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It’s Time to Hang Up Hang Drying

A few years ago, pretreating was a difficult, frustrating process. Stains were common, and the hack suggested by many manufacturers was to hang dry shirts. This avoided (some of) the stains you might see from scorching the pretreat. Of course, this came with new problems that many printers simply learned to live with.

Simply put, there is no reason to hang dry. Our industry has evolved and learned from our past mistakes. In this post, we look to debunk some of the myths that keep printers hanging their shirts and explain the advantages of other drying methods.

Hanging Doesn’t Prevent Stains

If you’ve ever had to call a manufacturer for pretreat support, you might have been told to hang dry to avoid staining. The logic behind this is that if the pretreat isn’t exposed to heat, then you won’t see it scorch. The issue here is obvious to anyone who does DTG. The ink still needs heat to cure.

Discoloring
Yellowing, like in the above image, may still happen even after your pretreat is dry.

By skipping the heat on your pretreat, you’ve simply delayed when you see stains. The heat you use to cure ink should always be at least as hot as what it takes to dry pretreat. This means that if your shirt is going to scorch, you won’t see it until after you’ve printed ink, wasting time and money. If a shirt is going to burn, you’re better off finding out at the pretreatment stage. This way, you can fix the problem at the cost of a single shirt instead of a full job plus ink.

Hanging Can Cause Stains

This might sound confusing, but hanging can cause stains that you wouldn’t see otherwise. Even though no heat is applied to the pretreat, you can see one of two types of stains occur. First, sun staining can occur if you try to hang dry near a window. This can occur even on shirt and pretreat combinations that you’ve never had this issue with.

Pretreatment staining in the sun
A customer’s example of a white shirt hang dried near a window.

Another surprisingly common issue is caused by wet pretreatment interacting with the dyes in your shirt. Wet pretreatment is more reactive. Because of this, you might see loose dyes that exist in fabric drawn towards the pretreated area. This typically causes a dark box that will not wash out of a shirt. In less common cases, you may also see bleaching. Drying pretreat quickly, like with a press or conveyor, will avoid this reaction.

Hanging Ruins Your Efficiency

If you hang dry, you probably have a rhythm. Spray, hang, repeat. This lets you set up all of the next day’s jobs in a single push, allowing you to focus on printing later. However, if you add drying those shirts to your rhythm, you’ll find yourself getting more done.

If you keep your printer, sprayer, and dryer (whether a heat press or conveyor is irrelevant) together you guarantee an extra piece of equipment is running at any given time. Ideally, you can have one employee focus on spraying and drying while another prints the ready shirts. Even if you don’t have any help to spare, you can now take in same-day orders that otherwise would have been missed sales.

What You Can Do Instead

The goal of drying pretreat is to bring the surface temperature of the shirt high enough so that no moisture remains to interfere with ink adhesion. How you get here can vary, but we’ve seen great results with the same conveyors and presses you probably use already for ink.

If you hang dry to avoid stains, you can check out some of our guides on pretreating. Our YouTube channel has helpful videos on the most common issues you might come across. You should also be sure to perform your own tests before printing anything new. To help with this, we have a guide following the steps for effective testing.

Finally, you can always reach out to FIREBIRD directly. Our tech support can be reached at ink@firebirdink.com or by phone at 203-306-2988.