Before you buy a heat press machine, you need to consider whether you have the diligence and patience to take care of it properly.
You have to consider the machine as an investment that you need to care for (especially if you have a small business), and here are some tips that can help:
1. Read the manual.
In general, the manual will provide guidelines on how to use the machine correctly so you don’t mess it up. It can also offer various special tips on how to care for the machine, as it may require maintenance procedures that are specific to that particular model.
2. Always keep your work area clean and free of dust.
Heat press machines come with electronic parts, and dust particles aren’t particularly good for them. When dust does get inside the parts, you may want to use an air duster to get rid of the problem. You can this every few months or so.
3. Check the lubrication of the wear points.
This isn’t a problem when the unit is brand new. But you have to check the exposed rods at the hinge or pivot points every 6 months or so. You may have to lubricate these areas lightly with some high-temperature lithium grease. Just make sure you don’t over-apply the grease, as the excess grease can end up soiling your shirts. If you put in too much grease, wipe off the excess.
4. Monitor the heat element.
For many reputable brands, the heat element is often solidly-built and some companies even offer a lifetime warranty on them. But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to maintenance. You still need to keep it clean. And that’s a job that you may need to do when you end up with an inky mess after you flip over and press a transfer.
While the press is still hot, you can remove the ink from the heat element using a piece of soft fabric such as flannel. The ink should still be melted so this should be easier. Though you need to be careful so you don’t get burned by the heating element.
Now if that doesn’t do the trick, you should turn the machine off and let it cool down. You can then use a household solvent or surface cleaner with your flannel to wipe off the ink. Check the manual or the manufacturer website to see if they recommend a particular solvent or surface cleaner to use.
5. Keep the upper platen clean.
It should always have a clean and smooth surface so that you can prevent excess ink from building up. That can mess up the heat transfer. A cover sheet or a flexible application can be used to keep off the excess ink and residue from your upper platen.
You can also clean the upper platen once or twice a month with a damp soft cloth. Just make sure it’s powered off first and it’s completely cool. You may also want to dampen the soft cloth with some mineral spirit, but just be careful with heat as mineral spirits are highly flammable.
Don’t use something rough to scrub off the residue in your upper platen. This can damage the Teflon coating.
6. Maintain the Teflon coating on the upper platen.
It sure is best if you pick a heat press with Teflon coating on the upper platen. This coating keeps the ink from sticking to the platen surface permanently. So if you get a heat press without Teflon coating, you need to buy a Teflon cover separately.
You should, therefore, work to make sure you don’t get deep scratches on the coating. This means keeping off buttons and zippers from your platen.
7. Protect the silicone pad on the lower platen.
This rubber pad is instrumental in ensuring that your heat press delivers the pressure during the printing process evenly. But the pad can get punctured when you work with sharp objects like the zipper and the buttons on your shirts. Even the normal process of loading and unloading shirts can in time wear down the edges of the pad so that you don’t get the even pressure you need on the outer edges.
However, all you really need to do to keep the silicone pad working is to use a Teflon cover on the lower platen. It ensures even pressure from the edges to the center of the platen. It also lets you slide the shirts on the pad so there’s less chance of puncturing it.
8. Keep the air system clean in automatic heat press units.
These machines tend to use air compressors that pump in air from the outside of the unit. Without proper maintenance, you risk having moisture and dirt buildup that can cause malfunctions.
So you need to check the air filter element often, making sure that it’s clean. Just replace it when it gets dirty. You also will want to keep the air system dry. It may be possible to use a desiccant air dryer on your air pressure regulator. The manufacturer may even sell these dryers too, or at least they may recommend a dryer to use.
9. Use a dedicated outlet.
This keeps you from blowing out your fuses as these machines can require a lot of electrical power.
Just don’t neglect basic maintenance for your heat press machine, and you can extend the lifespan of your investment while you make sure you get optimal performance.