How To Remove Sublimation Ink From Mugs, Shirts & Tumblers

You started with sublimation, but you made a mistake and now you think removing sublimation ink is impossible? Do you have to throw the mug, shirt, or the tumbler away or can you reuse it? Now you think removing sublimation ink is impossible?

In this article, we will briefly explain how sublimation works for better understanding and then explain if and how to remove sublimation ink on mugs, t-shirts, and tumblers.

Before we start, here is a common question that might have come into your mind when you started reading.

What is Sublimation And Sublimation Ink?

Sublimation is a chemical process between a solid and a gas where a solid substance is directly converted to a gas substrate/substance without going through the liquid phase.

Whereas sublimation printing is a process in which a solid substance is heated over something to leave a print or mark over it in the form of gas. Sublimation ink is very useful to process and used in printing for various purposes and it is long-lasting as well.

How Does Sublimation Printing Work?

The sublimation printing method entails a chemical reaction where ink transitions from a solid state to a gaseous one and subsequently, on a molecular level, the particles are integrated into a polymer, typically a polyester coating or fabric. Though it may seem complex, the process is actually quite straightforward.

This chemical transformation occurs at temperatures of 400°F and above, and the final product becomes long-lasting once the base material (e.g., a ceramic mug coated with polyester) returns to room temperature.

In theory, to remove ink stains from items like a coffee mug or clothing, one would need to heat the finished product to temperatures exceeding 400°F for an extended duration.

What Is Sublimation Ink Used For?

In easier words, sublimation ink is used like a ‘printer’ to print fonts or images over different substances like clothes, mugs, tumblers, etc. to give them a better and more appealing appearance. It is used as a form of design

There are many beautiful sublimation ink designs that you can create or buy. Such things are then unique.

sublimation design on screen

Sublimation inks are primarily used in sublimation printers as they are one of the essential parts of sublimation printing. This sublimation printer ink is unlike the regular ink we use daily in our homes or offices.

As a result, these inks produce many vibrant colors that stay colorful for a long span.

How To Remove Sublimation Ink?

Removing sublimation ink can be done by using the appropriate solvents (chemicals like alcohol etc) or sublimation ink remover but this may work on some surfaces and ruin some. 

So to avoid ruining your sublimated shirt or mug, it is better to understand the common mistakes and try to avoid these mistakes while removing sublimation ink from mugs and shirts.

Removal Of Sublimation Ink From Mugs

Sublimation on mugs can look great, but if you make a mistake during the production or if you don’t like the image on the mug anymore, you can remove it.

Sublimated mugs

Also from a mug, sublimation ink would fade with the passage of time but the strain is usually still left a little. But before you start trying different methods mentioned below, test them on a small, inconspicuous area of the mug first to prevent any damage.

Here are a few easiest ways to remove sublimation ink from mugs: 


Acetone is used in nail polish removers. For removal use a cotton ball or piece of cloth, apply a small amount of acetone on it and dab the inked area with care.


You might have heard of vinegar as a natural cleaner because it is used in many cleaning processes. In fact, it is used to clean a large variety of household materials like dishes, floors, clothes, and glass. 

In most DIY videos vinegar is your best friend, either in the form of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.

Apply the vinegar on the part of the sublimation mug where you made the mistake (sublimation mistake) or put the mug in a bowl filled with these two kinds of vinegar would start a reverse reaction

Leaving it on or submerging the cup in the vinegar for around 2-3 hours and then scrubbing the sublimation ink with a dishwashing sponge will remove the mark or the whole picture. 

Thus in this way, you can easily remove sublimation ink from mugs without damaging the mug. Also, it will not have any harmful effect on your skin unlike other strong cleaning chemicals like bleach (Hypochlorite).

But keep in mind, that also with these techniques the total removal of sublimation ink could not be possible and that the mug’s appearance may be changed.

Removing Sublimation Ink From Shirts

If you mistakenly pour something over a plain T-Shirt or you wanted to try sublimation ink on your shirt to make it look like a dyed handmade shirt, you have completely ruined the fabric.

Removing Sublimation ink from shirts (clothing fabrics) should be acted upon early because a fine shirt with a stain is like being judged for wearing dirty unwashed clothes.

Here are 2 possible ways, how to remove sublimation ink from your shirts.

1. Using a Chemical Solvent

Applying a chemical solvent such as alcohol to the affected area and delicately rubbing it with cotton or an old cloth can effectively eliminate the mark or stain.

Cleaning solvents prove valuable for removing various stains from fabrics and are also effective in clearing away dirt, grease, and oil residue.

Substances like alcohol and acetone serve as potent cleaning agents and can be employed for spot removal. Additionally, they are considered safe for use, making them an ideal choice for tackling stubborn stains and blemishes.

2. Using Washing Detergents 

Washing Detergents contain chemicals that are meant to clean dirt and stains. Scrubbing the stain with washing detergent could remove it or make it barely visible.

