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Hotfix Vs Non Hotfix Crystals for Clothing

This tutorial was created by Crystal and Glass Beads

Hotfix & Non Hotfix Flatback Crystals VS Washing Machine Test

The purpose of this post is to compare the difference between Swarovski Hotfix and Non Hotfix crystals using various adhesives and to see how well they stand up to multiple wash cycles.

Should I use Hotfix or Non Hotfix Swarovski Crystals on Clothing?
When it comes to applying crystals to a dance costume, dress, jeans, t-shirt, baseball cap or any other item of clothing which option do you go for hotfix or non hotfix. When clothing is manufactured if it’s being crystallized then it’s more than likely that hotfix crystals and an industrial heat presses will be used, because the process allows for large volumes of crystals to be applied quickly. Most of us don’t have this kind of setup so are left with the choice of using an iron (with the steam turned off) for transfers or an applicator tool for more intricate hotfix designs. Alternatively if we opt for using non hotfix crystals we find a suitable glue for the clothing and an applicator or tweezers and then use them to add the crystals. The choice between hotfix and non hotfix is often decided based on price and the volume of crystals you intend to use. For small quantities of crystals it’s usually cheaper to opt for non hotfix crystals and glue which cut out the cost of having to purchase an applicator tool, which is expensive if it’s only going to be used the one time.

Whichever method you use there is a good chance that the clothing will be machine washed at some point. A little research before hand into choosing a wash friendly adhesive along with some simple care guidelines will help prolong the life of your crystallized clothing.

If you have already applied your crystals and lost a number of them in the first couple of machine washes what can you do to ensure that that the same thing doesn’t happen again? The first thing to consider is the adhesive and to check to see if it’s washing machine friendly. If a suitable glue was used or the hotfix crystals were applied correctly the most probable cause was that the clothing wasn’t washed with enough care. The least harmful way to wash any item of clothing with crystals on is to either wash it by hand or if it’s being machine turned inside out, wash on a low temperature delicate wash, use a mild detergent and avoid the common washing mistakes below.

Common Reasons Why Hotfix Crystals Come Loose.
1. The crystals are knocked around too roughly in the wash cycle ( Turn inside out and wash with similar soft clothing no heavy or hard objects that bump around ).
2. The detergent has bleach/chemicals that strip the glue ( Use a mild detergent ).
3. The heat setting on the wash cycle was too high ( Wash on a cooler setting  ).
4. Crystals weren’t applied correctly ( Not enough heat, too much heat, heat not applied for long enough, heat applied for too long ).
5. Tumble dryer destroy’s the glue ( Use a low heat setting or preferably drip dry ).

Common Reasons Why Non Hotfix Crystals Come Loose.
1. The crystals are knocked around too roughly in the wash cycle ( Turn inside out and wash with similar soft clothing no heavy or hard objects that bump around ).
2. The detergent has bleach/chemicals that strip the glue ( Use a mild detergent ).
3. The heat setting on the wash cycle was too high ( Use a lower heat setting ).
4. The adhesive isn’t suitable for machine washing ( Carry on reading the tutorial to find a suitable adhesive ).
5. Tumble dryer destroy’s the glue ( Use a low heat setting or preferably drip dry ).
6. Most adhesives aren’t suitable for the Chemicals used in Dry Cleaning ( Don’t dry clean ).

Preparation

The purpose of this test is to see if there is a difference between hotfix and non hotfix flatback crystals when they go through a wash cycle. The 2 main adhesives we wanted to compare to the Swarovski hotfix glue are Gemtac and E6000 which are by far the two most popular adhesives used with non hotfix crystals. The other adhesives we tested were just for a comparison simply because we had them handy from a previous test (Crafter’s Pick who manufacture the Ultimate adhesive have a specific glue for Fabric which we haven’t had the opportunity to test yet, so would be interested to know if any of you have experience using it and how well it machine washes. The reason we tested it on fabric originally was because it’s highly recommended by users on a number of forums for crystallizing shoes and clothing). We also had Fabri Tac glue on hand (another adhesive highly recommended for crystallizing with on various forums) but just found it too stringy to use for the test so left it out as it just made a mess.

