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A Guide to Printing on Youth Apparel

A Guide to Printing on Youth Apparel

Printing on youth apparel seems simple, right? Everything is smaller, but as long as you size everything to fit, it shouldn’t be a problem. Turns out, it’s a little more complicated than that. The Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), has enforced safety regulations on children and youth products for more than a decade. Let’s dive into it and find out what it means for you.

An adult size pink shirt and a baby romper that are matching

Photo by Poofy Cheeks Blog

WHAT IS IT? 

In 2008, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) signed an act addressing regulations on lead, phthalates, third-party testing and certification, tracking labels, imports, and more. This means that all children’s products must be tested and certified as “safe” before they can be distributed. 

It applies to everything made for children. Since kids have a tendency to put things in their mouths, the CPSIA makes sure whatever they’re eating (even if they shouldn’t be eating it) is safe.

READ THE WHOLE ACT HERE

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MY SHOP?

Many screen printing shops don’t print children’s clothing. It requires getting a set of smaller platens and squeegees. You also risk losing detail on a smaller print. But if you print youth apparel, there’s a couple of things you need to know. 

READ MORE ABOUT CPSIA BUSINESS INFORMATION

TRACKING

The CPSIA requires that all children’s items, including apparel, “permanent tracking information affixed to the product and its packaging where practicable.” This information needs to be printed directly on the garment, and should be easy to find. Tracking labels should include the following:

  1. Manufacturer or private labeler name.
  2. Location and date of production of the product.
  3. Detailed information on the manufacturing process, like a batch/run number or other identifying characteristics.
  4. Any other information to help find the specific source of the product.

Printing a tracking label on youth apparel might not fit the vibe of your design, but it’ll keep you covered legally in case something happens. Many printers create a neck label that contains the tracking information, so it’s more discreet. Keep a record of your own work with each batch too. Every job should be a new batch, even if you’re using all the same supplies. That way, you’ll have proof that your product is safe.

INK

Ink has not been made with lead for decades, and phthalates are pretty much nonexistent. If you’re not printing youth apparel, phthalates aren’t as big of an issue. Most companies (including ScreenPrinting.com) sell only phthalate-free plastisol ink

RELATED: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRINTING WITH PLASTISOL INK

All children’s products must “be tested for compliance by a CPSC-accepted accredited laboratory.” No matter which ink you’re using, you’ll need documentation from a supplier or manufacturer that clears the product according to the CPSIA. These are usually electronic documents. It creates an information trail that gives you peace of mind that your products are safe.

Again, make sure to keep a record of your shop’s ink usage in batches. If you’re creating your own tags, keep track of that ink too. Do your due diligence so your shop is set up for success.

A hand holding up two quarts of red FN Ink

Photo by Salt and Pine Co.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PRINTING

A good way to avoid harmful chemicals getting from your garments into kids’ mouths is by decorating your garments a different way. If you’re concerned about this, consider trying water-based ink or heat transfer vinyl (HTV).

WATER-BASED INK

Unlike plastisol ink, water-based ink does not contain plasticizer, so it won’t have any phthalates.

If your shop creates apparel for large youth retailers like Nike, you’ll likely be using water-based ink. Many retailers want to avoid the hassle and paperwork associated with plastisol ink. Leaving a paper trail for every garment sold takes a lot of unnecessary storage space. 

RELATED: IS WATER-BASED PRINTING RIGHT FOR YOU?

TRANSFERS

Another way to avoid potential contaminants in your ink is to decorate with heat transfer vinyl. HTV is easy and versatile. If you’re creating clothes for infants and toddlers, HTV might be the way to go. Children in those ages outgrow their clothing very quickly. Decorating with HTV might be more economical for your shop rather than screen printing youth apparel.

TRACK IT

Even if you’re using alternative decorating methods to plastisol ink, you still need to track the garment and batch. That little tracking label is your insurance. 

A heat press sits next to a rack of colorful shirts

Photo by Pigskins and Pigtails

Since the act was passed, the screen printing industry has taken great steps in improving products. From phthalate-free plastisol ink to child-safe rhinestones, there’s a good chance that the supplies in your shop are already good to go. Familiarize yourself with the CPSIA rules and regulations to keep your shop and garments safe. 

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