Have you ever read of new heat press machines beginning to smoke when plugged in for the first time? I come across it every now and again in Amazon heat press reviews, or in the question and answer sections.
The writer will ask something along the lines of, “is my heat press supposed to be smoking?”, or comment something like, “lots of smoke coming off my heat press when I first plugged it in, thought it was going to catch fire”.
Users will also find that there is often a strong smell of burning chemicals as well, especially as the machine heats up for the first time or two.
Understandably, it is worrying and/or a bit frightening if you’re not expecting it. So what’s going on?
There are oils and chemicals used in the manufacturing of the heat press which form a sort of coating on the heat platens. These are either as a result of the manufacturing process, or in order to form a sort of protective coating on the platen – the reason may vary from press to press. It may also be oils from the hands of those who assembled the machine.
Remember as well, you’re heating up these big chunks of metal which have been molded and formed and shaped around heating coils, and there are going to be some residual substances as a result. Not all machines have been heated up before shipping so that first time is bound to include some smells.
So those are some reasons for the smells and smoke when your heat press starts warming up for the first time. But why is it bad?
[Warning: If the smoke is coming from anything other than the heat platens, you have a different issue. If you see flames and fire or sparks, you also have a different issue. In the first instance your machine may be about to catch fire. In the second instance, your machine is on fire and needs serious attention – call your fire department. Do not use water on an electrical fire unless all power sources have been turned off at the mains.]
Why Is This Bad?
Apart from the obvious (that your house is filling up with smoke and there is a strong chemical smell in the air) there are some other reasons why this is not ideal. Can you guess?
It’s bad because it causes your garments, or whatever it is you are pressing, to become smelly and possibly even marked/stained! It may result in slight yellowing on the t-shirt from residual chemicals or your shirts smelling burnt. If this happens to you, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to get the smells or marks out. So what should you do to prevent this from happening?
What Should You Do?
As the title suggests, one way to solve this problem is to begin by having a heat press burn-off! Turn the machine on and let all that stuff burn away.
It is best to do this in a dry sheltered area outside your home if you can run a cord out there. Or if not, do it in an open garage; or, if nothing else, do it in a room with many windows that are all open. Make sure it’s ventilated. You will need to stay with the press the entire time keeping an eye on it and making sure no kids or pets go anywhere near it.
Here are the 6 simple steps to take:
- Get your machine into its location and plug it in.
- Turn the machine on and set the temperature to around 400℉, or 200℃.
- Leave the heat press open, do not close it during this entire procedure.
- Allow the heat press to heat up – you will likely smell the chemicals or oils beginning to burn-off, along with a bit of smoke.
- Leave the machine on and allow the burn-off to go on for 20 – 30 minutes.
- If you do not want to try pressing anything at this stage you can turn it off, or if you would like to use a cleaner on the press as it cools down, see the paragraph below for more details.
Again, remember to continually supervise the machine while this is taking place, and if it looks like anything beyond the platen is smoking, switch off your machine and get in touch with the seller.
Another way to remove any oils or chemicals from your heat press is to use a special (but cheap!) heat press cleaning agent. A good example is Ez-Off Hot Iron Cleaner, available on Amazon.
This product, and others like it, are used while the heat press is turned on and is hot. In fact, these cleaners can be used in tandem with the burn-off method above. Your machine will be especially clean after that! The cleaner will have instructions for use that come with it.
Using teflon sheets to protect your garments is also essential. These will prevent any staining or marking from the heat platen, and maybe even prevent some of the smokey flavor from attaching to your tees.
Other Possible Reasons For Smoke?
If your machine is older and well used, but is smoking a bit or putting out some funky smells, it may just need a clean. It can become dirty with starches from t-shirts, or with a general build up of dirt from use with transfer papers or vinyl backing. Buy the cleaner mentioned above.
Or perhaps you’ve had an accident? There may be some burnt vinyl or transfer ink on your heat platen that also needs to be cleaned up. Have a look at our article on how to clean your heat press.
Another possibility is that you have an electrical fault with your machine. If you even suspect this is the case, contact the seller and speak to them about it. Some sellers have their own websites and technical support contacts readily available (like USCutter for example), whereas with others you will need to fill out a contact form through Amazon (if you purchased it through Amazon, that is).
And a final thought on what could be going on – it might be steam! All garments have a level of moisture in them. It is good to do a pre-press on them before doing the heat transfer. Removing the moisture will help your transfer to adhere better and longer.
If you are in doubt, or are unsure about doing a burn-off, contact the person or company that sold you the machine. They will know best. Or when your machine first arrives, set it up and test it to see if it is going to smoke and smell – if it seems like it’s going to be ok, don’t do a burn-off! If it is going to do it, do a burn-off!
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