While some people will apply large amounts of crystals in a block and just spread the adhesive onto the fabric others will take a more precise approach, applying crystals separately with their own dab of adhesive. For both the Gemtac and E6000 we have tested the adhesives applying them in a block and also using a syringe to apply the glue sparingly hence comparing the difference between the two application methods to see if there is any distinction between the strength of either bond.

Preparing test squares for applying hotfix and non-hotfix crystals.
Setup for testing hotfix and non hotfix crystals

For the test we have used a cotton t-shirt and as you can see above drawn some squares with permanent marker labeling each one so we can compare the various adhesives used. We have also used different colour crystals for each square for accuracy this is because crystals can come free and stick to another part of the clothing (This is especially true on high heat wash cycles see wash cycle 10 or if the clothing is tumble dried).

e6000 wash cycle adhesive test
1. E6000 – Crystals have been applied using E6000 from a craft syringe and the crystals placed onto the adhesive using a CrystalKatana applicator tool. When applied the adhesive is quite thick and clear in consistency, there is little shrinkage as it sets, so therefore needs to be applied thinly. It does have strong (nasty) fumes so you will need to use the adhesive in a well ventilated area or if using for long periods/regularly, it’s worth investing in a respiratory mask to protect against the chemicals in the fumes. E6000 also sets quite quickly so only apply a small amount at a time and put the top back on the glue or plug the end of the syringe with blu-tac between usage. This helps to prevent/slow the glue from thickening in the syringe nozzle.

e6000 and Swarovski flatback crystals wash cycle adhesive test
2. E6000 – Adhesive has been spread on over the test square (using an old Blockbuster membership plastic card) and then the crystals applied.

Tacky Glue and Swarovski flatback crystals wash cycle adhesive test
3. Tacky Glue – Adhesive has been spread on over the test square and then the crystals applied. The glue itself is easy to apply, doesn’t have any strong fumes, it goes on white, dries clear and is a lot thinner than E6000 in consistency (much like gemtac).

Shoo Goo and Swarovski flatback crystals wash cycle adhesive test
4. Shoo Goo – Adhesive has been spread on over the test square and then the crystals applied. Shoo Goo is pretty much E6000 branded under a different label and as such has the same strong unpleasant smell but high strength as E6000.

Gemtac and Swarovski flatback crystals adhesive strength test
5. Gem-Tac – Adhesive has been spread on over the square and then the crystals applied using the CrystalKatana tool and then the Chrome end to push the crystals securely into the adhesive. Gem-Tac is easy to apply, has no nasty fumes, it’s self leveling (shrinks when it cures so you don’t have to worry so much if its initially spread a little thickly (Just don’t get glue over the crystals faceted face)) and dries clear.

3 in 1 machine wash flatback crystals glue strength test
6. Beacon’s 3-IN-1 Advanced Craft Glue – Adhesive has been spread on over the test square and then the crystals applied. It’s clear in consistency and comes out of the tube like a sticky gel that’s quite easy to apply, it does have strong unpleasant fumes however so again will need to be used in a well ventilated area or make use of a respiratory mask.

Is the The Ultimate glue suitable for machine washing
7. THE ULTIMATE! – Adhesive has been spread on over the square and then the crystals applied. Doesn’t have any unpleasant fumes, it comes out of the tube thicker than gemtac but spreads thinner if that makes sense. It’s easy to spread is white when applied and dries clear but unlike the other adhesives when a crystal touches the glue it doesn’t stick to the glue and come of the applicator tool as easily,  so will requires a little assistance to remove (use an orange stick or cocktail stick to gently push the crystal off the applicator tool).

How well do Swarovski hotfix crystals stand up to a wash cycle
8. HOTFIX – These particular hotfix crystals are SWAROVSKI 2038 Xilion Rose flatback crystals and have been applied with a Kandi Professional Touch applicator tool. To apply the crystals we lay them out, apply the correct tip to the end of the applicator tool, turn it on and leave to heat for 5 minutes, once it’s hot touch the tip to the crystal and it will pick it up. You will see the heat sensitive glue on the back of the crystals melt quite quickly so you can press the crystal onto the fabric and hold for a second or 2 for the crystal to bond to the fabric. Remove the tip from the fabric and the crystal will be left behind, if you leave the applicator tool on the fabric for too long the glue may seep around the edges of the crystal and the crystal may not release from the tip. Applying too much pressure on the crystal may also result in the crystal setting stuck not releasing from the tip. If this happens use a pin or something long and thin and insert it into groove on the applicator tip and gently press down on the crystal to dislodge it from the tip.

