Let me set the scenario, customer picks up their order is delighted with it and then a couple of weeks later comes back in clutching a twisted washed out crumpled looking polo shirt with the printing hanging off and of course it has only been washed at 30°C. Sound familiar? We all know the customer is always right, but we also all know that customers don’t always follow the washing instructions! Charlotte Darling, director at Amaya Sales UK, provides some tips on how best to handle it.
Without a doubt transfer is probably the most controversial printing method for washability. Over the decades as different types of transfers have been developed there has always been the opinion that they wash and fall off and transfer printing is an inferior method of decoration.
However, no decoration method is infallible – a garment washed on a 60°C cycle and tumbled dried can result in a puckered embroidered logo, a cracked screen print, and a faded DTG image.
I think the most important point here to address is get your decoration method right for your customer.
As part of the selling process, get to know your customer and the needs of their garments.
If it’s for a promotional event or let’s say a birthday party, durability is probably not as important as price to them, so you have the option of using a budget transfer process. However, an engineering company or sports team are highly likely to wash and wear at least once a week and durability is important. For these types of orders, I would recommend embroidery, and then either a quality vinyl that is advertised washable up to 60°C for single colour work, or a print and cut process using a Roland or Mimaki system for full colour work.
Don’t scrimp and save on budget materials for the job, it’s just not worth it in the long run but at the same time don’t suffer your margin. Address the issue of washability in the sales process, recommend a premium printing process to make their garment last longer, and charge them that bit more. Drawing their attention to after care may seem like a negative but it’s not. You have taken the first step to educating your customer how to look after their garment.
The right tools
Once the process is decided, make sure you have the right tools. Use the transfer process/ material best suited to the use of the garment, be sure that your equipment is working right and follow the application instructions. A heat press at the wrong temperature, out of date inks, or applying vinyl in 10 seconds rather than 20 to save time may seem a good idea when you are busy but can cost you dearly later. Very often a transfer printed garment will appear great when it’s finished but these short cuts and errors in application can result in problems after washing, even when the customer follows the washing instructions, let alone throws his polo in the tumble dryer.
After all this, your garments are now ready to be worn and washed. Generally speaking, any heat transfer process will last for a commercially viable period of time and longer, if you follow the basic washing instructions on most blank garment labels which are: 30°C or 40°C wash, no bleaching, no tumble drying, no dry clean and iron on reverse of decoration.
Let me expand on these points a little more to explain these standard instructions.
- Washing temperature is important because when a heat transfer is applied the adhesive melts into the fabric, and a hot wash may remelt the glue, possibly causing the transfer to fall off.
- No bleach and dry clean – bleach is a given but dry cleaning usually involves high temperature and harsh chemicals which can cause a heat transfer to either melt or peel.
- No tumble dry – generally tumble dry cycles are hot and therefore refer to the wash temperature point and a possible remelt of glue. Tumble drying also creases a garment which is not good for a heat transfer. Your best drying method is flat or hanging.
- Iron on reverse of decoration – since transfer is a type of thin plastic it will immediately melt and damage your iron. Iron either on the reverse, inside out, or covering the transfer with a cloth.
I have two other great tips to share. Firstly, when decorated turn your garment inside out. This gives your transfer a further layer of protection. Clothes on a washing cycle will rub against each other and that abrasion can cause transfers to damage or peel. Secondly, do not to wash your garment for at least 24 hours after printing. The adhesive on heat transfer is activated by heat. The heat makes the adhesive sink into the fibres of the garment, and this adhesive need time to harden and cool. An immediate wash or dry within hours of application could cause the transfer to peel or crack. This tip is particularly relevant to heat transfer vinyl.
All these points are ‘what could happen’, but understanding them and educating your customer, are a great way to endorse the after care of a printed garment and hopefully extend its life. Ways to do this are adding a swing ticket/ adhesive label to every garment you send out, including an after-care document with every order, mentioning it on your communication with customers, or sharing a link to a page on your website about it.
My advice is by addressing the elephant in the room rather than hiding it, you can add value to your business in more ways than one.