Spring Cleaning Your Pre-Burned Screens

Posted by Ellie Batchiyska on

When spring rolls around, we often look to refresh and clean our homes and yards–but there are many things in our lives that could use a good cleaning this time of year. 

If you’re a screen printer that relies on pre-burned screens to create your prints, you’ve probably recognized that the screens can accumulate ink, emulsion, and other debris over time that can affect the quality of your prints. 

To ensure that your prints continue to come out clear and vibrant, you should take the time to clean your screens thoroughly after each use. Luckily, cleaning and maintinuing your pre-burned screens, like screen burns from Arena Prints is actually a much simpler process and less involved than cleaning traditional mesh screens. So, here are some helpful tips to help you spring-clean your pre-burned screens. 

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you can clean your screens, you’ll need a few basic supplies on hand. These include paper towels, ink cards, and a non-citrus-based screen opener that’s specific to Plastisol or water-based inks. 

Regardless of what type of screen opener you use, make sure that it’s not citrus-based, which is too acidic for the screens and will only erode the emulsion in the fibers. 

Step 2: Remove the Ink

Once you have the proper supplies gathered, you’ll first need to remove any ink that’s still attached to the area surrounding the print. You can do this with an ink card or a plastic-edged scraper. 

If needed, you can use a damp paper towel with the ink card to remove excess water-based ink. However, for plastisol inks, you should only use a dry paper towel. Using any water when trying to remove plastisol inks will actually smear the ink and make it harder to clean afterward. 

It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t use a showerhead or traditional washout booth when cleaning your pre-burned screens. The pressure from the spray is too strong and will annihilate and destroy the mesh of your screens, making them unusable.  

Step 3: Apply Screen Opener

After you have removed the excess ink from around the screens, you should spray on an even layer of your screen opener of choice, and wipe it down thoroughly with paper towels to clean.

Use moderate pressure while wiping down the screen so you’re giving it a good clean, but not causing any unwanted damage, either. Again, when using Plastisol inks, make sure you’re only using a dry paper towel. You should repeat this process about 3-4 times until the screen is fully clean. 

Don’t feel like you need to use too much screen opener to get a thorough clean–start with a moderate amount to avoid overdoing it. 

You may notice a slight halo effect around the image area after cleaning, which is normal and won’t impact the quality of your next print. 

Step 4: Repeat on the Underside

Once you’ve taken care of the top part of your screen, you will repeat Steps 2 & 3 on the underside of the mesh to ensure it’s fully clean. 

When you’re confident that the ink has been cleared entirely from the screen, let it air dry for about five minutes before you apply the next color, or store it for future use. 

So, cleaning your pre-burned screens may seem like a daunting task, but it’s a necessary process that will help maintain the quality of your prints. 

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