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The Screen-Cleaning Boxing Ring

(February 2011) posted on Wed Jan 26, 2011

Do green screen cleaners actually work? This article compares them to conventional cleaning products and describes how to use them effectively.


By Jason Davenport

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As the previous undisputed champ, petroleum cleaners have been used for many years. They are viewed as effective, inexpensive, and readily available. But in today’s world we have learned that petroleum cleaners come with heavy baggage and possible problems that can cause you to pull your hair out. Have you ever had an emulsion that would not clean out of the screen, or that came out in pieces? If so, you are probably one of many screen printers using a petroleum or petro-green cleaner (sometimes referred to as hot solvents) in your shop.

In their day, there is no question that hot solvents were the best cleaning option available. But that was before there were alternatives—other contenders. Petroleum and petro-green cleaners can have devastating effects on certain types of emulsions, causing you headaches and adding the cost of new screens. In addition to possible production or cleaning problems, hot solvents also bring a variety of hazards that shop owners must be cautious about (Figure 1). High VOCs (volatile organic compounds), high flash points, worker health and safety issues, and environmental impact are on the top of the list. The bottom line is that, while petroleum and petro-green cleaners clean well and appear to be cost effective, they can also cause avoidable problems.

Previously the under dog in the ring, green ink removers have been around for a couple of decades, but have gained more popularity in recent years. Earlier they were viewed as being more expensive and less effective; however, technological advances have made this presumption untrue in today’s world. When used properly, green ink cleaners can be hidden gems with a big pay-off.

Green cleaners require a little different mindset when they’re used to clean screens and can’t be used exactly like their petroleum counterparts. Have you ever had a situation where you wanted to change colors but the tape wouldn’t stick after the ink was cleaned out? This is a common situation when a green cleaner is used. Where hot solvents have low flash points and quickly evaporate from the screen, green cleaners generally require a water-dampened wipe to remove the last of the solvent residue.


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rocss says: There are hundreds of ink cleaners on the market to clean numerous types of inks used in screen printing today. They generally fall into three categories: petroleum, green, or a petro-green blend. Petroleum ...

There are hundreds of ink cleaners on the market to clean numerous types of inks used in screen printing today. They generally fall into three categories: petroleum, green, or a petro-green blend. Petroleum cleaners are usually highly volatile, potentially dangerous, not earth friendly, and made from the by-products of the refining process of crude oil.

Green cleaners generally are not volatile, are designed to be earth friendly, and are made from renewable resources such as soybeans, corn, and oranges. Petro-green products are a blend of petroleum and green products that generally are less volatile and provide manufacturers of petroleum products with a method for making their products less dangerous to use. Being practical, screen printers just want a cleaner that is affordable and works well. But sometimes it’s not easy to select just the right cleaner to achieve this.

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rocss says: Even today, there are only two primary environmentally friendly chemistries on the market that will remove emulsions and stencils. They come as a liquid or in crystal or powder form. The trick is in how ...

Even today, there are only two primary environmentally friendly chemistries on the market that will remove emulsions and stencils. They come as a liquid or in crystal or powder form. The trick is in how you use them. Every emulsion or stencil requires its own dilution rate of one of these two chemistries to remove a properly cured emulsion. Some manufacturers make a one-size-fits-all emulsion reclaimer, while other manufacturers tailor their emulsion reclaimers to specific emulsions. Not all emulsion removers are the same (Figure 2). Even though most manufacturers use one of the two same chemistries, the trick is finding the one that removes your brand and type of emulsion effectively. A tip: If your emulsion remover does not remove your emulsion with minimal effort in less than a minute, you should look to replace your emulsion remover.

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