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Can You Remove Sublimation Ink from Different Blanks?

Have you ever gotten a shirt or mug printed using sublimation and then wished you could remove the ink?

Maybe you made a mistake while printing and want a do-over. Or maybe you just got tired of the design.

Whatever the reason, you’re probably wondering if it’s possible to remove sublimation ink once it’s been printed.

Well, you’re in luck! In this article, we will explore ‘Can you remove sublimation ink from different blanks’. Then we’ll go over some tricks you can try to remove it from different things like fabrics and ceramics.

So keep reading to learn all about removing sublimation prints!

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Can You Remove Sublimation Ink from Different Blanks?

No, it is very hard to remove sublimation ink once it has been printed onto something. This is because the ink becomes part of the material during printing.

Sublimation printing uses special inks that turn into a gas when heated. The gas gets absorbed into the tiny pores of the printing material, like a shirt or mug.

Can You Remove Sublimation Ink

When the material cools, the gas turns back into solid ink stuck inside. This makes the prints very bright and permanent.

But it also means the ink is locked tightly inside the material fibers. It does not just sit on the surface like normal ink. So the prints do not peel or scratch off easily.

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There are a few ways you can try to remove sublimation prints, like using strong chemicals or sanding them off. But these can damage the material if you are not very careful. The link is likely to remain at least partially inside.

So in most cases, sublimation ink cannot be completely removed once it has been applied. The printed design is meant to last a long time without fading or peeling.

This makes sublimation great for making permanent prints, signs, decorations, and clothes. But also means any mistakes are very difficult to fix!

How to Remove Sublimation Ink from Different Blanks

Below are a few ways that you can use to remove sublimation ink from different blanks:

Removing Sublimation Ink from T-Shirts

Sublimation ink forms a permanent bond with polyester fabrics. Removing it completely from shirts without damaging the material is virtually impossible.

However, you can try the following techniques to potentially lighten or partially remove the print:

  1. Sunlight exposure: Extended exposure to direct sunlight will slowly fade most sublimation prints over time. Hang the shirt in bright sunlight for several hours per day until the print lightens to your desired level.
  2. Abrasion: Lightly rubbing the print with an abrasive sponge or very fine-grit sandpaper may lift some ink from the shirt surface. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the fabric.
  3. Chemical solvents: Dampen a cotton swab or cloth with a small amount of isopropyl alcohol or nail polish remover & gently rub the print. Check for fading after 1-2 minutes and stop immediately if no ink lifts to prevent damage.
  4. Bleach: Use a cotton swab to apply a dilute bleach solution specifically on the printed area. Work in a well-ventilated area. Rinse thoroughly. Bleach can damage clothing, so spot test first and closely monitor the process.
  5. Abrasion + bleach: For stubborn prints, try gently abrading the surface with sandpaper first to partially lift the ink, then follow up with diluted bleach applied only on the print.
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Removing Sublimation Ink from Mugs

Like shirts, sublimation ink permeates into the polymer coating on mugs and becomes part of the material itself.

Attempting to remove it carries a high risk of damaging the mug. But you can try:

  1. Abrasive scrub: Use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub the print with warm water and a mild abrasive powder like baking soda or Comet cleanser. Avoid scrubbing too hard as this can damage the mug over time.
  2. Chemical solvent: Apply a small amount of acetone, nail polish remover, or paint thinner to the print using a cotton swab. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Spot test first, as chemicals can damage the mug coating.
  3. Sanding: Very lightly rub the printed area with extra-fine grit sandpaper, being cautious not to scrub through the coating. Some ink may lift, but mug damage is likely over time.
  4. Bleach: Lightly apply diluted bleach only on the print and rinse thoroughly after 1-2 minutes. Bleach can damage the mug over repeated use. Spot test first.
  5. Oven heating: Place the mug upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 200°F for 30 minutes. Repeat as needed. Heat can cause the ink to leach out of the coating. Don’t overheat or the mug may crack.

Removing Sublimation Ink from Tumblers

Stainless steel tumblers usually receive an epoxy or powder coating before sublimation printing. Removing the ink requires removing this coating:

  1. Chemical paint stripper: Coat the printed section with a paint stripper containing methylene chloride. Allow it to sit for 15-30 minutes before scrubbing off the coating with a plastic scraper or steel wool. Rinse thoroughly.
  2. Sanding: Rub the print firmly with 100-150 grit sandpaper until the coating has been completely sanded away and only stainless steel remains.
  3. Oven heating: Place the tumbler upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before handling. Repeat as needed to burn away the polymer coating and lift the ink.
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Removing Sublimation Ink from Metal

On uncoated metals like aluminum sheets or dog tags, sublimation ink only penetrates slightly below the surface. It can be removed by:

  1. Sanding: Rub the print firmly with 150+ grit sandpaper to grind away the top-inked layer of metal.
  2. Chemical solvents: Coating the print with paint thinner or acetone, allowing it to sit briefly, then rubbing away with steel wool or a plastic scraper. Wear gloves and work in a ventilated area.
  3. Abrasive scrub: Using a powder cleanser and a brush or sponge to physically scrub away the inked metal surface. Rinse thoroughly afterward.

Watch the below video to deepen your understanding regarding this topic:

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions to deepen your understanding:

Can you wash out sublimation ink?

No, washing and drying will not remove sublimation ink, as it has bonded permanently with the fibers of the substrate.
Fading or removing the print requires using other physical or chemical methods like those described above. With proper care, sublimation prints can remain vibrant for years.

Can you remove a sublimation mistake?

It’s very difficult to fully remove a sublimation print once it has been heat transferred onto a substrate since the ink infuses into the material.
But in some cases, you may be able to lighten or partially strip away the ink using techniques like sunlight, abrasion, solvents, and bleaching.

How to Remove Heat Press Sublimation Ink

Use a household iron to apply heat directly onto the print, which can help loosen and lift some of the bonded ink. On fabric, gently rub the print with isopropyl alcohol or acetone to dissolve the ink.
Use an eraser wheel or very fine grit sandpaper to lightly abrade and lift ink off the surface.

Wrapping Up

Overall, removing sublimation ink is challenging due to the print permanently infusing into the substrate at a molecular level. You are unlikely to completely strip the ink, especially on fabrics and coated ceramics.

But it is possible to fade, partially lift, or strip back some of the print in many cases using careful mechanical abrasion, chemical solvents, prolonged sunlight exposure, or heating methods.

Just take care not to damage the substrate itself in the process. For best results removing sublimation prints, start as soon as possible after the initial transfer while the bond is weakest.

Bella Williams

I'm Bella, a mom of 3 cuties. With 7 years of sublimation experience, my blog focuses on all things sublimation and printing. Join me for tips, tutorials, and inspiration to enhance your sublimation journey. Let's create and thrive together!
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