How to Wash Sublimation Shirts? Laundering Instructions

Sublimation is said to last for a lifetime, and yours might start fading, or you just have sublimated your favorite shirt and are concerned about how to wash it. You’re at the right place. Here I’ll teach you how to wash sublimation shirts, ensuring your 7 generations would pass, but the print will stay the same on your shirt.

How to Wash Sublimation Shirts

Spoiler alert: Once you’ve sublimated your regular polymer shirt, you can no longer follow the same washing methods for these shirts. There are special sublimation laundering instructions that will keep your sublimation longer and fade-free. 

However, you must use quality sublimation ink for printing. Low-quality sublimation ink will fade away after a few washes, despite your strictness with your T-shirt sublimation care. So, the first hack is to use branded ink, and then let’s head to…

How to wash sublimation shirts?

Sublimation shirts must be washed with cold water and mild and non-phosphorus detergents. Plus, these shirts should be washed manually, and you must never wash them with colored garments. After washing, these shirts should be dried in an open environment, i.e., heat dryers and screen printing dryers must be avoided.

Sublimation shirts wash instructions: 

Washing sublimation shirts is similar to washing your regular clothes. The instructions might seems a little odd at the start, but eventually, you’ll get used to it.

1. Turn your shirt inside out:

This is optional and, perhaps, against regular washing practice. Like, have you ever washed your clothes inside out? You’d never because it won’t clean them properly, right? Well, things are a bit odd when it comes to sublimated shirt wash care. And trust me, it’s just a myth that clothes being inside out don’t get cleaned properly. I always turn my shirts inside out, and they’re cleaner, plus the design also stays as brighter as before.

2. Wash sublimation shirts manually instead of by machine:

The machine has automatic pressures, which causes the prints to go lighter. This is why you should always wash your sublimated shirts manually. Also, in the machine, of course, you won’t wash two or three shirts. You’ll have a whole damn bundle loaded, which is against the tip of keeping sublimation colors brighter for a long time.

3. Use cold water:

Winters being around and hot water must be your go-to choice for laundry, isn’t it? Well, that’s where your sublimated shirts start to fade. Heat and warm water are foes to sublimation prints. It gets a little hard dealing with cold water manually, but the efforts are worth it all.

4. No phosphorus/phosphate in detergent:

Step 4 gets expensive for those who use chlorine bleach or phosphorus detergents. Phosphorus weakens the colors and forces the print to fade faster. My personal favorite phosphate-free detergent is the Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent. However, if your shirts have stains, use oxygen cleansers. Rub only the stained area with a cleanser, and wash the rest of the shirt with water. And byes, never make the mistake of using fabric softener or bleach on your shirts.

Sublimation shirt drying instructions:

A dryer is the biggest enemy of your sublimated shirt, and the soon you understand it, the better for your sublimated shirt. And I’m sure you won’t miss flights by drying your shirt quickly. For drying sublimation shirts, have a plastic or wooden hanger and hang it in the open environment.

I personally like plastic hangers because they don’t get wet as wooden ones do, but if you have wooden ones, there’s nothing to worry about. The ones you shouldn’t use are metals. They leave marks on your shirts. And an open environment means an airy environment, hot under the sun. The sun has UV rays which do no good to your shirt.

For any reason that you have to use a dryer, make sure to use the air setting only. In case your dryer doesn’t have an air option, set the temperature to low and remove the shirt as soon as one cycle is completed. But risks are still there.

Sublimation shirt drying instructions

Reasons for a color fade on sublimation shirts:

Are you strictly following the laundry instructions for sublimated shirts? Despite that, your color fades. The problem might be one of three:

color fade on sublimation shirts

Low-quality ink:

Low-quality ink will never resist more than 2-3 washes. This is because the chemicals in a cheaper ink aren’t strong and easily wash away. So make sure the very first thing you need is a branded ink, i.e., from Hiipoo, Sawgrass, or Cosmos. 

Non-polymer shirts, i.e., cotton or linen:

Check marked quality ink. Now what? Maybe you’re sublimating on 100% polymer. Well, you can sublimate any fabric with at least 50% polymer count. But remember, the less the polymer count, the more quickly the colors will fade. Sublimation on cotton, linen, and other fabrics won’t last long. 

Improper Transfer:

Final and most important? Are your prints being appropriately heated? Transferring 100% from the paper to the substrate is essential to sublimation, which ensures a longer lifespan. If your substrate is pre-faded or light-colored, how could it stay longer and withstand washes? Of course, with everything considered, you must have your print vivid and wholly transferred. 

The Do’s:

Pretty much in the instructions guide, I explained the guidelines, here’s just to remind you of essential key takeaways for washing sublimated shirts. 

  • Always separate colored clothes from sublimated shirts. 
  • Always use non-phosphorus detergents or oxygen cleansers.
  • Use cold water. 
  • Iron the shirts when they’re damp. 
  • Use high-quality sublimation ink printing. 
  • If possible, turn your shirts inside out for washing. 

The Don’t:

There’s no obligation to follow a particular method to wash sublimation shirts, though. Suppose you’re okay with ruining your shirts and making them as ugly as possible. In that case, I guess there’s no better way than keeping your regular washing routine the same for sublimation apparel, or you may just do the opposite of the following. 

  • Don’t use the dryer. The heat will cause color bleeding. 
  • Don’t iron your shirts at a too-hot temperature. If there are wrinkles, you can iron at the lowest temperature when the shirt is little damp just to straighten the shirt up. Otherwise, ironing will alter your design. 
  • Don’t wash in hot water. Again, it causes color bleeding. 
  • Don’t wash sublimated shirts in a washing machine. The prints get weaker under high pressure. 
  • Don’t use chlorine bleach. It lightens color, plus damages your shirt too. 
  • Don’t use bleach or any fabric softener. Your shirt will suffer from color fade and alters the chemical bond of sublimation ink.
  • Don’t wash with zippers, metals, and other velcro-type substrates. There might be rust which may migrate to your sublimated shirt.
  • Don’t put out sublimation shirts in a screen printing dryer. It’ll leave colors there, and screen printing dyes will catch them later.
  • Don’t wash your shirts often. The more they’re in contact with the water and detergents, the more quickly the colors will fade.

That’s all for the Sublimated Shirts:

So, this is it for how to wash sublimation shirts, and I hope you’ve taken notes. A sublimated shirt might be your unforgettable memory or a gift from your special someone. And now you know how to keep them with you forever. Honestly, if you’d ask me, I’d say it’s just regular washing instructions you follow one way or another with any fabric close to your heart. You just have to do the same here. Be a little careful and avoid heat. That’s it!


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