If you’re not careful about keeping your shop clean, you might be costing yourself time and money!

A dirty shop can cause a host of problems: Lint marks in the ink on finished prints, time lost searching for the right can of ink or the right screen, spills that can cause slips, boxes left out that can cause trips, or malfunctioning equipment due to a buildup of dust and debris.

Keeping your shop clean saves you money by saving time and reducing misprints. It can improve the safety of your employees. And it can improve the atmosphere in your small business. From day-to-day cleanup to long-term strategies, here are some tips for keeping your screen printing shop clean.

Start with an organizational system.

If you don’t already have one, establish an organizational system in your shop. Have spaces dedicated to storing inks, screens, squeegees, cleaning chemicals and any inventory you keep on hand. Within your storage area, have items organized by a system that works well for you. Keep inks in numerical order. Keep screens categorized by job and by screen type. Items that you use most frequently should be easy to access. When you get new equipment or supplies, take the time to immediately find a space for them within your organizational system, so that system doesn’t break down and so that you don’t get overburdened with items that need to be put away.

Use drop cloths.

It’s a simple thing, but drop cloths, scrap cardboard or old newspapers can help you keep areas of your shop that are prone to ink spills and other messes clean. Line the shelves of your ink storage with newspaper or other disposable liners so you don’t have to scrape up ink that will inevitably accumulate on shelves. Lay down cardboard or drop cloths if you plan to use spray adhesive on your pallets so you don’t get a mess on the floor. Put something underneath your ink buckets when you do your mixing. It’s much easier to clean up drop cloths or newspaper than it is to scrape old ink off shelves or scrub adhesive off your floors.

Make a shop-wide priority of cleaning up after every job and at the end of every day.

The best way to keep your shop clean is to clean up as you go. When you’re finished with one job, put the inks away, wash your equipment and tools, and put those away, too. At the end of the day, do a quick cleanup around the shop. Make sure everything is in its storage area and that there aren’t any spills or clutter that has been neglected during the day. Dust machinery to cut down on the amount of lint in the shop.

Keep up on equipment maintenance.

Dirty equipment can malfunction. It can operate more slowly. It can break down prematurely. Create a maintenance schedule and a maintenance log for all of your screen printing equipment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and maintaining your equipment so it doesn’t add to the grime in your shop or cause problems with your production.

Let go of the old.

Just like you have a schedule for equipment maintenance, create a schedule for going through your supplies and cleaning out the old. Rid your storage shelves on a regular basis of expired inks and chemicals, stored substrates that have sat around for so long you’re not likely make use of them, squeegees that are nicked or weakened and can’t be used, or worn screens that are unable to be retensioned. Holding on to unusable supplies or equipment will only add clutter to your shop and make it more difficult to keep clean and organized.

Invest in equipment that will help you keep your shop clean.

There are a lot of tools you can use to help keep your shop clean, and a little bit of an investment can have a big impact. An air purifier can help eliminate the dust and pieces of lint that fly through the air in a screen printing shop. Shelves can help keep ink and equipment organized, and rolling shelves can help you easily move screens from one area of the shop to another. Even something as simple as masking tape can help: For boxes or pallets of goods, use masking tape to mark off the areas of your floor that should be used for storage, to prevent boxes and materials from piling up.

Create a culture of cleanliness and organization.

Maintaining a clean and organized shop takes commitment. Keeping order in your shop takes a concerted effort from you and your employees. Train your staff to follow your organizational system, to clean up after themselves and to follow your procedures for maintaining your shop’s clean atmosphere. By making cleanliness and organization part of your shop’s culture, you will reap the benefits of a clean shop, and you will save yourself from the headache of needing to overhaul your shop’s organizational system or to undertake major “spring cleaning” efforts.