How to Wash Vinyl Shirts

Vinyl shirts, particularly heat transfer vinyl shirts, are fun crafts projects. You can be as creative as you want when designing a vinyl shirt.

Heat transfer vinyl works when you melt adhesive onto a shirt with heat and then cool off to set the design.

However, this process causes confusion when it’s time to wash the shirt. You don’t want to do anything to damage or peel off your designs.

Following the proper wash ensures your shirt has a prolonged lifespan, up to 60 washes.

Before You Wash Your Vinyl Shirts

Wait 24 hours after a successful heat transfer vinyl session for the HTV to properly cure. Even if you buy a vinyl shirt, you should still wait for 24 hours to prevent damage to the design or the shirt itself.

Curing is the time given for the adhesive used during the heat transfer to harden when it properly cools off. As the vinyl cools off, it crystallizes and sinks into the shirt’s fibers, so the design sets permanently.

Doing anything to disturb this setting period will destroy your newly made design. When you introduce water or try to wash the shirt before it has fully set or cooled down, the vinyl will peel off or crack, destroying the design.

Lay the shirt flat to cool off for a full day to allow the design to adhere to the shirt. After the wait time lapses and the adhesive is fully dry, you can now proceed to wash the shirt without fear of damage.

Turn Your Vinyl Shirts Inside Out

Turn Your Vinyl Shirts Inside Out before washing

During the wash, your shirt rubs against itself, zippers or buttons, the washer, or other shirts in the case of multiples. This friction can cause the vinyl to peel or crack in the washer damaging the shirt’s design.

Turn the vinyl shirt inside out to reduce friction, protect the vinyl design from abrasion, and preserve the vinyl in the washer.

Some people say their shirts don’t have these issues in the washer. But to be safe, especially if this is your first time washing a vinyl shirt, you should give your shirt that added layer of protection.

It is such a small effortless step that will give your vinyl shirt extra care to protect and prolong its lifespan.

Vinyl Shirts’ Wash Settings

Vinyl Shirt washing instructions

Your main goal throughout your wash process is to clean your vinyl shirt without damaging the vinyl adhesive or design.

The settings you choose on your washer can directly impact your shirt. The spin setting should be low to reduce the friction on the shirt in the washer. Put your washer on the “gentle” wash cycle to wash delicately.

Because vinyl adheres to the shirt with heat, the vinyl can come off the shirt the same way.

Avoid high temperatures on your vinyl at all costs, including the temperature of the water used to wash the shirt. Use cold water to wash your vinyl shirt. Heat will weaken the adhesive on the vinyl, causing it to crack, peel, or come off from the shirt.

Ensure the temperature in the washer doesn’t exceed 178 degrees Fahrenheit. But be sure to check the care label on the shirt for the recommended wash settings before you place the shirt into the washer.

Vinyl Shirts’ Laundry Additives

When selecting the detergent to wash your vinyl shirts, don’t be tempted to pick one with many uses. The additives in these detergents are too harsh on the adhesive and can damage the vinyl.

Avoid green detergents, ones that remove stains, or ones that have whitening properties when washing your vinyl shirts. 

Use a regular gentle detergent to wash your vinyl shirts without causing damage to the vinyl.

Do not use bleach while washing your vinyl shirt. Chlorine reacts with ethylene to produce the vinyl used to make designs on shirts. Chlorine is the active agent in bleach that causes the bleach to whiten items.

If you use bleach on your vinyl shirt, the vinyl on your shirt will react with the chlorine in the bleach, triggering a reverse reaction that can crack or fade the design.

Also, do not use fabric softener. The ingredients in the fabric softener can melt the adhesive of the vinyl.

How to Dry Your Vinyl Shirts

When you want to dry your vinyl shirt, follow the same heat rule as during the washing.

Hanging your shirt to air-dry is the safest way to prevent damage to your vinyl while drying. Although it will take longer to dry, air-drying will stave off or minimize wrinkles and possible cracks on the vinyl.

However, if you want to hang your shirt outside to dry, wait till the sun is not hot. The heat from the sun can damage the vinyl, defeating the purpose of avoiding a dryer.

Hanging your shirt indoors on a drying rack will produce the best results. In a temperature-controlled environment, drying will be a breeze.

If you want to use a dryer to dry your shirt, use the lowest heat setting or the “air fluff” setting to eliminate heat from the dryer.

Whichever way you dry your vinyl shirt, remember to turn the shirt inside out to protect the vinyl design.

How to Care for Your Vinyl Shirts

 Vinyl Shirts

Ironing your Vinyl Shirts

Despite every precaution, your vinyl shirt can have wrinkles after washing and drying. Or maybe the way you store your shirt causes wrinkles. Wrinkles on the vinyl can cause cracks, bubbles, or peels.

You will need to iron the shirt to smoothen the wrinkles.

Turn your shirt inside out; so your iron doesn’t directly touch the heat transfer vinyl design. The heat from the iron can melt or burn the vinyl adhesive.

After turning your shirt inside out, put the iron on the lowest heat setting or iron cold so there won’t be heat on the vinyl.

An alternative is placing parchment paper or cloth on the vinyl. You will then iron the paper. It creates a barrier between the shirt and the direct heat from the iron.

Hand Washing your Vinyl Shirts

If you are unsure about washing your vinyl shirt in a washer or you don’t have access to one, you can always hand wash the shirt.

Hand washing is the only way to control the friction on the vinyl shirt during the wash.

Turn the shirt inside, use cold water, a gentle regular detergent, and avoid bleach and fabric softener.

Be gentle when washing and rinsing.

Hang to air-dry after washing.

Don’t Dry Clean your Vinyl Shirts

Dry cleaning services involve high temperatures and harsh chemicals. These two situations can severely damage the vinyl, so avoiding the dry cleaners for your vinyl shirt is best.

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