Most people know how to wash a t-shirt. Throw it in the washing machine, add some soap, turn it on, wait. Then throw it in the dryer. This is a great, easy method of keeping your everyday clothes from getting filthy, but if you want a t-shirt to last you might want to be a bit more careful. Screen printed t shirts are especially prone to wear and tear damaging the image, and benefit from more cautious washing.
In most cases, the printed image on a screen printed t shirt is the first thing to go. These images tend to fade, crack and peel as they age. However, careful handling and proper washing can keep most screen printed tees from fading for at least 30-40 washes. The t-shirt itself if usually a lot tougher, though this is not always the case.
A lot of clothes that are too delicate for regular washing can be dry-cleaned. This is not the case for most screen printed t shirts. The inks that are used in some designs react badly with the dry cleaning chemicals, and this can ruin your shirt.
Use a spot-on stain remover or apply some liquid laundry detergent directly to any stains on your printed shirt and let it sit before washing. This is a good way to remove stains without using a hotter or more intense wash. Don’t apply anything directly to the image itself, though.
Make sure to turn your shirt inside out, if it is not already that way. This is probably the most important step, as turning the fabric inside out reduces the rubbing that would otherwise occur against the image. If you only remember one washing tip, make sure it’s this one.
Wash your printed t shirts only with other similar, soft fabrics in the same general range of colors. If you have dark clothes that you know are colorfast, these are probably okay as well. Don’t wash light colors with unknown darker fabrics, or any shirts with heavier materials such as jeans or jackets.
Use cold water on a gentle cycle or handwash your shirt. The ‘delicates’ setting on most washing machines should do the trick. Warm water is okay if needed for cleaning purposes, but hot water can cause fading and additional damage to the fabric. If you choose to handwash your shirt, be gentle with it and avoid excessive agitation.
Air drying is often the best method to keep your shirt looking good. However, if necessary, most can tolerate being dried on the cool setting. Heat can cause the inks to fade or melt, so never put your shirt through the dryer on high. Most will survive a few trips through the dryer on the normal setting, but this will speed up the aging process.
If you choose to iron your shirt, don’t iron directly over the design. Certain prints are made with plasitol paints that will actually melt when exposed to heat like this. If you know that your shirt was made with water-based inks, a gentle ironing over the design should do no harm.