Promo University

What Prevents Ink from Rubbing Off an Item?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: July 29rd, 2020

In the world of promotional products, there are a lot of different ways to put your logo or brand name onto your goodies, gifts, and giveaways. If you've got your eye on custom hats or polo shirts for your employees, those will probably get embroidered. If you're looking at leather portfolios to give to your board of executives, those will most likely be debossed.

It's All in the Chemicals

However, many popular promotional products are made from materials like vinyl, plastics, or nylon, such as pens, tote bags, and cups, to name a few. The most common imprint methods for these materials are screen printing and pad printing, both of which take an ink and apply it to a product. Screen printing is ideal on flat surfaces, and it's the most common printing process used on plastic materials. Pad printing, in contrast, is used on irregular surfaces (like sunglasses or key chains). Both methods transform a plain promotional product into a branded beauty by creating a chemical reaction, which transforms the liquid ink to a solid film integrated into the product.

Printing beakers

The Science of Printing on Products

Printing might sound like an art, but it's really more of a science. Getting the ink to adhere to plastic and other materials requires a basic knowledge of chemical reactions. The operator must understand the chemical properties of various types of plastic, as well as the properties of different kinds of inks. Using the right kind of ink along with the correct printing method not only ensures that the logo will look flawless, but also makes sure that the image won't flake or rub off after printing.

Printing beakers

To know which ink and which imprint method to use on plastic products, you'll need to know the surface tension of the item. This can be determined by testing the "dyne" level of a product. On a scale of 1 to 100, a dyne level of 38 ... 50 is necessary to successfully print onto plastic. If the dyne level is lower than 38, then the ink will peel off because it won't fully dry. Problems with static electricity will occur if the dyne level is above 50, which will then cause problems putting the product through a printing press.

Printing Magic

Printing Magic

Basically, printing operators aren't just pushing buttons ... they're also super science ninjas who understand the wizardry of chemical reactions. Armed with this knowledge, they can always match the right imprint method and ink to print a design on any product.

Printing Magic

Most printing processes require a lengthy drying or curing time. Ultraviolet light is often used to dry the ink, like during the screen printing process. This method of drying ensures that the product absorbs the ink and allows for a permanent union between imprint and product. Once the imprint is applied and dried, it should be resistant to solvents, degreasers, alcohol, soap, water, and other chemicals.


The Art of a Lasting Imprint

Quality Logo Products always matches the right imprint method to the right product, and that's half the battle of keeping your imprint fresh and long-lasting! Using the right ink and print method on each product ensures that the correct chemical reaction occurs between the ink and the product surface. This helps guarantee that the imprint becomes, essentially, a non-removable part of the product.


Unfortunately, time, use, and exposure can break down the ink on promotional products, so we've got a few simple tips to keep your logos intact for the long haul.

Avoid heat

Avoid Heat
Heat is a crucial part of many imprint processes, but after the imprint is applied, you should keep your products out of the hot seat. This means keeping mugs out of the microwave and dishwasher when possible and not storing backpacks and bags too close to heating vents or in stuffy attics.

Aviod light

Avoid Light
Tattoos become permanent parts of your skin, but any tattoo artists will tell you to always avoid getting a tan to prevent your tattoo from fading. So it goes with promotional products ... to keep the ink imprint from fading, they should be kept out of direct sunlight. That means not leaving your tumbler in the car when you're at work and making sure that if you're transporting boxes of stress balls to trade shows or events they don't get left in the back seat or outside in the sun.

Handwash bucket

Hand Wash When Possible
The super suds of a washing machine and the powerful jets of a dishwasher can erode ink from products over time. Handwashing is more time consuming, but using mild soap and cooler water in the sink, or rubbing dirt and debris from a product with a wet rag, will keep your imprint clean and bright!

Bubba breaks it down

It's easy to take care of promotional products once they've been printed with your design. The printers take care of the printing, and preservation is practically painless. It just takes a bit of extra care and keeping your items out of the heat to get a lasting imprint. And if you're interested in seeing more imprint methods in action, we've got a playlist just for that!

Quality Logo Products are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!

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Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is the Lead Copywriter at Quality Logo Products. As a promo expert, she's uncovered the world's first custom tote bag, interviewed the guy behind rock band ACDC's logo, and had a piece published by the Advertising Specialty Institute, a leader in the promotional products industry.