perhaps the design has become old but you still like it, and you want to recreate the same design on the same T-shirt. Besides, you might love the T-shirt but not the design, and want something else on your favourite T-shirt. 

All of these could be the reason behind you wanting to remove your screen printing from a particular T-shirt, and there are a few ways to do so. 

With a Paper Bag, Household Iron and Sugar 

This technique works only for recent smears and smudges, not for removing a whole design, or a design that has been dried and become permanent.

If you notice any kind of mistake while you are working on the T-shirt, here are the steps to immediately remove the paint or ink stain before they have a chance to become permanent. 

Rinse the T-shirt in cold water immediately after you see the smears you want to remove. The water has to be extremely cold if you don’t want the ink to dry; ice water is preferable.

If you use hot water or even room temperature water, it will actually help the paint to set more quickly. For this reason, it is always preferable that you keep a container or a bucket of ice-cold water near you when you are screen printing on a T-shirt, because you might have an accident at any moment. 

Next, rinse the T-shirt in warm water, after the fresh ink has come off. Do this only if there are no fresh ink left on the T-shirt, because rinsing in warm water will help set the paint to the fabric. After you’ve washed the T-shirt in warm water, allow it time to dry completely. If there’s still some ink attached to the fabric, there’s no need to worry. The next step will help to remove the excess paint. 

When the T-shirt has dried completely, lay it down on a dry, flat surface; place a paper bag on top of the T-shirt, particularly the area you want to remove the paint from. The paper bag’s glossy side should be lying on the side of the T-shirt, on top of the design.

Use a household iron to gently iron the part of the T-shirt where the smear or the smudge is. Remember to use an ordinary iron that doesn’t let out steam while ironing; if your iron gives out steam, the T-shirt will get wet again and it will be difficult to remove the paint. 

As you go on ironing the paper bag over the T-shirt, the remaining paint from the T-shirt will loosen up and attach to the paper bag. This is why it is important that you only iron on the part where you want to remove the paint, and not the part of the design that you want to keep. Continue doing this until you have managed to remove all the paint you want to remove

For the last step, take some sugar into both your hands, and use the sugar to scrub on the ink stains that still remain. You have to scrub very gently, not rigorously and not with a lot of force because you don’t want to damage the fabric of the T-shirt.

This step would be enough to remove any traces of paint or ink from the T-shirt, even when it had been an extremely dark shade. If you still have a little bit of stain left, repeat the steps from placing a new paper bag on the T-shirt.  

With a Household Iron 

This is another technique of removing paint or ink from a T-shirt by only using a household iron. This technique can be applied to designs and paints that have become permanent; this method also works with designs that have been created by heat transferring to your T-shirt

Put your T-shirt on a flat surface, i.e. a table, an ironing board or the floor, with the design facing upwards. Take a dry towel and put it inside the T-shirt, directly below the design but above the backside of the T-shirt.

This is very important: the towel must be in between the two sides of the T-shirt. Otherwise, the paint from the front of the T-shirt will end up being transferred to the back of it. If you don’t have a spare towel you want to spoil, you can use any old fabric that you don’t mind throwing away. 

Take another old towel or an old T-shirt, one that is clean, and wet it with water. Put the wet towel/T-shirt over your fabric, particularly the portion of the design you want to remove. The old towel should be carefully wrung out so that it is wet but the water doesn’t drip on the T-shirt below. This wet towel is going to be the protective layer between your hot iron and the paint

Place an extremely hot iron on top of the wet towel. Use your hands to press the iron on the part of the design you want to remove, or the whole design if it is a small one. Apply pressure on the iron and hold it in place for a few minutes so that the heat from the iron can reach the paint. 

Eventually, the wet towel placed under the iron will start to dry out from the heat. Remove your iron from the towel when this happens. 

The paint on your T-shirt will have started to melt at this point. Use a dull knife to pry off the paint from the T-shirt. This is going to take a while depending on the design, but you need to remove as much of the design as you can before the design becomes stiff again.

A good trick to remove the design is to use your knife to pry open a corner of the design, and then use your fingers to pull off the rest of the design. Make sure that the knife is a dull one; otherwise, it could cause a tear in your fabric. 

You won’t be able to remove the whole design the first time, so repeat the process as many times as you need. The time and effort you need will depend on the complexity of the design and the colors that have been used in it. 

With Chemical Solvents 

If none of these techniques works or if you don’t mind using chemicals in your work, there is a faster way to remove screen printing from your T-shirts using chemical solvents. You can use nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol or any kind of adhesive remover for this process. All these chemicals are extremely toxic and should be kept out of the reach of children and pets. 

Before you apply any of these solvents to your T-shirts, you need to check for damage. Choose a corner of the fabric that doesn’t show from the outside and apply a drop or two of the solvent on the fabric.

Wait for a few minutes to see if there’s any kind of damage from the solvent on your fabric. If there’s no burning or discoloration, it means that the solvent is safe for use for that particular T-shirt. If there is damage on the fabric, you need to find another kind of solvent for the job. 

Turn the T-shirt inside out, so that the back of the design is facing the top. Place the T-shirt, inside out, on a firm surface, such as a table or an ironing board. It will be better if you choose a surface where you can stand to work. Pour out enough solvent on the fabric to completely wet it, but not too much.

The smell can be quite strong, so you might want to wear a face mask or cover your mouth and nose. It helps if you have protective gear and can cover your eyes, as well, because they might start to water. Wait till the fabric has completely soaked in the solvent. 

Turn the T-shirt right side out and wait for the paint to loosen. Use your fingers to gently pry open a corner or an edge of the design and then pull off the rest of it. You can use a dull knife to do the job as well, but be careful not to damage the fabric.

It helps if you can wear latex gloves because the solvent might be too toxic for your bare skin. If you can’t get all the paint off the first time, repeat the process. Use as much solvent as you need to get all the paint out. You can even use a household iron to do the job. 

After you’ve got all the paint out, remember to wash the T-shirt well before wearing it again. You can wash it normally but with plenty of detergents; if you are using a washing machine, wash this T-shirt separately, instead of with other clothes.

Mistakes can happen anytime when you are working with paint and ink, or you might consciously want to remove any design from your screen-printed T-shirt.

Although usually a lengthy process, it is very much possible to remove all traces of design or paint from your fabric, both with and without the need for chemicals. 

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