How To Remove Sublimation Ink From Tumblers & Mugs – 7 Ways

One of the key reasons why sublimation printing has become wildly popular is because of its durability and longevity. The prints are water-proof, heat-resistant, do not scratch and can stand the ultimate test of time. On the flipside, this only makes removing sublimation ink a whole lot harder!

However, this does not mean that it is entirely impossible. In this article we are going to talk about the different ways in which sublimation ink can be removed from two types of items- ceramic mugs and metallic tumblers. Whether your ink is bleeding, you messed up the design or are simply just tired of it, you can now remove it from your favorite mug or tumbler, using nothing more than common household supplies- some of which you can easily find in your kitchen or in your cleaning stock.

how to remove sublimation ink from tumbler

4 Ways To Remove From Mugs 

Trying to save a few bucks by recycling and re-printing a sublimated mug? Or simply bored of the same old design? Here are our top 4 most effective ways of removing sublimation ink from mugs.

1. Using White Vinegar 

When it comes to removing sublimation ink from mugs, this is the most potent and reliable method that gets rid of 99% of the print. There is no doubt about the fact that vinegar is a powerful cleanser and is often used in many household cleaning activities, to get rid of some of the toughest stains on floors, dishes and glass table tops, etc. Therefore, when it comes to removing the durable sublimation ink, it is a clear winner! 

You begin by pouring a decent amount of white vinegar in a bowl and placing the mug in it so that the print is fully dipped in the vinegar. Leave the mug in the white vinegar for approximately 30-60 minutes or even more. The longer it will stay in it, the lesser time it will take in scrubbing, and will come off easily. After that, you will remove the mug and start scrubbing its surface with a dishwasher sponge. You will notice the print rapidly peeling off, revealing a clean mug. But that area will look a little tanned. It won’t look brand new as before.

A Great Alternative (Apple Cider Vinegar)

In case you do not have white vinegar, apple cider vinegar can be used. But it doesn’t work as well as white vinegar, and you might have to prolong the dipping process as well to 2-3 hours for the desired effect.

Is it possible to re-sublimate after this method?

Yes, you can sublimate again by applying the sublimation coating. But not possible by using a brush. It would be better if you use a spray gun to put the coating evenly on the mug surface.

2. The Oven Method (Burning Sublimation) 

This method comes second to using white vinegar when it comes to efficacy and is a quick and easy way of removing sublimation ink from mugs. 

All you have to do is ‘bake’ your mug in a toaster oven or a regular oven at a temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and wait for the sublimation ink to melt off. This will take approximately 45-90 minutes, during which you must keep flipping the mug after every 15-20 minutes to ensure even exposure to heat. Make sure you use heat gloves every tile while handling the hot mug. Once that’s done, remove the mug and allow it to cool down so that any remaining ink peels off as well.

Is it possible to re-sublimate after this method?

Yes, you can sublimate again perfectly but there are two things you need to take care of. Firstly, you’ve to use a darker image. Secondly, either you’ve to use a full wrap design or at least use a bigger image, as this method doesn’t completely remove the image. It leaves fading and ghosting. So you’ve to cover that up with a new one.

3. The Dishwasher Method 

As compared to the baking method, we discussed in the previous section, the dishwasher method is relatively less effective. You might even need several dishwasher rounds, after which the print will fade to the extent where it is unidentifiable, but never completely disappear. 

You begin by setting a high temperature for the lower rack of the dishwasher and placing the sublimated mug in it. You will notice the ink melting and running down the surface of the mug. You can repeat this process a couple of times until there is nothing but little faded freckles of the ink left on the mug.

Is it possible to re-sublimate after this method?

Yes, but you need a bigger and darker image as the previous one doesn’t completely disappear.

4. Using Rubbing Alcohol (Acetone Method) 

Just like vinegar, rubbing alcohol is also a great cleanser and can go a long way in removing sublimation ink as it contains acetone. All you have to do is pour a small amount on a wet piece of cloth and start rubbing it on the print until the ink starts to come off.

A Great Alternative (Nail Polish Remover)

A great alternative to rubbing alcohol is nail polish remover. It is readily available and easier to handle. However, make sure that the nail polish contains acetone, which is the sole ingredient responsible for the ink removal in this process.

Is it possible to re-sublimate after this method?

Yes, you can sublimate again but you’ve to apply the sublimation coating first.

3 Ways To Remove From Tumblers 

When it comes to removing sublimation ink from stainless steel tumblers, some of the methods and processes are the same as those for ceramic mugs. These include: 

  1. Baking the tumbler in an oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (The Oven Method) 
  2. Using white vinegar or apple cider vinegar 

Besides these, another way of removing sublimation ink from a metallic tumbler is: 

  1. Using Bleach 

As compared to white vinegar, using bleach is a slower activity and you might need 3-4 rounds to truly make the print fade, so the tumbler can qualify for re-sublimation. The process is more or less the same- add bleach in a bowl and soak the tumbler in it for 45-60 minutes. After that scrub, the tumbler with a sponge to get rid of any sublimation ink left on it. Make sure that you wear gloves when you are working with bleach, as direct, prolonged exposure can irritate and even burn the skin. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is sublimation printing permanent? 

If we think about the chemical process by which sublimation ink adheres to a substrate, we can say that sublimation printing is fairly permanent. The ink particles are embedded in the molecular structure of the polyester coating on the substrate, forming strong adhesive bonds. However, this is besides saying that sublimation ink can be, in fact, removed. 

2. Can I use pure acetone to remove sublimation ink from mugs or tumblers? 

There are very high chances of pure acetone having a chemical reaction with the substrate, causing it to be permanently damaged and rendered unusable.  This is why it is recommended to use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, as they contain safe quantities of acetone. 

3. Is it possible to re-sublimate items after the sublimation ink is removed? 

Yes, however, this depends entirely on the extent to which the initial sublimation ink is removed. In most cases, a light impression of the ink is almost always left behind and it is advised to use darker colored inks for re-sublimation, in order to cover this faded ink.


Sublimation printing is a fun and rewarding activity and its completely normal to do mistakes at the start. So, never worry about them and keep testing and learning what works best for you. Because the same method doesn’t suit everyone. Therefore, in this article, we have covered as many ways as possible by which you can clean sublimation ink from mugs and tumblers and give them a newer, fresher look.

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