Have you ever pressed or ironed heat transfer vinyl and either before it made it to the wash or after washing you noticed that the vinyl is peeling off the shirt or bag? Have you ever felt like your HTV was just barely sticking to a shirt or it wasn’t sticking at all when you peeled the carrier off? Maybe you’ve even wondered if you received the incorrect vinyl or it was defective. If you’ve been wondering “Why isn’t my vinyl sticking?”, this blog is for you.
No matter what you were thinking when your vinyl was peeling, we’re here to tell you, we’ve been there. It’s maddening and it’s frustrating, but we can help. Working with HTV doesn’t have to be a nightmare.
If you can’t figure out why your heat transfer vinyl won’t stick, you’ve landed in the right place. These are some of the most common reasons that you might be having trouble applying your vinyl to a shirt, bag, or other fabric.
1. Did you get your “recipe” correct?
Each type of vinyl has its own “recipe” that it needs to be applied with. Time, temperature, and pressure are all extremely important factors when you are using HTV (heat transfer vinyl). Check for instructions for the vinyl you are using and make sure all of your settings are spot on.
Time- Pressing or ironing for too short a time can cause HTV not to stick to your shirt. Pressing or ironing for too long can have the same effect. HTV works by using a heat activated adhesive so too little time and it won’t heat enough to stick. Too long and it can actually burn the adhesive off.
Temperature- Not all vinyl applies at the same temperature. Check to make sure you’re using the recommending temperature. This is where using a heat press really comes in handy vs an iron – adjusting your temperature and time with accuracy.
Pressure- This is usually an issue you’ll run into with using an iron rather than a heat press. It’s tough to push down super hard on your design with your iron, especially if it’s a large design. You also have to consider what you are laying your shirt on to the press. Beware of granite, stone, or surfaces that will absorb the heat from the iron. Don’t use an ironing board or anything that will not allow you to get a really firm press with your iron.
Good pressure is when your arms literally shake from pushing down so hard. You should be able to see the weave of the fabric through the vinyl. If you’re not sure if you’re getting enough pressure with your household iron, put a little more weight behind it.
2. What fabric are you applying the vinyl to?
Check the tag on your shirt. What’s it made of? Is it Nylon? Use heat transfer for nylon. Spandex? Check out Craft Perfect. Siser Easyweed is usually a winner for cotton, poly, cotton/poly blends, burlap, canvas, and more. Just be sure that whichever comes first, the shirt or the vinyl, that they will work together.
3. Are there thick seams, buttons, zippers, or collars?
All of these things can be the root of the problem. You lose a lot of pressure when there are raised areas on the shirt taking away from the pressure that is actually hitting your design. Think this is your problem? Find out how to fix it by using a heat printing pillow. This blog has a full description on what pillows do and how they can help!
4. Are you peeling your carrier hot or cold?
This goes hand in hand with the recipe of the vinyl. Some types of HTV might need the carrier to be peeled off right after you have pressed or ironed it on. Others might need to cool off completely before you remove the plastic carrier sheet. Peeling incorrectly can definitely ruin your design- believe me.
Did you try all of these and you’re still not getting your vinyl to stick? Here are a few other things that might be causing your headaches.
- Is your press working properly? Sometimes the heating elements in a heat press will go bad causing it not to heat up to the temperature that you set it to. It could also have hot and cold spots throughout the platen (the plate that gets hot). Invest in a temperature gun to test the accuracy of the press.
- Is there a waterproof coating on the shirt? A waterproofing or fire retardant coating can be a big problem. It doesn’t allow the vinyl to stick into the fibers of the fabrics. You can try to remove the coating by using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball in the area that you want to apply the design. No promises, but if you’re in a bind, give it a shot.
- Did you pre-wash the shirt with fabric softener? Fabric softener actually sticks in between the fibers of the shirt, the same fibers you’re trying to get the adhesive or glue to stick in. Sometimes this can cause issues with heat transfer vinyl sticking. Your best option is to not pre-wash garments. If you need shirts that won’t shrink, purchase preshrunk shirts to prevent it!