T-Shirts: How do I retain the graphics on my tees?

Those cool graphics on your t-shirt can easily fade away and leave your tee looking dull and ‘unattractive.’

This is obviously not what you’d want, especially after you have spent a good amount of money to have that funky text or trendy logo on your t-shirt.

Most of the time, the cracking and fading of your tee graphics happen because you don’t take good care of the graphics.

Luckily, we have found a few useful hacks that you can employ today to keep your t-shirt graphics looking new wash after wash.

Let’s briefly discuss each of these tricks below…

1. Wash your graphic t-shirt inside out

One of the oldest tricks for retaining the shape and look of your t-shirt graphics is turning your tees inside out before tossing them in the washer.

The idea behind this trick is to help significantly minimize the friction between your t-shirts and the rest of the laundry.

With minimal friction, peeling and cracking of your tee graphics will not occur…and this will help preserve the texture and look of your graphics

Moreover, this method helps prevent the colors of your garment graphics from fading and turning dull.

2. Cold wash is better for your printed tees

Still at the laundry part, you’ll also need to ensure you wash your printed t-shirts in cold water if you want their graphics to stay for longer.

The number one enemy of your printed t-shirt is heat, which explains why hot water can act harshly on your tees.


Cold water will act gently on your clothes while at the same time minimizing shrinkage. It’ll prevent the ink used on your t-shirt from distilling and help prevent cracking, which happens when the ink dries up as a result of hot water.

If you must use warm water, make sure you set your washer to cooler temperatures (no more than 30 degrees C).

And oh! Using cold water will also keep your power bills low, so this is a win-win situation!

3. Go the natural drying way

Now that you have washed your printed garments the right way, how do you dry them?

Unknown to many folks, the method you choose for drying your clothes can also have an impact on the longevity of the graphics.

Because you want your tee graphics to retain their brilliant looks for long, we suggest that you stick to the natural drying method—where you hang it up to air dry.

Avoid using the dryer option as the environment in there is made up of heating and friction, the two aspects that accelerate the cracking of your t-shirt graphic.

Skipping the dryer will help you save on your power bills (again?).

Still at it, you’d also want to ensure you don’t hang your tees to dry under the direct sunlight. While the sun's UV rays help kill the bacteria on our clothes, the heat produced by the sun can contribute to the damage of ink used on your tee graphics—resulting in premature cracking.

The safest way to dry your clothes is to hand them under a shade, where they can slowly and gently dry by air.

4. Keep off the bleach and strong detergents

Yes! You should also avoid washing your printed tees with bleach and other string detergents (softeners included).

These tend to easily dissolve the adhesive used in cad cut vinyls, thus damaging your t-shirt graphics.

So, what detergents should you use for cleaning your graphic tees?

The safest option is mild soap.

And for the mild soap, use just the right amount (check the package of instructions).

Applying excess soap will make the detergent become embedded in your tee fibers. To get it out, you’ll need to do serval wash and rinse cycles, which will impose more friction on your tee image.

5. Printed t-shirts and iron don’t mix

Regular iron works by producing heat…and heat is the number one enemy of the graphics on your t-shirt.

Does this ring a bell?

Ironing will be the same as applying heat directly to your garment, which can seriously affect its look and longevity. As the iron rubs against your tee graphics and produces heat and friction, you can guess that your graphics will dull faster and will not as long as you’d wish.

If you must use that iron on your tee, say to eliminate those wrinkles, we strongly urge you to use the lowest setting and turn the t-shirt inside out before ironing it. Or you can simply place a tea towel over the graphics to ensure it doesn’t smudge.

A quick tip: Avoid overloading your machine when doing the cleaning. This will help prevent your clothes from coming out looking too crinkly, saving you from using the iron.

Additional tips to take care of your printed t-shirts:

  • Wash all your t-shirts with the same fabric and colors together. And avoid washing your printed t-shirts together with clothes with zips and buttons as these can rub against the graphics of your tee and tamper with them.
  • Use the gentle washing cycle on your washer. This will help minimize the friction in your washing machine, which will then reduce the battering of your graphic tees. If possible, use a washer without agitator as it can get rough on your printed t-shirts
  • Sometimes you have to skip the washer and hand wash your printed tees if you want them to last longer. Even if you use the gentlest setting on your machine, your tees will still get tossed in the machine. And over time, this can lead to the formation of cracks. Handwashing shouldn’t be tedious since you’re only doing it for your printed tees and not all your garments.
  • Avoid wearing your printed t-shirt every day. The less you wear it, the less you’ll have to wash it, and this means it’s likely to last even longer.
  • Put your t-shirts in the laundry bag before tossing them in the washer. This will help minimize the amount of contact they make with other clothes. Turning the tees inside out before putting them in the bag is even better.

Wrap up

The last thing you want is that trendy logo, funky text, or artwork you recently imprinted on your t-shirt to fade or crack after only a few washes. Poor care will make the graphics deteriorate faster than you can think.

In the above guide, we have just outlined some helpful graphic tee hacks to help you take care of these graphics and make them last longer.

These are really simple, and they don’t cost you anything to implement them. In the long run, they’ll help you extend the lifespan of your t-shirt graphics, making them retain their new, professional looks after many, many washes.

  • Updated December 28, 2019
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