Cleaning a screenprinting screen correctly is essential if it’s to remain in good condition and reusable. It all depends on which ink you’ve used for printing: water-based, plastisol or solvent-based.
- In this article:
- The first step when cleaning the screen printing screen: remove the ink as follows
- Cleaning solvent-based inks from the screen printing screen
- Cleaning Plastisol inks from the screen printing screen
- How to clean the screen printing screen if you’re using water-based inks.
- Now the screen printing screen is clean: do you also want to get rid of the emulsion?
You’ve finished printing, and now you have to remove all traces of ink from the screen-printing screen so that you can use it again for your next printing session. This is how to do it without ruining the screen or the emulsion.
The first step when cleaning the screen printing screen: remove the ink as follows
Firstly, lay out a disposable sheet – even a sheet of newspaper will do – on a surface at a comfortable height and place the screen on it with the print side facing downwards (so the squeegee side is facing upwards).
Now, using an angled scraper, try to remove as much ink as you can from the mesh: this is ink you can re-use, make sure you have an empty plastic jar nearby to put the ink into, and then be sure you close the jar to make sure it’s well sealed.
Once the ink has been removed, you can then start cleaning the mesh more meticulously.
To do this without ruining the emulsion or getting too dirty, first you need to know which ink you used for printing.
Here are our little tricks of the trade, depending on the type of ink that’s been used on the screen.
Cleaning solvent-based inks from the screen printing screen
Solvent-based ink must be removed from the screen quickly, otherwise it might dry and render the screen unusable.
Water alone isn’t sufficient to remove all traces of solvent-based ink from the screen, you’ll need to use a particular product such as Solvent 110 BIO.
With the squeegee side of the screen facing upwards, pour a small amount of solvent onto the screen and then tilt it so that the liquid reaches all the areas where some ink still remains.
Then use some paper-hand towels to carefully spread the solvent across the entire surface and start gathering up the ink. You’ll see that the ink starts to dissolve and is partially absorbed by the paper-hand towels.
Continue with this process, using more clean paper-hand towels until all the ink has been completely removed.
Once you’ve finished cleaning the inside of the screen printing screen (squeegee side) you can turn it over and start cleaning the printing side. This time you’ll have to put a bit of solvent directly onto the paper-hand towels in order to dampen them.
Once the cleaning process is complete, put the screen up against a light and look through it: the area of the design must be white, the colour of the mesh; in particular, there must be no ink residue anywhere on the design, otherwise the mesh will clog up and you won’t be able to use it again.
- A mistake to avoid:
- Never “drown” the screen in solvent: if you do this there’s a risk that the glue which binds the mesh to the frame might dissolve. Or, if you’re using a painted iron frame, there’s a risk of the paint dissolving and the mesh detaching from the frame as a result.
- So, if you use solvent-based inks:
- Pour the solvent onto the inside of the screen: we recommend using Amex 110 Bio which is completely odourless and therefore suitable for use in indoor workshops (read here if your workshop is a very small room)
- Remove the ink using soft paper-hand towels
- Clean the inside using paper-hand towels that have been dampened with the solvent
- Look at the screen against a light (behind) to make sure the printing area is clean
This process takes approximately 5 minutes.
Cleaning Plastisol inks from the screen printing screen
The advantage here is that, compared to solvent-based inks, you have more time: this is because Plastisol ink doesn’t dry on the screen at room temperature, so there’s no risk of the screen being ruined.
Again, you can use the 110 BIO solvent as recommended above and follow the same steps for removing solvent-based inks.
An alternative for removing Plastisol inks is Quasar 52 solvent, the difference with this is that it isn’t completely odourless.
- CPL Fabbrika’s experts recommend two types of solvent for cleaning screen printing screens:
- Amex 110 Bio Solvent: an odourless solvent, simple to use.
- Quasar 52 Screen Cleaning Solvent: effective, has a slight smell of petroleum.
- The only difference between the two solvents is the smell, they’re also both non-flammable.
How to clean the screen printing screen if you’re using water-based inks
If you’ve used water-based inks for printing with your screen printing screen, all you’ll need is water to clean it.
Water-based inks dry very quickly, so to avoid ruining the mesh you’ll need to remove the ink quickly. If the ink clogs up the mesh, the screen becomes unusable.
- The process is very similar to that described above, so you should proceed as follows:
- paper-hand towels and don’t use anything abrasive
- a spray bottle to dampen the ink on the screen
- clean the inside first, then the outside
- check that the area is perfectly clean
Remember that you should never use a solvent if you’ve printed with water-based inks: you’d end up with a colour “paste” that’s very difficult to remove.
Once the design is clean and the mesh is white again, you can dry the frame at room temperature. There’s no need to use an oven.
Now the screen printing screen is clean: do you also want to get rid of the emulsion?
If your intention is to completely recover the screen so that you can expose it with another design, then you’ll also have to clean off the emulsion.
- To do this you need a stripper. Strippers vary in strength, which one you should choose will depend on the emulsion used.
- Some emulsions can even be cleaned away with products that aren’t particularly strong, like Saati Remove ER5.
- Other emulsions require a stronger stripper, such as the Amex concentrated stripping solution, which is also available in a 5 L container
- The strongest stripper on the market is the Quasar liquid emulsion stripper, which is capable of removing any emulsion.
We recommend making sure that you remove all traces of the solvent that you’ve used to clean off the ink, otherwise it can create a film on the screen that will prevent the stripper from working properly.
If you’d like to know more about how to recover screen printing screens, you’ll find all our articles and answers on the subject here.