When I am searching for a product, I like to ensure that it is top-quality and worth having. Why spend money on something that is not going to be kept (and used) by the recipient or look good for long? When it comes to apparel, I always like to be sure that the material will last and therefore fabric choice and decorating techniques are both important considerations. If the ink used to brand a garment bleeds after washing, or with wear, the item will be discarded and the value to your brand diminished.
One common problem that occurs when apparel is branded is dye migration. With the right fabric and the proper decorating techniques, dye migration can be avoided, and your branded apparel will stand the test of time.
What is Dye Migration?
In simple terms, dye migration refers to dye gasses spreading out onto another layer. It occurs when the ink in clothing bleeds and the colors run. It is most common with brighter colors, such as red. That is one reason why people say that you should not mix colors when washing your laundry. The colors from some of your clothes may bleed onto others, ruining them. I know I don’t like to purchase a white item and have it turn pink because something red has bled onto it. If I wanted it to be pink, I would have bought it that way in the first place!
What Causes Dye Migration?
Dye migration typically happens in polyester. You may have noticed this with dark-colored jerseys, when the white numbers or letters on the back become dyed by the color of the jersey. This occurs when the item is being made, and is actually caused by heat. The high temperatures during the process cause the ink in the material, normally plastisol, to turn into gas. This is called dye sublimation. If the molecules in the dye are bigger, this will not occur, because they are too large to pass through. If the molecules are smaller, however, then they will easily pass through the layer and cause the color to bleed.
How Can Dye Migration Be Avoided?
There are several ways in which dye migration can be avoided. One solution is to use a block-out vinyl that will limit the amount of bleeding that can occur. Additionally, ink should only be purchased and used if it is labeled as “low bleed.” Some say “no bleed” as well, but there really is no such thing as no-bleed ink. It can still occur even with that brand of ink. It does, however, limit it by quite a bit.
Typically, the ink needs to be cured at an extremely high temperature, around 320 degrees. This is when it fuses to make it stick, meaning the printed letters or numbers will stay and not fall off. However, this high of a temperature is also when sublimation occurs. If an ink can be purchased that requires a lower temperature to cure, the sublimation and color bleeding may be able to be avoided.
Dye migration is a common thing in clothing, but by taking the aforementioned precautions, it can be limited, if not avoided altogether. If you’re going to spend the money to put your brand on apparel, make sure you’re working with a supplier who understands how fabric choice, ink selection, and the decorating process all impact the possibility of dye migration.