The second step in reclaiming a screen is to remove all of the emulsion on both sides of the screen. Removing the emulsion from a screen revolves around using a chemical called “reclaimer, or emulsion remover”. Reclaimer essentially makes emulsion water soluble and possible to be blown off the screen, similar to how ink reducer does the same thing with ink. A screen can be reclaimed with reclaimer a couple of different ways. The first way is to spray each side of the screen with a spray bottle and scrub both sides with a scrub brush, let the chemical do its job over the course of a minute or two, and then use a power washer to spray the emulsion off of the screen.
Scrubbing screens with reclaimer completely works and sometimes has to be done this way, but the second / easier way to reclaim a screen is by using what is called a “dip tank”. A dip tank is a big plastic container that is filled with reclaimer so that a screen can be submerged in a bath of chemicals that breaks down the emulsion. After a screen has sat in the dip tank for around 10 minutes it can be pulled out and the emulsion will slip off the screen much easier than when scrubbing it by hand. It is very important that once reclaimer is applied to a screen that it be washed out before completing drying. If reclaimer completely dries into the emulsion because it was not washed out with water immediately, then the mesh will “lock-up” the emulsion and it won’t be possible to reclaim the screen and thus it is totaled and will need to be re-stretched.
When it comes to emulsion remover/reclaimer there are many manufacturers of the chemical. Realize that if one manufacturer’s chemical performs better than another it is worth every penny as it will save an employee’s time and frustration. Because reclaiming screen is such a dirty, labor intensive process we highly suggest your shop only use the best available chemicals. When it comes to emulsion remover we highly suggest using Saati Chemicals “ER-2”. Saati is a leading manufacturer of darkroom screen print chemicals that revolve around reclaiming and coating screens. The ER stands for “Emulsion Remover” and typically comes in a concentrated format meaning it has to be mixed with distilled water at a certain ratio. ER-2 can be mixed into a spray bottle or poured directly into a dip tank.