If you’re the new guy at the t-shirt screen printing shop, you’d probably think the process of reclaiming a screen is complicated and time consuming. It doesn’t have to be, you just need to have an understanding of the reclaiming process…and maybe the help of one very useful piece of equipment.
First you need to remove any tape and get rid of leftover ink in your screen. You can do this by spraying an ink removal solution on both sides of the mesh and scrubbing down the screen to the best of your ability. After that, just rinse the screen in the washout booth using a power washer.
Anatol’s washout booth is designed to last for years of daily reclamation.
Next you need to get rid of the emulsion on the screen. This requires an emulsion remover. Some are made in-shop but the most effective solutions can be purchased at any screen printing supply store. Sodium Metaperiodate (SMP) is a common base for emulsion removal products because it can penetrate a waterproof stencil better than a water based solution. After the product is applied to both sides, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub down the screen and rinse it again.
After removing the emulsion, you may notice that the design from the stencil is still visible. This is known as a ghost image or haze. There are cleaning products designed specifically for dehazing – just spray the solution on both sides of the screen and let it sit, then scrub and rinse.
You’re almost done! The last step is degreasing your screen. Degreasing a screen allows emulsion to adhere to the screen properly once you’re ready to apply it for the next print run. A degreaser is like soap for your screen, so just spray it on each side, scrub it, let it sit and rinse it off. After the screen dries, you’re ready to get it dirty again!
Or you can use a dip tank.
A dip tank is a container that holds a water and chemical solution that you place your screen in to get rid of unwanted ink and emulsion. Dip tanks save time and money by completing the first three steps all at once, cutting down on water usage and cleaning products. A few minutes submerged in a dip tank will loosen the excess ink and any emulsion. After rinsing off the screen, apply the degreaser and rinse it again. Now all you need to do is let the screen dry.
You’re done! Now go grab another screen and do it again. You shouldn’t let those dirty screens pile up anyway.