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Why Use Emulsion Hardeners?

Posted by Jeffrey Gononsky on

An emulsion hardener is a tool that screen printing shops keep in their back pocket to help their designs last for a long time. It’s something that smaller screen printing shops may not know about, but something that can save time, money, and effort in the long run. 


Are you considering using an emulsion hardener in your screen printing business? If you’re ready to invest in this amazing tool, then you’ll need to see the facts:

What is Emulsion Hardener?

A screen printing emulsion hardener can save you time, money, and effort when you’re working on a new screen printing project. In short, it’s a liquid that you apply to a screen in order to strengthen it in preparation for use. It’s to keep your screen durable and strong so it can be used for thousands of prints, over and over again, and not lose any of its stability or have the design be lost over time. 


An emulsion hardener hardens the screen to keep it sturdy, though once you use this kind of screen printing supply on your mesh frames, it’s nearly impossible to remove, so use it wisely. 

Why Should You Use an Emulsion Hardener?

There are several reasons why you might want to use a screen printing emulsion when you’re working with screen printing. 


First, keep in mind that abrasive inks like water-based ink or discharge ink can quickly deteriorate the mesh on your design. A photo emulsion hardener, or screen printing emulsion hardener, can help keep those screens durable so that they won’t break down easily when using these tougher types of ink. 


Another reason to use screen printing emulsion is that you want to have a screen that will last for thousands of prints. If you work in a high production type of screen printing shop, you want to make sure that your screen or stencil can withstand doing thousands of prints. If you’re making a massive quantity of a single type of print, using a screen printing emulsion hardener on your screen can save you time, money, and stress, because you won’t have to stop in the middle of a job to remake a screen. 


Finally, many screen printing shops will need to use the same stencil over and over again for many different jobs. If you work at or own a screen printing shop that creates and distributes its own clothing brand or if you have a repeat customer who returns to order similar styles of shirts over and over again, then ensuring that those stencils are built to last is vital. 


You also might like to use a screen printing emulsion hardener on screens with designs that are very popular in your business. If you tend to do a lot of business with surf shops, for example, you may want to keep a generic sun or surfboard print on hand at all times to demonstrate what you can provide to them. Know your clientele and prepare examples for them accordingly.

How Do You Use an Emulsion Hardener?

Using a screen printing emulsion hardener isn’t as hard as you may think. After you expose and dry your screen, choose the photo emulsion hardener that will work best for you and your needs, and apply a thin, even layer to both sides of the screen. You should apply this solution with a sponge, brush, or cloth to achieve the best results. 


Once you’ve applied the emulsion hardener in a thin, even layer, wipe off the excess emulsion. If you don’t do this step, then a thin film or slight clumping can appear on your screen as a result. This is the same principle as painting. When you’re painting a wall, you don’t want to apply a layer that’s too thick. Otherwise, the paint will drip down the wall, leave a sticky residue, make unsightly clumps, and more. 


While the film or potential clumps will not necessarily affect the efficacy of the screen, they may potentially affect the longevity. Plus, it’s better to get it right the first time, so you don’t need to worry about it in the future!


Finally, the last step is to let the screen rest. After you apply the screen printing emulsion hardener, you need to let the screen rest for at least twenty-four hours in a screen rack undisturbed. However, if you need the screen to dry more quickly, you can place the screen in a drying cabinet that’s heated to 120°F and let it sit for two to three hours. After this time, your screen will be good to go. 

Choosing the Right Emulsion

Choosing the right screen printing emulsion hardener can be daunting, especially if you’re just starting out. However, the most important thing to look at is the medium you’re using. 


Different types of ink work best with different emulsions. For example, if you’re planning to print using exclusively plastisol ink, then you’ll want to choose an emulsion that specifically caters to plastisol ink. If you’re using a water-based or discharge ink, then a tougher solution might be your best choice. 


Here at Holden’s Screen Supply Corp, we not only offer a wide range of different screen printing inks, but we are also a premiere screen printing supply shop, offering the tools you need and the emulsions you’re looking for to achieve the result you want. Check out our supplies to see how we can help you set your design in stone.

Is There a Way to Get the Screen Back?

The best thing about using a screen printing emulsion hardener is that it’s permanent. However, the drawback is the same: it’s designed to be permanent. That leaves you with the question: if you need to reclaim that screen to use for another project or if the company you’ve saved the screen for has changed their design, is there a way to get the screen back? Actually, there is!


If you need to reclaim your screen, place the screen into a dip tank and allow it to soak. You should let it soak for at least five minutes, but the longer, the better. Once you’ve allowed the screen to soak, remove it  from the dip tank and power wash it on the squeegee side of the screen. 


While you will be able to reclaim your screen, this method is going to take you quite a while. You may have to dip, soak, and spray several times before you’re able to get the screen clear, but it should work after a certain amount of time. However, this isn’t a practice that you should use regularly, since that defeats the purpose of using the screen printing emulsion hardener!

Holden’s Screen Supply

Holden’s Screen Supply has a wide range of tools, inks, and emulsions for your screen printing business. If you’re considering investing in an emulsion solution to create permanent designs, then Holden’s has some amazing ones to choose from. 


If, instead, you’re looking to simply expand your screen printing supply inventory, Holden’s can assist you with that, too. We’re proud to offer some of the best screen printing products to help your business have the highest quality prints around.