3 Options for Easily Cleaning & Reclaiming Screen Printing Frames:
A Guide to the Best Frame Cleaning
Cleaning screen printing frames might be everyone’s least favorite task in a screen print shop. It is always the job that gets pushed to the least experienced person or put off as long as possible. However, it does not need to be as bad as some printers make it out to be. Here are some tips to making screen cleaning less messy and a (relatively) more enjoyable job.
Automatic Screen Cleaning Vs. Manual
Automatic screen washing is not just for big contract printers. It can also be useful to anyone who wants to save time and protect themselves from chemicals. An automatic system, like the Ajax In-Line Screen Reclaimer, lets you reclaim your time. Using an automatic cleaner actually uses less chemicals and helps maintain a cleaner and safer working environment since all chemicals and liquids are minimised and contained within a dip tank.
By automating, you gain consistency every single time you reclaim no matter who the operator is. This way, you remove variables, such as attention deficit issues, fatigue, inadequate training or inconsistent cleaning process. This lets you focus on printing and not worry about making sure screens get cleaned properly.
The only “downside” to automating is the cost. However, when you think about labor costs, elimination of headaches and the piece of mind, the cost is much less in comparison.
Using a Dip Tank - the Easiest and Cleanest Way to Clean Screens Manually
The best and easiest way to ensure quick and complete cleaning and reclaiming of your screens is to use a dip tank. Dip tanks cut down on the time, chemicals, and physical effort you have to use to clean your screens. Leave your screens in the tank to soak in a dip tank solution for about 5 minutes.
After soaking, pull your screen out and pressure wash away all the ink and emulsion. Using Lawson’s One Step Concentrated Dip Tank Solution is great because it also has a built in degreaser. Read more about using a dip tank in our blog How to Effectively Reclaim With a Dip Tank
Watch this video about Lawson's Dip Tanks.
The Easiest Way to Clean Screens Manually & Without a Dip Tank
1. Remove as much ink as possible when you are still on your press. We love using The Ultimate Card for this. These nifty little cards scrape off excess ink right away. The built in crease helps contain the ink and creates a cavity for the ink to go. This makes putting it back into your quart or gallon bucket SO much easier. Even if you don’t want to reuse the leftover ink, or there isn’t enough to salvage, scrape or wipe off as much as you possibly can from your screen.
2. Hopefully you used Split Tape to mask the inside edges of frames. It is the easiest tape to apply, easy to remove, and cuts down on cleanup time. Typically, they come in sizes 2”, 3”, and 4”.
3. Use a good ink degradent to remove ink residue on your screens and mesh. ID-360 Ink Degradent & Stain Remover is a 2-in-1 ink degradent and haze remover. This will help break down any ink residue and remove any ghosting or image stain in your mesh fabric.
4. Apply emulsion remover and let it sit for about 15 - 30 seconds, depending on how thick your emulsion stencil is. It is very important to remember NOT to let your emulsion remover dry on your screen. If it does dry on the screen it will “lock” the image in and you will not be able to reclaim the screen. Use a concentrated emulsion remover, such as the Lawson ER-110 Super Concentrate Emulsion Remover, to save money.
5. High water pressure is a necessity when cleaning screens. If you don’t have room in your budget for your own pressure washer right now, you can rent one or get creative and bring your screens to the car wash.
Whether you clean and reclaim your screens automatically, with a dip tank or entirely manually it is a necessary and important task. Try to stay on top of your screen room and not let it get out of control. Just a little bit of work on a routine basis helps keep things manageable.
For insightful tips on how to develope silk screens read our article The Mesh Screen Frame Developing Cycle. This article covers in detail how to get a screen ready for print.