Decided you're ready to kick the aerosol can? Don't blame you. Who wants to inhale chemicals from a spray adhesive? Plus, a spray adhesive gets everywhere — you, your glasses (if you wear them), your press, the ground. Spray adhesive is just not worth it. If you're ready to make a switch, learn the ins and outs of using a water-based pallet adhesive.
There are three ways to apply water-based adhesive. The first and most popular method is using a cleanup card to spread the adhesive around a platen. Drizzle the adhesive on the platen and use the card to spread the adhesive across the whole platen. Every inch of it needs to be covered. If you've never used a water-based adhesive before, you can put a little dye in the glue so you can see exactly where you're spreading it across the platen (don't worry, it'll dry clear).
Be sure to apply the adhesive smoothly: any bumps, ripples, ridges, or any kind of texture means you will see that texture when you print.
Golden Press Studio uses Sgreen® Water-Based Pallet Adhesive in their shop.
Once you have that even layer of adhesive on the platen, stick it underneath a flash dryer. The flash will evaporate the moisture in the glue and make the adhesive more sticky. You also use the flash to ensure that the water has evaporated before starting a run because if the adhesive is still wet and gloppy, it'll soak into the shirts and make your life not fun.
Another way you can apply the adhesive is with a small foam roller. Same process as the cleanup cards, you squirt some adhesive on the platen, roll it around so it covers the platen entirely, heat it up, and you're good to go. One thing to note that by using the foam roller, you'll be laying down a thicker glue deposit. You may need thick adhesion if you have a high-volume run. If that's not the case, you can solve that issue by diluting the pallet adhesive with water.
The last way you can apply the adhesive is with an adhesive applicator. There are spray devices on the market that mists the glue onto the platen. It's another option to look into.
Cool thing about using a water-based adhesive is that you can reactivate it. You finished a run for the day, shut down the shop, and left the adhesive on the platens. When you come in the next day, grab a sponge or scrub pad and a spray bottle filled with water. Mist the platen to get the glue wet and scrub off the lint from the previous run. After that, you stick under the flash again to make it sticky once more and you're set to go!
Water-based adhesive holds your garments down tight for great prints, but it also allows for easy removal for something as delicate as a poster! Photo by Golden Press Studio.
Since you are scrubbing the pallet, you do remove some of the adhesive. Over time, you'll notice it may not be as sticky. Reapply more of the adhesive, go through the motions, and you're back to production.
Easiest way to clean water-based adhesive up is with pallet tape. If you laid down platen tape and applied the water-based adhesive on top of the tape, then all you have to do is rip off the tape and you're ready to rock and roll.
If you do not use pallet tape, you're going to need a solvent cleaner to get the adhesive off the pallets. For example, grab Sgreen® Supreme Wash, spray the pallet, let the chemicals seep into the adhesive, and start scrubbing. You may have to do it a few times to get all of the adhesive off the platen.
Water-based pallet adhesive is best for t-shirts. You can use it for hoodies, but be warned that you may need to clean off the fuzz from the sweatshirts often, like almost every other hoodie you print. You need to do this in order for the adhesive to adhere to the garment properly.