Emulsion remover removes emulsion. Seems simple, right? This chemical reclaims stencils faster with a concentrated emulsion remover solution. The chemistry breaks down emulsion when applied to a screen, and can be used in either a dunk tank or a traditional reclaim setup using a washout booth. But what happens when reclaiming screens takes more effort than usual? How do you reclaim locked-up screens?
CHECK YOUR EMULSION REMOVER
The lifespan of emulsion remover is approximately a year based on the date on the label of the product. Over time, it will lose its efficiency. If your emulsion remover is under the year mark and still isn't working that well, a few factors may be in play. If you dilute the product with water, you may have put in too much water to where it loses its strength.
If you use a dip tank, you may lose some of the chemicals when you remove the screens; therefore, it'll just need a refresher. When using a dip tank, clean it about every 3-6 months to remove gunk and make it easier and better to clean your screens.
USE IN A DUNK TANK
A dunk tank makes reclaiming screens simple. Printers won’t have to spend tons of time or elbow grease scrubbing away at screens. Using a dunk tank is simple.
Fill the tank with 27 gallons of water and three gallons of emulsion remover. Place up to six screens in the tank and let them soak for a few minutes. Remove the screens from the tank and use a power washer to remove the emulsion. How nice is that?
3 COMMON ERRORS AND HOW TO FIX THEM
Everybody makes mistakes. Even if you’re a screen printing guru, there’s always going to be one screen in every few that has emulsion reclaim issues. Here are three common mistakes that can lead to difficult reclaim and how to resolve them.
#1: IMPROPER SCREEN EXPOSURE
Exposing screens properly is every printer’s dream. An underexposed or overexposed emulsion can cause plenty of issues. One great tool to use is a 21-step grayscale calculator. This test is used to calculate how well-exposed a screen is.
Perfect screen exposure occurs at step 7. If you can rinse a screen past step 7, the screen is underexposed. Can’t rinse out step 7? The screen is overexposed. At step 7 you’ll be able to remove that emulsion beautifully with emulsion remover and a little bit of elbow grease.
#2: EMULSION BUILT UP AROUND EDGES
Sometimes emulsion may build up along the edges of the screen when you coat it. While exposing the screen, printers typically test the middle of the screen, where their stencil is, to ensure that the screen has been properly exposed. Around the edges where the emulsion is thicker, the area is under-exposed. You may experience some difficulties in this area when you're reclaiming.
To fix this, apply your emulsion remover (at its full concentration, do not dilute) to the screen and scrub. Let the emulsion remover seep into the emulsion to break the bonds for about a minute. If you have a pressure washer, you'll be able to blast off the under-exposed emulsion. If you're using a hose, you may be able to remove most of it but still have chunks of it on the thicker areas of the screen. You'll have to repeat the process (and scrub hard) to remove the last bits of emulsion.
Be proactive and coat the screen so that there isn't a thick ridge of the emulsion along the edges. When you are exposing the screens, make sure the whole coated area has reached the seventh step by using a Step Wedge Calculator.
#3: EMULSION LOCKED UP DUE TO SOLVENT CLEANERS
Solvent cleaners can cause screens to lock up and be difficult to reclaim. To solve this issue, either switch to a friendlier cleaner or use haze remover. Haze remover will soften the emulsion. Turn the screen around to wear the back of the screen (not the t-shirt side) facing you. This side of the screen has a thinner layer of emulsion. Use a pressure washer to wash it out.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Got more reclaim questions? Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about emulsion and the reclaim process:
What's the best way to avoid creating ridges of emulsion on the screen?
How far away should I pressure wash?
For screen spray out, stay 12 inches away. During reclaiming, you can be very close. The concern is primarily mesh that has already been damaged. Besides, pressure washing close to the screen can get you very wet.
Reclaiming screens can be a challenge, but with a few tips and a bit of elbow grease, you’ll be well on your way. It’s a good practice to reclaim screens sooner rather than later to avoid making the problem of locked screens worse. Set aside a “screen reclaim day,” and treat yourself afterward. You deserve it after all that hard work.