Sublimation occurs by vaporizing solid ink onto the surface of clothing (or other items), creating unique and long-lasting designs. Washing sublimated items should be done carefully to reduce the risk of damage.
High-quality sublimation designs can last for years, but you can only achieve this when you take proper care of these items.
How to Wash Sublimation Shirts
The care label on the item you want to wash will guide you on the proper wash settings.
Prep Your Sublimation Shirts
Before you wash your sublimation shirts, turn them inside out to protect the design from the friction and agitation of the washer.
You can wash the shirts with other similar-colored clothing but make sure you exclude clothes with zips and buttons that can snag the sublimation shirts.
Always separate dark-colored shirts from lighter-colored shirts to prevent the transfer from color bleeding.
Use the Right Wash Settings for Your Sublimation Shirts
You have to use adequate settings on your washer even though it is perfectly safe to machine wash your sublimation shirt.
The “gentle” wash cycle is your sublimation shirt’s best friend because it washes with a suitable spin to reduce friction and agitation and avoid snags on your shirt in the washer.
Always use cold water; you can get away with warm water, but the less heat on your sublimation shirt, the better. Also, avoid removing wrinkles from your shirt with a hot iron.
High temperatures will cause the design on the shirt to fade away.
After the wash, you want your shirt to have the same vibrancy as when you put it inside the washer.
Use the Right Laundry Additives for Your Sublimation Shirts
The detergent you use to wash your sublimation shirts is arguably the most crucial part of the wash process.
Some detergents can wash away the designs in the washer or cause color bleeding that can damage the shirt.
Detergents with extra active agents to make washing more efficient can affect your sublimation shirts.
Phosphate is one of those additives. It causes excessive color bleeding, which can damage the design and the look of the shirt. Using a phosphate-free detergent will properly wash your shirt.
Even with a phosphate-free detergent, you should not use too much; it means a longer rinse time which means more friction and agitation on the shirt.
Fabric softeners and chlorine bleach also react negatively with the fabric and design of your sublimation shirts. The chemicals in these items weaken the shirt and fade its color.
If you must brighten your shirt or remove stains, use oxygen bleach or vinegar.
Soak the shirts in a bowl of cold water mixed with oxygen bleach or vinegar for a few hours before washing.
Dry Your Sublimation Shirts
Remove the shirt from the washer immediately after the wash cycle ends to prevent color bleeding.
Also, leaving your shirt crumpled and wet will cause wrinkles and destroy the design.
Putting your shirt in a dryer will affect it because of the heat and agitation, so you should always hang your sublimation shirt to air-dry.
Hang your shirt on a clothesline outside when the sun is down. If you don’t want to worry about the sun, hang the shirt on a drying rack in a temperature-controlled room.
The heat from the sun or a dryer will affect your shirt. It will cause wrinkles and creases and fade the shirt’s design.
If possible, turn on a dehumidifier in the room where your shirt is drying to speed up the drying time without introducing heat.
You can also lay your shirt flat on a clean cold surface to air-dry. Do not hang it on a hook; it can snag your shirt or change its shape.
Although it is not advisable to tumble dry your sublimation shirt, you can do so on the “air fluff” setting without heat. Remove the shirt from the dryer while damp and hang it to air-dry.
How to Wash Sublimation Towels
Washing your sublimation towels has almost the same process as washing sublimation shirts.
Wash sublimation towels separately from other clothing or other types of towels. You can’t turn a towel inside out to protect the design, so it is better to eliminate every item.
Separating towels is also different from separating shirts. Do not separate towels by dark or light colors but by color pattern. Check which towels have similar color shades and wash them together.
Wash your sublimation towels less frequently than regular towels. It should be after five to seven uses.
Use vinegar during the first wash to set the color and prevent fading but avoid chlorine bleach and fabric softener.
As always, check the care label for the appropriate wash settings.