Sublimation tumblers have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Their ability to showcase custom, full-wrap photo prints makes them a favorite for personalized gifts, businesses creating custom branded merchandise, Etsy shops, and more.
But one question that often comes up is whether or not you can put these custom-printed tumblers in the dishwasher.
In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into the care and washing of sublimation tumblers to help you keep them looking great.
What is a Sublimation Tumbler?
A sublimation tumbler is a stainless steel drinking tumbler that has been wrapped in full photographic prints using a process called sublimation printing.
Sublimation uses heat to infuse dye into specially coated surfaces, allowing for photographic prints that cover the entire tumbler without any visible seams.
The result is a durable, dishwasher-safe stainless steel tumbler that is customizable with your own photos, art, or custom-branded designs. These custom wraps won’t scratch, fade, or peel off like paper prints would.
Can Sublimation Tumblers Go In The Dishwasher?
The good news is that yes, sublimation tumblers are generally dishwasher-safe.
The full-wrap sublimation prints are bonded right to the stainless steel, so they will not fade, peel, or deteriorate when subjected to heat and water in the dishwasher.
However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind:
Use Care With Harsh Dishwasher Detergents
While the prints themselves are durable against dishwasher use, harsh detergents can be damaging over time.
The chemicals in many conventional dishwasher detergents can eat away at the print coating and cause fading.
To keep your tumbler prints looking vibrant, we recommend using a gentle, phosphate-free detergent and skipping any “power washing” additives that make the wash more caustic.
Let it Air Dry to Avoid Water spotting.
One thing to watch out for when hand-washing or dishwashing your tumblers is water spotting as they dry.
Allowing the tumbler to air dry instead of hand drying can minimize spots from minerals in the water.
Don’t Use high-heat drying cycles.
If you’re putting your sublimation tumbler in the dishwasher, avoid high-heat dry cycles.
Exposure to very high heat can damage the print over time. Letting them air dry is the best way to preserve print quality.
Expect Some Minimal Fading Over time.
Even with proper care, sublimation prints will experience some slight fading over time with repeated use and washing.
But this wear should happen slowly over months and years. With care, the prints can still maintain most of their original vibrancy even after hundreds of washes.
Best Practices For Hand Washing Sublimation Tumblers
Many people opt to hand wash their sublimation tumblers rather than put them in the dishwasher.
This allows for a gentler wash to help maintain the best print quality over time.
Here are some best practices for hand washing sublimated tumblers:
- Use mild dish soap and warm water. Avoid harsh detergents.
- Gently scrub the tumbler with a soft sponge or cloth. Avoid abrasive scrubbers.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Soap residue can contribute to fading over time.
- Dry with a soft microfiber towel. Let air dry the rest of the way instead of hand drying to minimize water spots.
- Avoid soaking tumblers for prolonged periods, as this can cause print fading.
- Don’t use bleach or chlorine on sublimated tumblers, as this damages print quality.
How Long Do Sublimation Tumblers Last?
With proper care and washing, a sublimation tumbler should maintain its vibrant prints for 1–2 years with regular use.
If used more sparingly, it may last 3-5 years or longer before print fading becomes noticeable.
However, there are some factors that can shorten the lifespan of the prints:
- Frequent dishwasher use: The heat and harsh detergents will cause prints to fade more rapidly.
- Abrasive scrubbing: Scrubbing too aggressively during hand washing can slowly wear down print quality over time.
- Exposure to direct sunlight: UV rays will gradually break down the print. Storing tumblers out of direct sunlight helps prolong their vibrancy.
- Use of bleach or chlorine products: Chemicals like bleach will immediately start damaging the print. Never soak or clean tumblers with bleach.
With light use and proper care, sublimation tumblers can be enjoyed for years before they start to show significant signs of wear on the prints.
Troubleshooting Issues With Sublimation Tumblers
Here are some common issues that can arise with sublimation tumblers and tips for troubleshooting:
Issue: There are small cracks or breaks in the print wrap around the tumbler.
Solution: This is likely due to improper wrapping during the sublimation process. Contact the seller or tumbler maker for a replacement.
Issue: The print has peeled off the tumbler in spots.
Solution: Peeling is not normal and indicates the print didn’t properly adhere during sublimation. Request a replacement.
Issue: The print has minor scratches and scuffs that won’t wash away.
Solution: Lightly buff the scratches with a soft towel and aluminum polish. Avoid abrasive scrubbing in the future.
Issue: The entire print has faded significantly after a couple months of use.
Solution: The tumbler wasn’t adequately cured during sublimation. Contact the seller for a replacement or refund.
Issue: Dishwasher detergent seems to be causing prints to fade.
Solution: Wash by hand with a gentle soap and avoid harsh detergents that eat away at the print coating.
Reach out to the tumbler seller if any defects arise, and you should be able to get a replacement tumbler if needed due to issues in the sublimation process.
Getting Maximum Print Life From Sublimation Tumblers
To get the most life out of your sublimated tumbler prints, keep these tips in mind:
- Hand wash whenever possible, using mild detergent and a soft sponge.
- Limit dishwasher use to occasionally and use a print-safe detergent.
- Never use bleach or harsh chemicals on the tumbler.
- Avoid prolonged soaking.
- Dry thoroughly with a microfiber towel and let air dry fully.
- Keep the tumbler away from direct sunlight when not in use.
- Don’t microwave the tumbler.
- Gently wipe away minor scratches.
- Store it in a protected area when not in use.
Following these care instructions will help the prints on your sublimation tumblers stay vibrant and last for multiple years of regular use.
Finding high-quality sublimation tumblers
Not all sublimation tumblers are created equal when it comes to print durability.
Here are some tips for finding high-quality tumblers that will last:
- Buy from reputable sellers: Well-reviewed Etsy shops, vendors specializing in sublimation, or direct from sublimation printers tend to produce higher-quality prints.
- Ask about print longevity. A quality sublimation tumbler seller should be able to speak to the expected print lifetime under normal use.
- Examine the product photos: Look for sellers that show close-up, detailed shots of actual printed tumblers. Avoid those that only use stock vector images.
- Read product descriptions: Quality sellers will talk about their sublimation process and print durability details. Avoid vague or missing descriptions.
- Learn about the blanks: Higher-grade stainless steel tumbler blanks allow for longer-lasting print adhesion. Ask the seller which blanks they use.
- Review return policies: In case you get a defective or quickly fading tumbler, sellers with good return policies make it easy to get a replacement.
Taking the time to find a quality sublimation printing shop will ensure you get a tumbler with prints that will stay vibrant for as long as possible!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you put sublimation tumblers in the microwave?
No, you should never microwave sublimation tumblers. The extreme heat can damage the print and potentially melt the tumbler.
How do you remove scratches from a sublimation tumbler?
For light scratches, gently buff the area with a soft towel and aluminum polish. Take care not to over-scrub the area, which can further damage the print.
Should sublimation tumblers be washed by hand or in the dishwasher?
You can safely use the dishwasher for occasional tumbler washing, but hand washing is recommended for more frequent cleaning to better preserve print vibrancy.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.