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How long will heat press shirt last? 

Heat pressing has a lot of advantages in cost, process, and image complexity. However, the main downside is compared to screen printed items, heat pressed items does not last as long. The process of heat pressing is adhering vinyl onto a shirt through heat and pressure. So with washing and wearing the adhesive and vinyl can break down over time. 

With heat press patterns on shirts the last thing we want is cracking and peeling on shirts. So it's important to figure out how long heat press shirts will last 

So how long will a heat press shirt last? 

With good care of the garment the manufacturer recommends about 50 washes for vinyl heat transfers, which does eventually crack and fade after that. 

With heat press items we have to worry about the adhesive and the shape of the vinyl. With that it's important to know what can damage the heat pressed items. 

 What causes heat press prints to wear out?

Wear and hard use on the shirts will cause the shirts to crack and for the vinyl to come off. The more extreme the temperatures and too much water will also risk loosing and ruining the adhesive on the shirt. 

  • Not letting the shirt settle: The shirt should settle for 24 hours before washing, ironing, or wearing the fabric. Ideally this will help the adhesive dry and bind to the print.
  • Using hot water: Heat will break down the adhesive. It is best to use cold water to wash the fabric. 
  • Using the Dryer: The dryer will damage the print and cause it to shrink. It will also weaken the adhesive on the vinyl. The best way to deal with drying a wet shirt is to hang it to dry. 
  • Soaking before washing: this will loosen the adhesive. Though the effects of soaking is not initially clear on the shirt it will be very clear after 2-3 soakings. At that point the vinyl will completely peel off. 
  • Exposure to extreme weather conditions 
  • Ironing: Vinyl will not survive direct heat from an iron. In order to iron a shirt with vinyl, the shirt must always be protected with a protective layer between the print and the iron. Another method is also to turn the shirt inside out. 
  • Fabric softener: will strip the the shirts. It creates a coat between fibers, it will cause problems when your vinyl tries to stick to those same fibers. 
  • Bleaching: Will also react with the vinyl, and the vinyl will lose its physical strength. A way around this is to bleach spot clean the stain but do not soak the entire shirt in bleach. 
  • Stretching of the fabric and rough handling of the fabric
  • Dry Cleaning: Vinyl has great resistant properties. But the adhesive may not. If you dry clean your shirt the heat on the fabric will cause the print to peel off. It's better to wash the fabric in the cool water. 

Best way to wash and take care of a Heat Pressed shirt:

The key to taking care of a heat pressed shirt is avoid any addition of heat and to protect it during washing by turning it inside out. 

  • Wash inside out on a cold wash 
  • Dry inside out on washing line 
  • Iron inside out
  • Avoid tumble drying and dry cleaning
  • Avoid Fabric softeners 

How to troubleshoot my Heat Press Cracking Shirts? 

Sometimes heat pressed shirts will crack or peel after washing. This can be due to a lot of variables that can be fixed in your next heat pressed item. 

  • Too much or not enough heat and Too much or not enough pressure: too much heat can cause cracking also known as glazing the emulsion layer. To much heat or pressure will cause that emulsion layer to be hard and stiff instead of flexible which will cause cracking. 
  • Sizing treatment of chemical treatment on your 100% cotton garment: some manufacturers will apply a shirt from dramatically shrinking in the first wash. That chemical treatment will react with the emulsion layer and can lead to cracking and flaking. 
  • Fabric has a coating: fabric can have a coating on it which may be waterproof to fire retardant coating. Vinyl sticks to fibers of fabrics. If there is any chemical coating on top it will stop the vinyl from adhering correctly. 
  • Material of shirt is too stretchy, if the material is too stretchy then when stretched the vinyl will crack and peel. 
  • Transfer paper storage: How is your vinyl stored? What temperature is the area the vinyl is stored? How old is your vinyl? What is the humidity in the area your vinyl is stored. All of these can effect the integrity of your product.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions of the vinyl or transfer paper when pressing. When that doesn't work, contact the manufacturer and they should be able to help troubleshoot issues.  

Should I wash shirts before pressing? 

No you should not! The fabric softener and the detergent can interfere with the shirt heat press staying on. The fabric softener will interfere with the transfer process. The oils in detergent can comprise the adhesive.

Just pre-press the shirts before adding on the heat pressed image. 

If you have old shirts you want to heat press, make sure the pre-press the shirt for 3-5 seconds to take moisture out of the fibers, and then press.  

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