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Discharge ink is a bleaching style of ink that removes the colour of the shirt and replaces it with a new colour. It sounds amazing right? And it is! But there are lots of rules. It’s kind of like English grammar. There is lots of “usually this, but sometimes not.”

Discharge Ink – Check List

100% Cotton Only

Polyester can’t be discharged. Only fabrics dyed with reactive dyes. Generally, this limits you to 100% cotton only.

Avoid Certain Garment Colours

Even on 100% Cotton some t-shirt dyes don’t want to give up. Avoid these colours.

Royal Blue, Kelly Green and Purple.

We can’t match Pantones with Discharge Ink

Since it’s a chemical reaction, it’s impossible to promise consistently accurate colour matching. If you need to match your corporate pantone, we suggest you use plastisol inks.

Be Prepared for Some Variations

Again, it’s a chemical reaction, so sometimes it turns out differently. Perhaps the dye lot changes part way through your t-shirt run. Perhaps the first time we printed it was a humid day, the re-order was on a dry day. There are so many factors that can alter the way the reaction takes place. Be prepared for some variations.

Minimum 48 Pieces

Since we can’t reuse any of the ink once we activate it, we want to make sure most of what we activate ends up on a shirt, not in the bin.

Activation Fee

Once we add the activator to the ink, we have two hours to use it. Any left over ink goes in the bin. To offset the cost of wasted ink, we charge a $15 per colour activation fee.

Discharge Inks – A Quick Explanation

The main disadvantage to discharge inks for t-shirt printing is that this chemical reaction only works on cotton.  The reason is that the dye in the shirt must be a reactive dye and reactive dyes don’t work well on synthetic materials like polyester.  Blended materials like 50/50 shirts are usually died with a different kind of dye and therefore can’t be discharged.

Also certain colours of cotton t-shirts don’t discharge well. Here are the colours to avoid: Royal Blue, Purple and Kelly Green. These colour are less effective with discharge inks. They still work a little, but if you are hoping for bright colours, you will be disappointed if you choose these colour of t-shirt to print on.

Another thing to keep in mind with discharge ink is that it can be unpredictable. Discharge ink is a chemical reaction, so if the inputs change, so do the outputs. Sometimes the dye is different in one size of shirt from the rest. So that size looks slightly different than the other sizes. Not bad, just different. You need to be ready to accept some variation in the way your print looks from shirt to shirt when using discharge inks.

Lastly, we ask for higher minimums and charge a little more for discharge printing. This is because once we activate discharge ink it is only good for a few hours. After the print run is complete, we need to throw the excess away. Since we need a minimum of 350 grams of ink to prime a screen and start the printing, we don’t want to only use a tiny amount of that and toss the rest. Ink waste is a big issue with discharge and because of this, we ask for a minumum print run of 48 pieces and we also charge an activation fee of  $15 per colour activation fee.

We love the results we can achieve printing discharge inks on your custom t-shirt design. However, keep in mind the possible speed bumps and be sure to choose the right shirt.

Popular Items for Discharge Ink Printing

Discharge Ink T-shirt Printing

American Apparel Fine Jersey T-shirt #2001W

  • $9.09 ea
  • 4 colours
  • Small – 3XL
Discharge Ink T-shirt Printing

Gildan Ultra Cotton Classic Fit Shirt #2000

  • $5.44 ea
  • 30 colours
  • Small – 5XL
Discharge Ink T-shirt Printing

Independent Midweight Pullover Hoodie #SS4500

  • $19.97 ea
  • 23 colours
  • Small – 3XL
Discharge Ink T-shirt Printing

Gildan Ladies Softstyle Fitted Tee #64000L

  • $5.50 ea
  • 13 colours
  • Small – 2XL


Discharge Ink Printing Means No-feel Prints


The greatest advantage to discharge ink printing on your custom printed t-shirt is bright colours and no feel prints.

Have you ever had a t-shirt where you couldn’t feel the print? It just felt like part of the shirt. It didn’t crack over time like heavy plastisol prints. It was bright and breathable and looked amazing.

Chances are that t-shirt was printed with discharge inks.

Discharge ink works differently than regular t-shirt inks because it uses a chemical additive called Zinc-Formaldehyde-Sulfoxylate (ZFS). When heated in the drying process, ZFS bonds on the molecular level with the dye in the t-shirt preventing it from interacting with light. This effectively returns the colour of the shirt underneath the print back  to the off-white colour of cotton. Now the print no longer has to overpower the dark colour beneath it allowing us to print very thin layers of light coloured ink – so thin that you can’t really feel the print.


Discharge Ink T-shirt Printing in Vancouver

Below are some of our favorite t-shirt printed with discharge inks.

Give us a call or chat in the chat window about your custom printed t-shirt project. Perhaps it will be amazing with discharge ink, or perhaps standard printing is best. If you are confident in your choice, just ask for discharge ink in the checkout process by writing it in the comments.

Happy customizing!