Reclaiming your screens is a process every decorator knows, but might not love. It’s a great way to keep costs down and be a little kinder to the planet, but the process can sometimes be unpleasant or confusing to say the least. Adam Smith, co-founder of Lucky Prints, is here to help us rethink the reclaim process. Sharing his tried and tested tips, he wants to help others reclaim in an easier and more enjoyable way.
Adam’s Reclaim Process
Make sure everything is removed from the screen, such as small pieces of tape which you don’t want to go down the drain.
Scrape off every last bit of ink from the surface of your screen. The more you can get off at this stage, the better - and easier - it will be later.
Wash the screen to get any remaining ink off, so you’re just left with the emulsion. This lessens the need to rely on chemicals in a dip tank to break the surface ink off, which can lead to a lot of extra ink collecting together. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of extra elbow grease!
Place the screen in a dip tank to break down the emulsion. Adam likes to put around 3 or 4 screens in the dip tank at once. Every time a new screen goes in or out, he’ll move them around to let the chemicals sink in further.
Take the screen out of the dip tank and use a pressure washer to wash the emulsion residue off. Try not to rely on the pressure washer to blast the debris off. Instead, let the chemicals do the job and scrub the screen by hand if necessary. This is because the force from the pressure washer can damage and weaken the screen over time.
Dehaze the screen for ghost images. Although this isn’t always necessary if the ghost image isn’t blocking the screen - it’s always possible to remove. Screens are made from polyester threads, not cotton, so inks won’t be absorbed by the fibers.
Wash your screen one final time with a mild detergent. This will remove any leftover chemical residue that may affect the emulsion from bonding next time.
“Don’t worry about how many screens you can reclaim in an hour,” Adam says, “if you take a lot longer doing just one screen but you’re doing a good job, do that. You’ll get faster.” He emphasises that the last thing you want to do is rush through the process, as it can lead to cutting corners.
As for the products he likes using, Adam can recommend EasiStrip™ SUPRA from Easiway which is a great dip tank chemical that lasts a long time. His all-time favorite product though, is EasiSolv™ 701 Screen Wash & Stain Remover. It’s a great non-caustic option that can do everything from a simple ink clean to opening blocked areas. It’s also good for removing ghost images when diluted a little more.
Final words of advice
“Make screen-reclaiming a crucial part of your production process,” Adam advises. “A lot of people think of reclaiming screens as the final step of a job — but we see it as the first step. Whenever you get a brand new screen, the first thing you do is degrease it. So reclaiming a screen to us is the same thing as doing that initial wash. The more care you can put in that process, the more successful you’re going to be on press and on production.”