How Can I Preserve an Autographed T-Shirt?

By Kathy Adams ; Updated April 12, 2017
Ironing an autographed T-shirt can help set and preserve the ink.

Autographed T-shirts are often souvenirs of special occasions -- such as meeting an artist after a concert or having all your classmates sign your shirt at graduation. The ink on an autographed shirt may fade over time, though, if you choose to wear the shirt and wash it, or if the autograph was not made with a permanent marker. There are a couple of tried-and-true ways to preserve an autographed shirt for years to come.

Setting and Protecting the Ink

Plug in the iron and set it to "cotton" if your autographed shirt is cotton. Select a lower setting if the shirt is made from a blended material. Put the iron on a dry setting with no steam; allow it to get completely hot.

Iron the autographed area of the shirt, smoothing the shirt as you iron. Press the entire inked area; if desired, turn the shirt inside out and iron the inked area again.

Place the shirt in the dryer by itself and close the dryer door. Select a hot setting, such as cotton, on the dryer. Turn the dryer on and allow it to heat up the shirt for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the shirt from the dryer.

Test-paint a bit of the inside of the shirt, or a similar non-autographed shirt, with clear fabric paint. Allow the paint to dry. If the clear coating looks good to you, coat the autographed area and allow it to dry completely.

Framing

Heat-set the ink as detailed in the steps above. Fold the shirt in such a way that the inked areas are prominently visible and the shirt will fit nicely into the frame.

Remove glass from the frame. Place the shirt neatly into the frame so the inked area is prominent. If necessary, iron the shirt along the folds to smooth it down.

Replace the glass in the frame and secure it. Hang the frame in a prominent location.

Things Needed

  • Iron
  • Dryer
  • Clear fabric paint
  • Picture frame

Tip

If you aren't confident enough that you will do a good job preserving the shirt yourself, you can have a professional frame it for you. Many framing shops have their own ways of preserving memorabilia for customers, so they may either have the perfect frame or holder in stock for you, or they can make one to fit your shirt.

Warning

If your iron sometimes spits out water or steam even when you don't want it to, it's better to empty the water beforehand. This way, there is no chance of the autograph ink bleeding from accidental water splatters.

Do not wash the shirt before ironing or drying it. Ideally, do not wear or wash the shirt at all, to keep the ink from fading. If you do want to wear the shirt, hand-wash it when necessary, being gentle with the inked areas.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.