It's that time of year again. There is a bite to the air, frost on your car windows, there might even be a dusting of snow outside your front door. Why does this affect your screen print shop? Screen printers need to be conscious of both what you order and when you order it.
Both emulsion and emulsion remover can and will freeze. Most emulsions are not freeze/thaw stable. Depending on the emulsion's chemistry, you’ll see a number of different results when opening the container. What do you need to be on the lookout for? Here’s a quick guide.
WHAT DOES FROZEN EMULSION LOOK LIKE?
Frozen emulsion is grainy, and won’t be smooth to stir. In the cold enough temperatures, all emulsion will thaw. Once it’s thawed, the emulsion may look stable to use. This might not be the base. Emulsions that have gone bad will have one of the following characteristics.
- The emulsion may gel into a rubbery ball or have a rubbery consistency. It will be difficult to break apart, and definitely difficult to coat a screen.
- The emulsion may separate into different layers. When mixed, it will just separate out again.
- The emulsion may feel and look grainy. You’ll be able to coat a screen, but the tiny clumps in the emulsion will not crosslink.
Wondering if your emulsion is good to use? Test it out! Mix the emulsion together and let it set for 3-4 hours, then coat a screen to check for grainy consistency.
WHAT ABOUT DUAL CURE EMULSION?
Dual cure emulsions like Baselayr Long Lasting use diazo to make the emulsion light-sensitive. When diazo gets cold, it may turn solid, or have large clumps instead of fine powder. While the powder itself won’t freeze, the bottle of diazo may have picked up moisture during the freezing and thawing process. If this is the case, the diazo has gone bad. You’ll need another bottle.
Dual cure emulsion is sensitive to cold temperatures. To keep it safe, store emulsion in a room-temperature area. You can store emulsion in the fridge to make it last longer, but make sure the refrigerator isn’t too cold.
Don't forget about emulsion remover. While it freezes, the active ingredients can crystalize, sinking to the bottom of the container. If the emulsion remover has crystallized, warm it up to room temperature and give it a good shake until the crystals are re-dissolved into the rest of the solution.
Order it before the weather gets too cold to avoid frozen supplies altogether. If you do get a shipment during the winter, bring it into a warm space as soon as possible to help prevent freezing.
The good news? An unopened emulsion can have a shelf life of up to two years in the right conditions. Stocking up early means you can avoid the headache of receiving frozen emulsion from shipping, and can store the emulsion in a warm place for safekeeping.
Stocking up on products is always a good idea before winter, so you know you’ll have enough emulsion to last until the weather warms up again. Think ahead and you'll save money and headaches.