Best practices for heat presses

It’s a misconception that if some heat is good, more is better

Andy Rogers, marketing manager at Target Transfers, outlines in this month’s transfer print column the best practices for looking after your heat press and getting the best transfer results.

Follow instructions

The key to a successfully decorated garment lies in proper application. Always follow the application instructions included with your custom transfers or heat transfer vinyl. The instructions do not change based on what you are applying to. In this case, if your apparel is unique, you may need to change the transfer or heat transfer vinyl type, not the instructions.

Always remember to pre-press your garment, it is important to remove moisture from the material and create a surface without imperfections to get the best possible finish. We recommend a pre-press of five seconds.

Top tip: Time, temperature and pressure are the most important values to know, no matter what you’re heat applying.

Cool down your heat press

We sometimes hear from customers who tell us their heat transfer vinyl is falling off. After a little troubleshooting we often learn they’ve applied their materials at too high a temperature, for too much time with too much pressure.

It’s a misconception that if some heat is good, more is better. As the industry moves away from 100% cotton or cotton/poly blends, you can no longer smash on transfers and vinyl at 200°C and hope it won’t ruin the garment. Hot melt adhesive is designed to adhere under specific conditions. If too much heat is used the adhesive will literally burn off without proper adhesion.

When dealing with fabrics that can scorch, always use the lowest recommended temperature for the material you’re applying to.

Common mistakes: • Temp too high • Too much time • Too much pressure

Read your care label

Performance fabrics, like nylon or lycra/spandex, require special consideration when heat applying.

Too much heat ruins garments by leaving scorch marks and the dreaded heat press box. Before decorating it’s important to read and understand a garment’s care label. The garment’s label will tell you its fibre content along with the percentages of each type of fibre.

It’s important to know these values so you can choose your heat transfer vinyl or transfer type based on the highest percentage on the label. For example, if your shirt’s care label lists the fibre content as 30% polyester, 20% rayon, and 50% spandex, choose heat transfer material based on the spandex.

Combating dye migration

Dye migration, or bleeding, occurs when the ink used to dye the fibres of a polyester garment are reheated to temperatures above 140°C. At this temperature the inks are reactivated and released from the fibres. When they are released the dyes will come through heat transfer vinyl and cause discolouration, like a faint red (or pink) number on a red jersey.

Check the label to determine the polyester content in the performance fabric you’re applying to and determine whether you have a low-bleed polyester or a high-bleed polyester. Always test your application before completing a job.

With the industry’s move toward high-tech, sublimated, and performance fabrics – work with your transfer and heat transfer vinyl partner to get low-temperature adhesives, heat transfer materials, and heat press technology to deal with migrating dyes from these fabrics.

Using the right heat press platen on your garment means you get heat only where you need it

Use the right tools

  • Quick change heat press platens

Heat press platens come in a variety of sizes for different purposes. Using the right heat press platen on your garment means you get heat only where you need it reducing the chance of scorching while ensuring a good application. Try getting one to do small logos, legs and sleeves or even trainers.

  • Platen covers

Putting a protector on your lower platen will make it easier to clean. Ensuring the integrity of the garment by placing it on an area removed of imperfections. A protector with a smooth finish will make it easier to place and remove your garments from the press.

When decorating sportswear, an upper platen cover (usually silicone) attaches to the upper platen of the heat press and helps reduce marks and indentation on heat sensitive materials like polyester, neoprene, and spandex. The silicone upper platen cover alters the heat delivered to the application. It’s recommended you test the transfer and garment for wash durability after application. As a general rule, add approximately 10-20 seconds to the application to achieve success.

  • Lower heated platens

This platen heats the underside of a threaded garment, so less heat is required on the outer facing fabric. Heat applied from underneath melts the adhesive from below, reducing the risk of scorching performance wear fabrics.

  • Heat pillows

If you are decorating a garment with zips or intricate details that needs protecting. A heat pillow is the way forward. By placing a pillow under a particular area of your garment. You can raise the area for fusing and ensure only this area of the garment receives heat on it.


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