This method works due to the dual nature of washing detergents. Also, the surface tension of water is lowered by the detergent thus facilitating the removal of sublimation ink from the fabric.

So, you can say that a good washing detergent can easily remove sublimation ink from shirts without damaging the fabric.

I have also published a complete guide on how to wash sublimation shirts. It will guide you each and everything.

Is re-sublimation possible?

In most cases, re-sublimation isn’t possible as most of the reactions even on removing or reversing can leave a mark. Although a darker color over a little color mark can easily do your trick in covering and making a new design.

Removing Sublimation Ink From Tumbler 

Tumblers with sublimation designs are quite stylish, yet making an inadvertent error can lead to a ruined sublimation tumbler. It’s crucial to find a solution to rectify this mistake by removing sublimation inks from the tumbler.

So how can we undo our mistake and remove the sublimation ink from a tumbler? 


Can you remove sublimation ink from a tumbler?

It depends on the type of tumbler and the type of sublimation ink that was used. Many tumblers are coated with a substance to prevent absorbing any type of ink.

If your tumbler is uncoated, then it may be able to absorb some sublimation inks. The key is to make sure that you know the coating that is on your tumbler and if the ink you are using is compatible with it.

It is also essential to avoid heat pressing onto your tumbler as this could cause any sublimation ink to transfer permanently onto your tumbler.

A heat gun could do your job but having a conventional heat is faster and way easier. The heat of over 400 degrees Fahrenheit can reverse the sublimation and fade off the ink.  

Will Acetone Remove Sublimation Ink?

Acetone can be used to remove sublimation ink, although it will take some time to do so. Depending on the material that the ink is applied to, using acetone will require a different amount of time.

With delicate fabric and other materials, the time will be longer than with harder surfaces. To get fully remove the sublimation ink from materials such as cotton t-shirts or powder-coated metals will take multiple acetone treatments.

Note: Do not use pure acetone to remove sublimation ink as it can damage the fabric. 

The process does depend on the concentration of acetone used, however, there are other solvents such as nail polish remover that contain acetone which can be used to remove sublimation ink.

Some Sublimation Mistakes 

As humans, it is our nature to make mistakes. Sometimes mistakes just happen or you want to try something new and it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. With sublimation ink, even a little extra movement could result in a temporary or permanent mistake such as a sublimation ink stain. 

So to avoid such mistakes, it is always recommended to gain complete information about it. But how you can do it? Simply, see our Sublimation Guide. You’ll like it.

Are Sublimation Ink Works Permanent Or Temporary?

Inks work by embedding the ink particles into the substrate so the ink stays over there for a long period of time and won’t fade away or become dull too quickly. 

The reason why it stays longer is due to its bonding with the fabric or the substrate surface. When the heat press applies high temperature the ink transfers from sublimation paper to the next surface which may be fabric, acrylic, or glass.

Due to its strong binding nature and the high temperature of the heat press, the ink particles made strongly related to the deep inner surface. It just does not stay over the surface. The ink submerges deep inside so that the colors won’t fade after washing the sublimated shirt.


Sublimation ink durability mostly depends on its substrate. Substances like polyester are best friends with sublimation processes as the chemical reaction between them would give a life long-lasting result. 

Cotton substances with the passage of time usually fade off as they are washed frequently. So sublimation on cotton isn’t as durable as you think.

In tumbler sublimation, the quality is mostly not compromised therefore a tumbler hardly fades off as quickly as cotton-related products.

Although exposure to a high amount of heat (400ºF at least) might change the color (fade) or distort the particles within resulting in a reverse reaction. 

Also Read: Can You Sublimate Over Sublimation?


Is sublimation ink necessary for use in printing?

As many companies and brands do not compromise with their fabric printing therefore for long-lasting results sublimation ink is necessarily used. They increase the durability of the print and very vibrant colors are easily observed. 

Is reversing sublimation possible? 

Indeed, it is possible to reverse sublimation, but the process necessitates transforming the gaseous state (vapor) back into a solid state. This reversal is achieved through a process called deposition, where a substance in its gaseous state directly converts into its solid state, effectively countering the sublimation that initially occurred.

Why is sublimation on polyester permanent?

With polyester, the sublimation process occurs within the molecules rather than just the surface, creating a stronger and more durable bond between the atoms.

Are screen-printed shirts different from sublimation ink-printed shirts?

Yes, they are. Sublimation printing is comparatively more durable, unlike screen printings that would start fading off literally after 1-2 washes. 

How to stop the sublimation prints from fading away?

The fading is an unstoppable process (unless the bond is created from within the molecules like with polyesters) therefore things would eventually fade off with the passage of time. 

Related: Why is My Sublimation Print Faded After Washing


So you learned how easy it is to remove sublimation ink from mugs and shirts. We hope that you are well aware of that now after reading our article.

Sublimation inks on being left for a while could easily turn permanent but if acted upon early could result in a very faded mark that is hardly seen. 

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