If you are new to sublimation or have been doing it for a while, you may find yourself in a situation where you will be ready to call a project “complete” just to notice that there is some unintentional sublimation ink bonded to your shirt. What to do now? How to get sublimation ink out of a shirt?
Table of contents
- How To Fix A Sublimation Mistake On A Shirt – What NOT To Do
- Goo Gone
- Goof Off
- Acetone is Hazardous to Your Health
- Vinegar and Lemon juice
- Alcohols – Denatured Alcohol, Rubbing alcohol
- Polymer Crystal Mix
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Rit Color Remover
- Cold water
- Baking soda
- What Works to Get Sublimation Ink out of a Shirt?
- What to do instead
- Heat Press Nation Official Video – How to Clean Your Heat Press
How To Fix A Sublimation Mistake On A Shirt – What NOT To Do
If you do some online searching, you will come across a lot of advice for how to remove sublimation ink from a shirt. Well, we don’t agree with most of these methods, and we will tell you why, and we will tell you what to do instead if your sublimated shirt has unwanted ink on it.
“Your Good is Good as Gone.” There are a few problems with using GooGone to get sublimation ink out of a shirt.
Goo Gone is Hazardous to your Health
First, it isn’t good for your health. It can cause dizziness, nausea, and even problems with breathing. It can cause skin irritation and can be fatal if it is swallowed and enters airways. View the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) on this page.
Goo Gone is Flammable
Goo Gone is flammable, and must be kept away from sources of heat (such as your heat press!)
Goo Gone and the Environment
Goo Gone contains petroleum distillates, which aren’t good for the environment. The manufacturer does not identify any specific ecological hazards, but does indicate that the product should not be flushed down sewers or be allowed to enter waterways.
Using Goo Gone can Damage Fabric
It lingers. If you use Goo Gone on fabric, it will require serious washing to clean it out of the fabric, and the product can remain in your washing machine. Finally, using it could cause damage to the fabric. Instead of a spot of ink, you may end up with a spot of discoloration.
“Goof Off Works the First Time.” But we don’t think it is a good option to remove sublimation ink from a shirt.
Goof Off is Hazardous to Your Health
The main ingredients in Goof Off are acetone, xylene, ethylbenzene, and methanol. The product can damage organs, and is suspected of causing cancer, not to mention eye and skin irritation. Download the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) from this page.
Goof Off is Flammable
The main ingredient is acetone, which is highly flammable as both a liquid and a vapor. Don’t use it indoors, and keep it far away from your heat press.
Goof Off and the Environment
Some of the ingredients in Goof Off are categorized as BTEX chemicals, and are tracked by various government agencies.
Using Goof Off Can Damage Polyester Fabric
Since the sublimation ink is chemically bonded to the polyester fabric, it would make sense that anything that causes the bond to break will also likely degrade the fabric. You may get discoloration. Plus you would have to thoroughly wash the garment to remove the Goof Off.
Acetone is commonly used in nail polish remover. We do not recommend that you use acetone to get sublimation ink out of a shirt.
Acetone is Hazardous to Your Health
Acetone is not healthy. It can affect your breathing and cause damage to your skin and eyes. It can cause you to vomit. View the SDS here.
Acetone is Flammable
Acetone can catch on fire at room temperature. Its vapors can mix with air and form an explosive mixture. It must be used in a well ventilated area, and away from your heat press.
Acetone and the Environment
Acetone is not classified as a hazardous pollutant.
Acetone may damage the fabric
When sublimation ink is heated, it sublimates and penetrates into the fibers of the polyester fabric. If you use acetone to release the ink, you may damage the fabric itself. The fabric may discolor or show a wear spot.
Bleach is dangerous, and we do not recommend that you use it to remove sublimation ink from a shirt.
Bleach is Hazardous to your Health
Your skin can become irritated and your eyes can burn when you use bleach. If it contacts other chemicals, it can form a toxic gas. View the SDS here.
Bleach is bad for the Environment
Bleach is harmful to wildlife, including aquatic life. The effects are long lasting.
Bleach can Damage the fabric
Bleach will probably remove the color from the sublimation ink, but it can also remove the color from the fabric itself, and damage the fabric while doing so. Additionally, a splash of bleach can easily make contact with some other part of your design that you want to keep, which would remove the color and damage the fabric there also. A stray droplet of bleach on your work surface can damage whatever comes in contact with it – the clothes you are wearing, or your next project.
Vinegar and Lemon juice
Both vinegar and lemon juice are common household ingredients. They are acidic, and we do not recommend that you use them to get sublimation ink out of a shirt.
Vinegar and Lemon Juice are Common but not Benign
We regularly consume vinegar and lemon juice, right, so how bad can they be?
When we consume vinegar, we dilute it with lots of water. On its own, Vinegar has a pH of 2.4-3.3, and Lemon Juice has a pH of around 2.0, which means that both liquids are very acidic. They can cause irritation to the nose and throat. If you have any open wounds, vinegar or lemon juice will cause them to hurt. These common kitchen staples dissolve tooth enamel as well as granite countertops.
Vinegar and Lemon Juice and the Environment
Neither vinegar nor lemon juice are particularly damaging to the environment (unless large quantities are released at once.)
Using Lemon Juice and Vinegar can Damage the Shirt
Polyester is resistant to acids. However, because the sublimation ink is bonded to the fibers, removing the ink means that you will have to disrupt the fibers – that is, damage them.
