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Open Top & Hand Spray vs Enclosed Pretreat Machine

Pretreating is the most important and it is the most time consuming in the Direct to Garment process. But what is the best way to pretreat for your prints? The short answer is “It depends” and is not very helpful. We’ll go over a couple of different competing methods for pretreating that any operation, big or small, can use and consider when upgrading or just thinking about the future. For the purposes of this piece, we’ll compare the open-top or hand spraying against an enclosed pretreatment machine (that I so fondly call a “box”).

Let’s start off with the pros and cons of an “Open Top” pretreat machine or hand spraying (we’ll lump both of them here since they are similarly opposite to an enclosed machine). If you are looking at pure volume, a box will not help you. Being able to lay down a pile of shirts and spraying everything in quick succession is EXTREMELY efficient. 

If you avoid a machine, then the bottom line for this method is pretty inexpensive. A really good hand sprayer will put you out at $100 plus the cost of pretreat; and it’s easy to maneuver. Here we encounter our first problem: Inconsistency. There is no way to guarantee with hand spraying that you are using a uniform amount of solution in a uniform pattern. This can be mitigated with a machine, but then we run into our second issue: Overspray. Overspray throws that extremely tacky pretreat formula EVERYYWHERE. It gets on the floor, gets on your clothes, gets on the walls, gets on your kids, they run around and spread it around the house, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria. 

Now, let’s take everything we hate about an open top machine or hand spraying and eliminate it. Remove the inconsistency, overspray, and pretreat inhalation (didn’t mention this one yet, but we don’t want to breathe in pretreat) and you get an enclosed pretreat machine. A boxed machine keeps all of the stuff inside and any bad stuff out (or from getting out). Sounds like a great idea, but it does have a few drawbacks. Bulk pretreating is no longer viable with a box that can only spray one shirt at a time. 

Also, the costs can add up over time. A good pretreat machine is going to cost you a chunk of cash, but the spray is consistent from shirt to shirt. Don’t forget about maintenance costs associated with a box. There are many moving parts that can get covered in solution and will get dirty. Granted the mess is contained in the box, but the entirety of the mess is everywhere INSIDE THE BOX. There lies the next issue: IT’S A BIG OL’ BOX. Not exactly heavy, but the machines are not small. Unless you have a rolling table or cart this machine is placed wherever you initially placed it.

I’ll spell it out clearly here: This is essentially a trade off of what is easier, less expensive, and faster vs safer, consistent, and not as wasteful. Where is your business now? Can you jump to an enclosed machine or do you need a hand sprayer to hold you over. Well, you know your needs better than anyone, so once you decide we’ll try to help you if we can. Let’s get pretreating!

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Steven De Hoff

Content Writer & Editor

Steven has 10+ years of experience in the E-commerce space with an emphasis in storefronts and product listings. A classical connoisseur of the internet, Steven spends his free time staying away from it, instead choosing to be a dad and disc golfer.

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