Direct to garment printing has become both trendy and cost-effective for short production runs of full-color artwork on garments. Whereas printers are focusing much on the low cost per print and output numbers, consumers would be eager to know more how to care about the garments in a proper way, so that they preserve the quality of existing printed garments and don’t need to buy new ones too often. Dmitry Sarbaev, managing director of FLUXMALL DTG, addresses these questions one by one.
The DTG ink is different from most of the inks which printers use in garment decoration. According to DuPont research data, water-based ink jet inks have a much lower viscosity than screen printing, offset and other types of inks, and are generally 60 times thinner compared to screen printing, when jetted on the garment.
Next to that with screen printing, inks sits in the garment, due to the application method, and not on the surface, which makes digital DTG print less durable and colourfast.
Innovative pigment technology of digital DTG printing operates in the world of microns and picolitres, thus is more prone to damaging and fading. On the production side, printers focus on creating an ultra-thin layer of underbase white and colour layers, putting the loose fibres down with just enough volume of pretreatment and ink. Therefore, even with the rapid development of pigment inks, digital prints are gentler and should be treated in a slightly different way than garments printed with methods that are considered traditional.
Nevertheless, with proper garment care practices and washing know-how, your DTG prints will deliver excellent wash fastness and will serve you longer. I recommend to consider the following steps:
- Wash your garment inside out
Washing inside out will help you minimise damage, as rubbing over the washing machine parts is quick to create pills and dull look. There is a great chance that if you wash it with other items that have zips, buttons and hem tags, rubbing against them will create friction that will cause the print to have a scratchy look or even peel off. You can also consider using mesh bags to provide extra care during washing.
- Use the right washing machine setting
To preserve your artwork and minimise the shrinkage of your fabric wash your garment at a cool temperature (around 30°C), as high-temperature washes can seriously fade the print and cause it to crack. Be wary of spinning at a high setting – it is always safe to use a delicate cycle of your washing machine to avoid unnecessary damage.
- Apply proper washing chemicals
There is no reason to use harsh cleaning products on your DTG printed clothes. Our approach is extremely gentle when it comes to anything printed digitally. Wash only similar colours together and apply detergent product for white/universal for white colour garments, and detergent product for colours for non-white colour garments. Stay away from bleach and use stain removers only on spots, if necessary.
- Hang the garments to dry naturally
Natural drying is best for your DTG print, the garment itself, and the environment around. Leave it turned inside out, hang it out to dry naturally, not exposing it to direct sunlight. High heat and direct ‘sunburn’ are harmful to printed garments, and generally any apparel, as it may quicken the ageing process of it. Line dried garments will also have a better, fresh smell!
- Cool-iron your print
You would typically avoid ironing your print. But if you really want to make your shirt look neat, iron it inside-out on the lowest possible setting. In some cases, placing a piece of natural-fibre thin cloth over the image to protect it from smudging would be an additional care step to take.
Additionally, you should be careful with wearing coloured garment after you print it. Washing your garments before putting it on is a common practice and a wide recommendation, as it helps to remove the remaining pretreatment from the garment fibres. Wearing without washing increases the risk of sun staining. It is most noticeable on the light-coloured garments, however it happens generally to all of the garments.
Finally, for us as garment decorators, it is important to remember: DTG is a premium product. We all want the T shirt owners to have a premium experience when wearing the DTG printed T shirt.
Don’t neglect any opportunity to deliver value-added educational content through self-explanatory posts on your social media channels, comprehensive garment care cards and hangtags, educational videos on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. It will make the garment lifetime longer, help your customers have a better after-taste of your products and service, and ultimately reduce the environmental footprint with less waste.