When the ink hits the shirt, you need a good squeegee to keep your print quality high. Here are some squeegee maintenance tips!
When your squeegee is sharp and in good shape, it will fill the details of your stencil fully, allow you to better control the flow of the ink and sheer the screen cleanly away from the substrate as your print. In short, a well-maintained squeegee will help you to produce crisp, clear prints.
How Screen Printing Squeegees Deteriorate
In contrast, a worn-down squeegee will mean degraded prints. If your squeegee has dulled, it will leave heavy ink deposits, blur the edges of your prints and obscure print details. A nicked squeegee blade can leave a long, heavy streak of ink through your image. A squeegee that has broken down can begin to “skip” over portions of the ink and screen, leaving flaws in your image. Dull squeegees cause you to use more ink, which costs you extra money.
A well-maintained squeegee is key to good print quality.
It’s inevitable that squeegees will break down over time. Exposure to inks and solvents causes blades to swell and warp. The pressure of pulling the squeegee across the screen can weaken the blade, and the constant drag of the squeegee over the rough surface of screen mesh dulls the edges of the blade.
Proper squeegee care can help to mitigate the effects of a bad squeegee. It can also save your shop money: Caring for your blades properly can save you from overusing ink and from having to purchase replacement blades as frequently. There are a few simple guidelines to follow to keep your squeegees in good shape.
1. Clean squeegees thoroughly and quickly after each use
The rubber squeegee material swells and warps when exposed to the moisture of inks and solvents. Cleaning your squeegees immediately after each use can help to minimize this warping. Never leave your squeegees soaking in solvent, as that can lead to excessive swelling and warping, and a premature breakdown of squeegee blades. Allowing ink to dry on squeegees can also prove harmful: Squeegee blades are easily nicked and damaged in the process of chipping off dried ink.
2. Give squeegees time to rest
Because the moisture in ink causes squeegee blades to swell and soften during use, it’s important to limit your use of each individual squeegee. It’s recommended that you change out your squeegee after 4 to 6 hours of printing, or a day of printing if it’s a lower production day. Have a rotating supply of squeegees so each squeegee can rest for 24 to 48 hours between each use. That gives the squeegee time to dry out and return to its original shape.
Squeegees work hard, give them a break every now and then!
3. Store squeegees properly
Storing your squeegees properly can help them retain their shape and extend their lifespan. For squeegees that have been fitted into the handle, store the squeegees blade up in a squeegee holder or on a shelf; make sure that there is no pressure on the squeegee blade during storage. For squeegee blade that has not been fitted into a handle, store it flat — never leave it coiled, even if it shipped to you that way. You can cut your new stock of squeegee blade to your preferred printing length before storage to make storage easier.
4. Sharpen blades as needed
You could throw out and replace squeegee blades as they wear down, or you can extend the life of your squeegee blades by sharpening them. There are a variety of squeegee sharpeners available for the job, and each squeegee blade can be sharpened between 25 and 50 times before it needs to be thrown away. Each squeegee will have a recommended blade height, and it’s usually acceptable to sharpen away ½ inch of squeegee blade before the blades should be replaced — the squeegee manufacturer should provide recommendations on squeegee height and sharpening allowances.
Squeegee maintenance may be simple, but it is necessary! By maintaining your squeegees you’ll maintain the crispness and quality of your screen prints, and you’ll ultimately save your shop money on both replacement squeegee blades and ink.
Even if you’ve done your best to take care of your squeegees, after enough hard use they’ll eventually break down. Looking for some top quality replacements, or just some extras? Anatol’s selection of squeegees are built to last and can be customized to meet your requirements. Contact us to learn more!