Direct to garment (DTG) prints that are printed correctly should maintain a pretty high quality for over 40 washes. It’s really more of a function of the quality of the print. If it’s a “good print” with a good under base and a good pre-treatment, it will look great out of the washer as long as the care instructions are adhered to.
Improper pretreat: the term improper pretreat is used in terms of not enough added or too much added. This is a big one that is often overlooked. The right amount of pretreat needs to be applied for optimal results. Too little or poor pretreat will certainly see the ink wash right off after the first wash. Too much and there will be cracks after the first few washes.
Ink compatibility or bad inks: this can certainly be a factor of a bad batch of inks which is very rare. Sometimes DTG shops use third party inks to save cost. This is usually a gamble as it costs more money in the long run. Later there are a lot of complaints due to poor quality shirts or ruined print heads.
Curing process: this process is required after each print job to cement the image on to the garment. Heat press time and temperature has to be right. Water base inks can only be cured when the water and all moisture has been evaporated. When the moisture is removed, the inks will be able to be cured. Shirts with white under base require more time than shirts with CMYK colors only.
Wash instructions: one of the key steps in the overall process to maintain DTG print quality. With every print job that that we do, a care instruction insert is always put in the inside the package with instructions such as, ”please do not iron the item; wash it inside out with cold water, no abrasive detergent, no fabric softener and air dry for best results”.