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Screen printing on organic fabrics? Consider your screen printing inks 

If you’re creating organic screen printed T-shirts or textiles, it’s vital to consider organic inks as an integral part of the process. After all, why go to the trouble and cost of sourcing environmentally responsible, organic fabrics such as linen, hemp, bamboo or cotton, only to print them with toxic inks? 

FOR TRUE ORGANIC SCREEN PRINTING, STEER CLEAR OF PLASTISOL INKS 

The very last thing you’ll want to add to a beautiful organic cotton T-shirt is a layer of plastisol inks. Plastisol inks are still used due to their ease of use and durability, but their chemical composition make them harmful for the screen printer and the environment, as well as anyone who interacts with the printed fabric. Plastisol inks are made by dispersing PVC resin in a phthalate or other plasticiser medium. Unfortunately, this means that: 

  • As prints are heat cured, they give off fumes including Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM), a known Group 1 carcinogen, as classified by the IARC1; that’s long term. 
  • In the short term, VCM according to the CDC2 is also an irritant to mucous membranes such as eyes, nose, throat and lungs. 
  • Plastisol prints can leach plasticisers into the skin of the fabric wearer or user causing irritation or worse and 
  • Plastisol prints also leach plasticisers into waste water every time the garment is washed. 
  • Phthalates have been widely cited as having endocrine-disrupting properties that wreak havoc with the reproductive cycles of birds, fish and reptiles. 
  • The clean-up of plastisols requires the use of solvents. Both plastisol inks and their cleaning solvents require specialised disposal methods to prevent them from entering waterways. 

With so much available evidence, it’s a wonder that it’s legal to use Plastisols inks on underwear and baby clothes. In some countries and regions their use is already restricted in certain applications.  

So, what’s the alternative? Fortunately, water-based ink technology has come a long way and it’s now easy to source high quality and safe organic inks that can provide vivid long-lasting results. 

THE IDEAL CHOICE FOR ORGANIC INK PRINTING 

The PERMATONE® water-based ink range, developed in Australia, was the first textile ink range from outside the UK to obtain Organic Approval from the Soil Association. This means that these inks meet the requirements of the Global Organic Textiles Standards (GOTS) for non-organic chemical inputs for use in organic textile processing. 

The benefits are that: 

  • You won’t come across any CFCs, HCFCs, plasticisers or PVC in the ink or VCM fumes with PERMATONE® Inks, 
  • You can safely and confidently print underwear, baby clothes and swimwear, and 
  • You can proudly promote your organic products, knowing that they’re far safer to print and to wear 

WHAT WAS THE PROCESS FOR GAINING ORGANIC APPROVAL? 

Colormaker Industries originally set out to develop a solvent-free ink system through 2003/4. Following on from this, the PERMATONE® range was launched in 2005. After some customers suggested seeking Organic Approval, Colormaker found that this range was already very close to meeting the requirements for an Organic Approved textile ink. New raw materials were sourced and tested and the ink formulations were fine-tuned. The resultant ink system was submitted to the Soil Association’s in-depth approval process and ultimately obtained approval in 2012. Colormaker is incredibly proud that their products meet these high standards, contributing to a safer screen printing industry with a lower environmental impact. The Soil Association Organic Approval was most recently reviewed in early 2021 to meet  GOTS v 6.0  

  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer, iarc.who.int 
  1. Centre for Disease Control, www.atsdr.cdc.gov 

© COLORMAKER INDUSTRIES 2021 

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