Alcohols – Denatured Alcohol, Rubbing alcohol
Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol that has additives that make it undrinkable. Rubbing alcohol is usually made from isopropyl alcohol, which is a product that cannot be consumed. We do not recommend that either alcohol be used to remove sublimation ink from a shirt.
Denatured Alcohol and Rubbing Alcohol Impact on Your Health
Both chemicals can cause skin and eye irritation. If ingested, you should seek immediate medical attention. You can link to the SDS by pulling up catalog number LC15750 here.
Alcohol is Flammable
Alcohol can catch on fire, both in liquid and vapor form. Don’t use it in enclosed spaces, and keep it away from your sublimation heat press.
Alcohol and the Environment
Alcohols are dangerous to the environment only in large quantities or high concentrations.
Alcohols will Damage the Shirt
Polyester is damaged by isopropyl alcohol. It is not damaged by 100% ethanol, however, denatured alcohol contains other ingredients that may cause damage to the shirt.
Polymer Crystal Mix
Some people recommend a polymer crystal mix for removing sublimation ink for shirts. Polymer crystals are super absorbent polymers. They are used in diapers and for retaining moisture in soil. They are not useful as a way to get sublimation ink out of a shirt.
It is likely that you have hydrogen peroxide in your bathroom, as it is used for disinfecting wounds. We do not recommend it for removing sublimation ink from fabric.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Your Health
Even though hydrogen peroxide is a common household chemical, it must be used with care. It can irritate your skin and damage your eyes. You can get the SDS here,
Hydrogen Peroxide and the Environment
Hydrogen peroxide is environmentally friendly. It quickly breaks down into water and oxygen.
Hydrogen peroxide Works for Scorch Marks
Hydrogen peroxide can get scorch marks out of a polyester shirt. However, it won’t remove sublimation ink from a shirt. Why? Well, hydrogen peroxide is one of the main ingredients in Oxi Clean Stain Remover – a colorfast stain remover.
Rit Color Remover
Rit Color Remover is used to remove dyes from clothing. It may have limited success on polyester. The color remover is typically used to remove dyes from large areas of clothing, and it involves soaking the garment in a pot of simmering water on your stovetop. We do not recommend it for removing sublimation ink from polyester shirts.
Rit Color Remover and you Health
The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for Rit Color Remover can be found here. It may catch on fire, it is harmful if swallowed, and cause serious eye irritation and skin irritation.
Rit Color Remover and the Environment
There is no ecological data available for Rit Color Remover. However, the main ingredient in the product is sodium hydrosulfite, (also called sodium dithionite), which is harmful to aquatic organisms.
Cold water is not suitable for removing sublimation ink from a shirt. While cold water is safe and environmentally friendly, it will have no impact on ink that is sublimated onto a shirt.
Baking Soda is not suitable for removing sublimation ink from a shirt. Baking soda is not harmful to health or the environment, and baking soda is useful for removing different types of stains from fabric, but not ink that has been sublimated to polyester fabric.
You might think that you could use heat to solve the problem. You might imagine that you could try to heat up the polyester fabric, perhaps using the cricut easy press mini to work on a small area, that would re-sublimate the ink, and you could drive it into another piece of polyester fabric or a sheet of paper. This sounds creative, but the ink is just as likely to form a stronger bond with the polyester fabric as it is to leave the polyester fabric. It may even spread out, making the error larger. You also run the risk of scorching the fabric. As a result, we don’t recommend this method.
What Works to Get Sublimation Ink out of a Shirt?
Sublimation is a unique fabric decorating process in that the sublimation ink bonds to the polyester fabric. That means that removing the ink means breaking the bond – and that damages the fabric itself. In other words, any chemical that would remove the sublimation ink would damage the shirt itself.. As a result, do not try to get sublimation ink out of a shirt.
What to do instead
How much does that shirt cost? $5? $10? How much is your time worth? Seriously! If you get sublimation ink on a shirt, we think that the best next step is to get rid of the shirt – Repurpose, Recycle, or Donate it!
Your damaged shirt can be used as test fabric, as a dust rag, as packing material, as a shirt that is used for cleaning or as a protective splatter smock to be used or worn on top of clean clothes when doing painting, cleaning, crafting, or other hobbies or dirty work.
Recycle and Modify the Design
Rather than thinking of the ink as something to be removed, think of it as the starting point for adding additional designs to your shirt, maybe even by using vinyl or embroidery along with sublimation.
Recycle the Fabric
Recycling polyester fabric is tricky, but there are some companies that are able to do it.
Give the shirt to charity. There are many people who would like to have a new shirt even if the design on it is not perfect.
Stray ink on a sublimated shirt usually arrives from movement or problems with cleanliness.
There are other problems that may appear to be stray sublimation ink, but are actually scorching, heat press marks, or missing ink.
Always Use Heat Tape to secure your design to the garment before pressing.
Keep it Clean
Keep your heat press platens clean, and always use liners. Use sacrificial paper liners between the design and the teflon paper and the platen.
Heat Press Nation Official Video – How to Clean Your Heat Press
Keep your heat press clean to avoid sublimation error. This official video by Heat Press Nation demonstrates to clean the platens of your heat press using Ez-Off Cleaner.
How to fix a sublimation mistake on a shirt? If you get sublimation ink on an area of a polyester shirt where you don’t want it to be, then you have several options. You can repurpose the shirt, modify the design, or donate the shirt. What you won’t be able to, however, is remove the ink.