7 Steps to Reclaiming Screens in Screen Printing•
Printers tend to cut corners when reclaiming screens in order to save money. In reality, skimping on proper procedures and products can damage screens quicker, costing you more money and making your process less efficient. Use these steps for reclaiming screens the right way!
Step 1: Remove Ink
Removing as much ink from the mesh as possible when it is wet will save a lot of hassle later on. Scrape excess ink off and salvage it for later use.
The next step is to completely remove all traces of the ink with an ink degrader. An ink remover or ink degrader is a “spray and wash” product. When the solution is sprayed on the screen, it slowly breaks down plastisol, pigments, and resins in the inks. After the solution is applied, the ink will become less adhered to the screen and is ready to come off.
The most important part of this step is to use quality products when reclaiming screens! Some printers use household cleaning supplies, like Mineral Spirit, to remove ink from their screens. When it comes down to it, the cheap chemicals are actually more expensive to use. For example, a half ounce of premium chemical is equivalent to 8 ounces of cheap chemical ink remover. The cheap chemical will take a lot longer to break down the ink and may cause damage to the screen.
Step 2: Rinse
Now that the ink has lost its stickiness, it is time to gently scrub and rinse the loose ink away. It should spray away relatively easy, but stubborn areas may need to be scrubbed extra or may need more ink remover.
Step 3: Remove Emulsion
Emulsion is the hard glue-like substance that is sensitive to UV light. When an image is placed on the emulsion and exposed to UV, a negative picture is created. This is the stencil you use to seep ink through onto your substrate. You need emulsion remover, also known as a stripper, to remove the emulsion and stencil.
Be sure to always follow the directions from the manufacturer. If used properly removing the emulsion won’t cause ghosting or hazing. If you do still see the stencil after applying and removing the emulsion, than you either used the wrong chemicals or used the correct chemicals wrong.
Step 4: Get Rid of Stains or Haze
We all make mistakes, and if you used the chemicals wrong, underexposed the screen, or just struck some bad luck, you can most likely still save your screen. Whether it be haze, ghosting, or stains, there is a fix for it. The almighty haze remover comes in clutch for these issues. However, you need to be careful when using a lot of haze remover because most are caustic. This means it eats away at the surface of the mesh, and if this is done too much the screen will become brittle.
Some products make this process especially convenient. For example, the Easiway Easisolv 701 N, is a screen wash and stain remover. One chemical can be used in two different steps of the reclaiming screens process.
Step 5: Degrease
Degreasing is a crucial step but is often skipped and overlooked. Degreasing the frame and screen with a mild soap takes any remaining chemicals off the mesh. If you skip degreasing, your mesh might develop pinholes, breakdown, or emulsion won’t stick properly during your next job.
Step 6: Dry
Water droplets can cause marks on the screen and affect the quality of future prints. To avoid this, find an area in the shop to quickly dry your screen and frame. A sunny window or a humidity controlled room is ideal. Be careful if you use a fan because it can contaminate the screen with dust and dirt blown around from the air.
Step 7: Recoat with Emulsion
After the screen and frame is dry, coat it with emulsion. Now your squeaky clean screen is ready for your next print job!
For quality screen printing products check out, 5 Printing Products that won't Break the Bank.