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Better Garment Printing through Squeegee Consciousness

(April 2009) posted on Thu Apr 23, 2009

Despite its important role in the screen-printing process, the squeegee often doesn

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By Tom Davenport

Whether you are new to garment decorating or an experienced printer, it’s critical that you pay some attention to that not-so-simple tool of the trade, the squeegee. Don’t think of the squeegee as merely a strip of polyurethane; instead consider it in a more holistic sense that includes knowledge about material options, squeegee maintenance, and use of the squeegee on press.

While I’m not an expert on polyurethane or the squeegee-manufacturing process, I am an experienced printer and owner of a high-volume contract-printing shop that specializes in a range of printing techniques. Our success is based on producing high-quality prints while optimizing press efficiency. Although we put tremendous effort into our prepress and setup procedures, that work is negated if we are not printing with properly selected and well maintained squeegees. Moreover, if our press operators do not understand correct use of the squeegee, all is for naught.

Squeegee selection
The first step is to determine what types of squeegees are most suitable for your operation. The main factors to consider are material types, blade profiles, durometer, and cost.

Material Throughout the history of the squeegee in screen printing, many materials have been used, from natural rubber and neoprene to what is most commonly used today: polyurethane, commonly referred to as urethane. Urethane has become the standard squeegee material for its excellent abrasion resistance, durability, and performance with a wide variety of ink systems. Other factors contributing to urethane’s popularity are the relatively low cost of the material and its widespread availability.

There are different types of urethanes available. The two most common in North America and Europe are Methylenebisdiphenyl Diisocyanate (MDI) and Naphthalene Diisocyanate (NDI). MDI is the more common of the two and generally provides a very good performance/cost benefit. NDI provides the most chemical and abrasion resistance, but it also comes at a higher price than MDI.


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