Knowing how to apply heat transfer vinyl properly is the key to it lasting and not peeling. Most every good quality heat transfer vinyl (HTV) will outlast the garment it’s applied to when applied and cared for properly. There are many popular brands of HTV available on the market such as ThermoFlex Plus and ThermoFlex Turbo, from Specialty Materials, a Poli-Tape company. ThermoFlex HTV is very versatile and durable and can be applied to many materials and has a very wide range of colors available.
What is HTV made of?
HTV can be made of various materials, the most popular being PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and PU (Polyurethane), which PU being the most popular and best quality. PU is also generally CPSIA compliant for use on children’s clothing whereas PVC is not. HTV film usually comes attached to a polyester film that acts like transfer tape to keep the design intact while weeding and ultimately pressing the film to its intended destination surface.
Important Factors During HTV Application
The application of heat transfer vinyl varies with brand and type, and sometimes other variables such as applying multiple colors or types. For the most part, the three primary components most users concern themselves with are Temperature, Time, and Pressure. Other variables that should be considered are peel temperature and sometimes the material for which it is being applied. It is important to review the manufacturer’s specifications for all the variables when applying heat transfer vinyl.
What can HTV be applied to?
Heat Transfer Vinyl is usually applied to textile materials, but is often applied to other materials that are porous such as wood. While it can be applied to smooth hard surfaces it’s not recommended because the adhesive can ooze from the sides of the HTV when pressed. Some people have the misconception that applying HTV to a mug or cup makes it dishwasher safe since HTV is washing on apparel, but this is not accurate. In fact, no adhesive vinyl, which is often used outdoors, is even considered dishwasher safe due to variable such as water temperature, water pressure, detergents, and others.
Heat Transfer Vinyl is normally applied with a heat press to achieve the required consistent temperature since heat presses feature a temperature gauge. Most HTV is applied somewhere in the range of 290-330 degrees Fahrenheit but can vary as low as about 250 and as high as 350 depending on the type and requirements, and as extreme as 375 for some specialty items like printable transfers. Sometimes temperature is adjusted inversely proportional with the amount of time to press the HTV such as in the case of pressing on heat sensitive materials like those that contain Rayon or Viscose. These items may require lower temperatures pressed for longer periods of time or being pressed for short periods of time with multiple presses, allowing the garment to cool between presses.
The amount of time to press HTV can vary from about 5 seconds to 15-20 seconds for most HTV products with some requiring more time to press. Some HTV manufacturers recommend pressing again for 2-3 seconds after peeling the carrier sheet in case the carrier lifts some the adhesive. In general, most people do not add this second pressing step, but it certainly does not hurt as long as you do not over press the item with time or temperature. As with temperature settings described above, time is often adjusted inversely proportional to temperature. If pressing at a lower temperature for any reason such as heat sensitive materials, it’s often best to increase the time, but there is no magic formula to make those adjustments.
The vast majority of heat transfer product require what is labeled as “medium” pressure with some requiring “high pressure.” Many of the problems with HTV peeling from garments is caused by lack of or uneven pressure adjustments. For pressing standard garments such as t-shirts, the easiest way to gauge pressure as “medium” is to loosen the pressure on a heat press until you can put a sheet of paper under each corner and be able slide it out. Then adjust the pressure slowly until you cannot pull the paper from any of the four corners and that is considered “medium” pressure. If you’re pressing a thicker garment such as a hoodie, that would probably border between medium and high which is perfectly fine and should not require adjustments. To increase to “high” pressure it’s recommended to add a pressing pillow to the same setting. By placing a pressing pillow under or inside the garment it reduces the amount of space between the upper and lower platen and will typically make it harder to close and sometimes slightly difficult to open. To adjust for “high” pressure without a pressing pillow, adjust the press for medium pressure as described above and then add pressure with the press open until it’s more difficult to close and open.
It’s important to follow manufacturer’s instructions for peeling the heat mask (often called a carrier sheet) after pressing heat transfer vinyl and this is a per-product requirement, not per brand. Some products vary from cool to warm and sometimes hot peel. This is important because if a product is cold peel and you peel it warm or hot, it may pull the HTV away from the garment. Some items are hot peel so you immediately peel after pressing.
Care and Washing
When any type of quality HTV is applied to a garment, if properly applied and cared for it will almost always outlast the garment. Manufacturers provide care instructions on a per-product basis, as well. In general, garments with heat transfer products applied should be washed inside out with basic detergent in cold or warm water–no bleach, no fabric softener, no color catchers, no hot water, etc., and then tumble dry very low heat. However, we ALWAYS recommend hang to dry for these items as it will not only make the HTV last longer, the overall garment will last longer.
In conclusion, by following these helpful tips and manufacturers’ instructions and proper techniques, your garments will last and look wonderful with great quality HTV such as ThermoFlex Plus or ThermoFlex Turbo applied. Each of the HTV products we offer on the site at Bulk Vinyl will contain an “Additional Information” tab with these specifications.