12 Steps to Recovery December 20 2013

When most people think of screen printing, they imagine the process of applying ink, through a screen, onto an object, whether that be a t-shirt, coozie, or poster. That's a large part of the process, but it isn't the whole. Along with the inherent creativity, joy, and fun of screen printing there is also another side, namely the 'dark side'. The 'dark side' of screen printing consists of cleaning and reclaiming screens.

After a screen is used it needs to be cleaned of residue ink, and reclaimed for future use. Reclaiming is basically recycling a screen; specifically, it is the process by which a screen is cleaned of all emulsion and grease. Most of my job's duties lie in this dark realm. That is not to say I resent those duties. After all, the dark side is  just as important and integral to screen printing as the actual process of printing. As the print masters will tell you, any padawan must spend years cleaning and reclaiming screens before they are ready to step to the press. 

At the close of a print, a screen becomes battered and stripped of its cleanliness. Through the '12 Steps to Recovery' one can transform the screen back into a noble instrument. To help you grasp this process, I have prepared a step by step tutorial that illustrates these twelve steps. All in all, this post is meant to educate those about the less significant aspects of screen printing.

Step 1- Get in the Mode

Dirty screens. 

Step 2- Cleanin Screens

The first step of the renewal requires removing all of the leftover ink. We strap the screen into the press so its stable and easier to clean. First thing first, gotta remove that tape along the perimeter of the screen. Next, we spray mineral spirits onto the screen. Mineral spirits break up the ink and make it easier to strip the ink with paper towels. 

 3- Scrub Away

Its crucial to scrub the screen from the top and bottom, that way the ink is completely removed. This is probably the most time consuming part of cleaning screens. It can also start to wear on you if you've been huffin mineral spirit vapors for hours. Best to set up some fans while doin this.

4- Step into the Dark Room

This is where all the magic goes does. Reclaim central! We reclaim the screens in the wash basin, which also doubles as a urinal on Fridays. 

5- Spray it Down

Now that the screens somewhat clean, its time to strip that emulsion. As you can see in the above shot, we use a pressure washer to do most of the work. This tools deafening loud but gets the job done quickly. We start by washing the screen off with water.

6- Emulsion Remover

To strip the emulsion, we use a chemical called (you guessed right) emulsion remover. The spray bottle is a mix of one part emulsion remover, nine parts water. Spray the screen down.

7 - Beat it Out

After the emulsion remover has started to settle in its time to scrub it down. We use a coarse scrub brush to grind away the leftover emulsion. It always come off pretty quickly. 

8- Blast It

This step is by far my favorite part of the whole process. Maybe its the sensation of power as I blast that emulsion away!

9- Simply Green

Following the removal of all the emulsion it is imperative to degrease the screen. This step ensures that fisheyes won't show up the next time you burn the screen. We use Simple Green to degrease. Spray it, let it chill for a bit, then spray it down.

10 - Take the Trash Out 

One our customer recently described our community courtyard as similar to 'Training Day'. When takin the trash out its important to keep an eye out for the dogs. Some of em are cool, some arent. 

11- Dodge Turds

No Respect!

12- Just Anotha Day...

Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!