How To Remove Sublimation Ink From Shirts? Acetone Works?

Sublimation printing can get messy at times with incorrect printing, blotches of ink, or uneven results. This makes us think if there is a way to remove sublimation inks from shirts and rectify the errors.

how to remove sublimation ink from shirt

Yes, there definitely is! You can remove it from shirts made of cotton or any other material except for polyester. The sublimation inks tend to fade away using various chemicals and techniques or even get removed at once depending on the intensity and pressure applied during the sublimation. 

Let us take you to the different ways to remove it from shirts and other related pearls of wisdom to make your experience as pleasant as possible!

Why Can We Remove It From a Variety Of Fabrics But Not From Polyester?

Sublimation is usually done on polyester or polyester-coated surfaces of fabrics, the reason being; the gas or liquid vapors of the sublimation ink chemically bind to the polyester molecules in the fabric – making the fabric almost always wash-resistant!

The chemical bond between sublimation inks and polyester is the reason why we are not able to remove the ink from them (or do so with potent chemicals and numerous washes). On the other hand, sublimation done on other types of fabrics like wool or cotton is basically the ink ‘clinging onto’ the fabric and not in a resilient bond with the fibers, making it quite easy to remove the ink from these fabrics after a couple of washes, even with weak chemicals.

Now that we have explained a commonly asked query, let us dig into different ways and techniques to get rid of sublimation inks from shirts and save yourself plenty of time and resources!

How To Remove From Shirts?

Following are some of the tried and tested methods to remove from shirts:

1. Heat The Shirt!

This might sound strange since you just heat-pressed your shirt during the process of sublimation but trust us, this has worked for us many times! 

All you need is a heating medium – let’s say an iron – and a dryer for gradually taking the sublimation ink out of the shirt fabric. The heat slows down the fixation and bonding of sublimation inks to the fabric and allows it to get out of the fabric layers.

2. Cold Water To The Rescue!

Even though cold temperatures fasten the process of sublimation and fixation of inks into the fabrics of shirts, sometimes they prove to help get rid of stubborn inks too.

Place the shirt into a bucket or bowl of cold water until it is completely soaked. You would need a spoon or spatula to help the ink evacuate by pressing on the shirt again and again to create negative pressure.

Since you will be actively removing the ink with the spatula, it might get removed in patches and would require repetitive attempts for the fabric to be squeaky clean. Keep in mind to not soak the fabric for a long time in cold water!

3. Use Bleach

Bleach is renowned for its strong chemicals and immediate results when used in order to remove persistent stains from clothes. This makes it one of our choices to clean sublimation inks from shirts.

Bleach the shirt and leave it completely immersed in bleach-containing water for about an hour. This should be enough to remove the sublimation ink. You can take it out later and wash it with regular water and soap.

Be careful if you want particular stains out of the shirt because any part that touches the strong chemicals in bleach tends to get dull so this might not be a good idea for little blotches of ink!

4. Use Alcohols

These chemicals are easily available as household chemicals and are a part of accessories in the home. You can soak your shirt in alcohol mixed with water for about 15 minutes and take out the shirt. You would notice how much of the ink has been removed without altering the quality of the fabric.

Another effective method of removing sublimation inks from shirts is using alcohol! Yes, denatured and methyl ethyl alcohol.

Next, iron the shirt for about 10 minutes by placing paper towels between the iron and the shirt to avoid both of them sticking to each other. The heat will help you get rid of the remaining ink residues.

You can also use rubbing alcohol for a localized removal of stains from the shirt if you do not want the entire thing to rub off. Dip cotton or paper towel with rubbing alcohol and place it on the portion of ink that you want to get rid of. Rub it a little bit and repeat the process until the entire stain is removed.

5. The mixture Of Alcohol And Polymer Crystals!

If the stains are too stubborn to be removed by the above-mentioned method, you can further use the mixture of methyl ethyl alcohol and polymer crystals to help get rid of the ink stains. Mix the two by adding alcohol until a creamy mixture is formed which is not too thick or too thin to stay on the shirt. Dip a paper towel in the mixture and use it gently to rub off the sublimation ink off the shirt.

6. Removal With Acetone!

Using acetone for the removal of sublimation ink from shirts is the technique of choice when it comes to persistent ink stains. Acetone is a potent chemical that has a great percentage of alcohol in it and must be used carefully. The method is almost the same as that of rubbing alcohol.

Place cotton dipped in acetone on the part of the shirt that you want to be cleaned for about 10-15 minutes and then rub the same part with dry paper towels to efficiently remove the stain. Repeat the steps if the ink stain persists.

7. The Soda Water Helps

Using soda water has helped take out undesired sublimation inks from shirts for a very long time. It is an old remedy and has worked for many!

You can now make your very own soda water at home! Just mix six parts of soda powder with one part of water and there you go! Soak the shirt in this mixture for about half an hour and periodically check the progress of ink removal. If you think the bubbles have died away, you can stir the mixture to help the solution actively work with the dye-infused shirt fibers. 

8. Pressure Washer

In addition to the above-mentioned methods, if you use a pressure washer – you are going to get better and more efficient results. Water from a pressure washer and regular water can be mixed to wash the shirt with the undesired sublimation ink. It will help the ink fade away, if not completely removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does any of the removal techniques affect the shirt fabric?

Some agents are harmless to the shirt fabric like cold water, heat, dryer, and even soda water while others affect the shirt fabric whilst helping us remove the sublimation inks from the shirt like alcohol and acetone.

2. Will sublimation ink wash out itself?

If the sublimation is done on untreated fabrics like simple cotton or wool, it will eventually wash out after a couple of washes. However, if the fabric in question is a polymer-treated shirt, then the ink would not wash off because of the strong bond between the sublimation inks and polymer fibers.

3. Will the sublimation ink get removed over time?

Although it won’t remove completely over time by itself, it may fade away depending on the type of fabric, the number of washes, and exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet radiation.


Sublimation printing is fun and enticing until you make a grave error. The good news is that this is not the end of the world and many techniques as well as tips and tricks are there to help you get out of the mess that even experts make. 

We hope you found the above-mentioned methods in this regard helpful and got yourself out of a messy situation eventually. Happy Worry-Free Sublimation!

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