This is a question I get asked all the time: “Since Heat Transfer Vinyl requires a high heat to apply it, can I use it on fabrics such as polyester, spandex and nylon?” I had the same questions as a beginner, because we’ve all heard you have to be careful with heat on materials such as this. Today, I’m going to show you how you CAN use HTV on delicate materials like these.
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Before we talk about those fabrics, let me say right off the bat that HTV works best on natural materials like cotton. It’s just the way it is. But since many items you want to customize are a blend or a manmade material, it’s best to know how to work on them. The key is to use the right product and procedures.
If you’re new to HTV, you can read my beginner tips here.
Using HTV on Polyester
Believe it or not, most brands of HTV are safe to use on polyester. Silhouette, Siser and Thermoflex*** — the top brands — can all be applied to polyester and poly/cotton blend materials. You’ll usually use the same settings, but if you have a temperature range with your HTV brand start on the lower side or even 10 degrees lower if there isn’t a range. Also, try using less time (to minimize melting) and lower pressure (to minimize indentions from the transfer tape) if you see an option in the manufacturer’s instructions. Even if you don’t, test it out. The higher the percentage of cotton in the piece you’re applying HTV to, the better it will stick as you press and in the long term.
***Thermoflex states that there may be some dye migration (shirt color bleeds onto HTV) with polyester and poly/cotton blends. They don’t recommend it for shiny polyester (also called dazzle cloth) such as a standard football jersey where you’d put the name. For that reason, I usually stick with Siser brand because I don’t have to worry about it.
Using HTV on spandex
Materials like spandex (lycra) are stretchy. The HTV you use needs to stretch with it or else it won’t stay put or look good. If it’s just a small amount of spandex (such as the 1-2% in denim), you can use a normal HTV. If it’s higher — such as in workout gear — you’ll want to use the stretch version of your HTV. Silhouette doesn’t have a specific stretch version, so stick with Siser Stretch or Thermoflex Stretch. Also, most glitter, flocked, and other specialty HTV won’t stretch.
This is definitely one you want to test, as it often applies at a higher temperature. Sometimes you need to go in short bursts of 3 seconds at a time. Also, try adjusting the time, temperature and pressure as described on polyester.
I was making a birthday shirt for a friend’s daughter recently. She gave me several options of shirts and her favorite was one with about 9% spandex. We had originally wanted to use the Easyweed Adhesive with Magic Foil, but that product doesn’t stretch. We went with Easyweed Stretch instead and it turned out great. The silver color has a nice, subtle shine to it to represent the stars. (If we’d had time, I probably would have tried this stretchable foil HTV).
Using HTV on nylon
Nylon is definitely a fabric that can melt easily. For that reason, you want a product that’s formulated specifically for it.
- Siser Easyweed Extra — uses the same time, temperature and pressure settings as regular Easyweed. It’s just made to stick better on nylon.
- Thermeflex Xtra — uses a lower time and temperature.
- Always check the manufacturer’s website for information on their materials for what they can be used on, which products to use, as well as time, temperature and pressure. For example, the Siser Stretch and Glitter use a different temperature than Easyweed. I particularly like the Siser app because all the colors and instructions are right at my fingertips.
- Although I don’t normally wash t-shirts before I heat press them, I do with something like a football jersey. That removes any sizing (stiffener or finish) that might be on there.
- Don’t use a thick cover sheet if you normally do. That can prevent proper adhesion because it alters the amount of heat that reaches the fabric. Something thin like parchment paper (NOT freezer paper) is preferable.
- Don’t use more pressure than is necessary.
- For Thermoflex Plus on moisture-wicking materials — Damp a cloth with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol), then gently apply it to the area on the garment you want to apply your design. Allow it to dry and apply your material. This will allow better adhesion to the garment. I don’t know if this removes some of the moisture-wicking properties of the garment.
- As with any HTV, wait at least 24 hours to wash the garment.
When in doubt, test it out
What about other delicate fabrics? If you have any doubts as to whether or not you can use HTV on a product, you’ll want to test it first. I will usually buy an extra shirt if I’m making a bunch for an order. When that’s not possible, I check it in an inconspicuous spot like the underside of the hem or the corner of the piece. It’s better to do that than waste an entire roll of HTV or a bunch of t-shirts.
Other unusual surfaces to put HTV on
HTV can be used on many surfaces other than fabrics. I did an entire post on that here.