How well does Gemtac bond Swarovski flatback crystals to fabric
9. Gem-Tac – Crystals have been applied using Gemtac applied using a craft syringe you can also use a cocktail stick which works just as well. I have been a little over generous with the adhesive for the test to make sure that the crystal are bonded securely. On a real project you wouldn’t see any glue around the crystals as any excess would be removed (For the sake of the test the little excess allows us to see what’s happening to the glue where as if it’s concealed under the crystals this isn’t possible, we will also be able to see if there is a difference in bond strength between those that are surrounded with adhesive and those crystals that have minimal glue bonding them.)

Swarovski Crystals Hotfix and Non Hotfix adhesives machine wash test
This is what the test squares looks like once all the adhesive and crystal has been applied and left for 72 hours to ensure that any glue has fully cured.

So now we are ready to start washing the t-shirt and see how well the adhesives cope. Before placing the t-shirt into the machine it’s turned inside out to protect the crystals and washed in a full machine load that contains only soft clothing (t-shirts, jeans, tops, socks etc…)

The Test

Most washing powders these days are designed to provide a good wash lifting most stains and dirt on a 30°C wash cycle. We have therefore based our tests at 30°C for the first 5 washes and then increased the temperature to see if there is any difference on a 40°C wash. A cooler 30°C wash cycle protect the adhesive from heat while at the same time reducing running costs by about 46% compared to a 40°C wash according to the Which washing machine temperature guide. When washing any clothing with crystals on it’s advisable to wash at as cool a temperature as possible  (although this is the best practice the Swarovski Application Manual says that HOTFIX crystals can be washed safely on a 60°C wash cycle). The reason for washing at a cool temperature is to prevent the heat from the water softens the glue over the duration of the cycle, the softer the glue becomes and the longer the duration of the wash the more likely you are to loose crystals. Once the glue cools back down and hardens/re-cures and the fabric dries the bond strengthens once again between the crystal, glue and fabric strengthens.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 1 straight from machine
WASH 1. The image above was taken just after the end of the first wash cycle, you can see that the Tacky glue, Gemtac, 3 in 1 and ULTIMATE adhesives have all gone white and softened. It’s in this soft state that care needs to be taken to ensure that the crystals aren’t disturbed, so carefully remove crystallized clothing from the machine if its all tangled up with the other clothing. If you yank it from the machine you greatly increase the chance of loosing crystals.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 1 view of crystals
WASH 1Washed using a Surf Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Washing Capsule at 30°C – After the t-shirt has dried you can see that the adhesive has once again cured/ hardened to form a stronger bond. Tacky Glue and the Ultimate adhesive it would appear aren’t wash friendly along with Beacon 3 in 1 which has melted/frothed and stuck together again going quite hard and sticky in the process which would make this adhesive completely unsuitable for machine washing. The Swarovski Hotfix test square also lost one crystal (which based on the results of the 10 washed I think may be down to improper application on my part).

WASH 2Washed using Surf Essential Oils Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Laundry Powder at 30°C – The tacky glue lost the last few remaining crystals and the 3 in 1 again lost a few more crystals, the adhesive has become very sticky when it comes out of the wash and hardens as it cools.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 3 view of crystals
WASHES 3Washed using Surf Essential Oils Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Laundry Powder at 30°C – Beacons 3 in 1 again lost a few more crystals but no change from the other test squares.

WASH 4Washed using Surf Essential Oils Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Laundry Powder at 30°C – Again Beacons 3 in 1 again lost a few more crystals but no change from the other test squares.

WASH 5Washed using Surf Essential Oils Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Laundry Powder at 30°C – This is the last lower temperature wash and again Beacons 3 in 1 has lost a few more crystals but no change from the other test squares.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 6 view of crystals
WASH 6Washed using Surf Essential Oils Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Laundry Powder at 40°C – This is the first wash at a higher temperature Beacons 3 in 1 again lost a few more crystals and Shoo Goo also lost one crystal, the 3 in 1 adhesive is still very sticky when it comes out of the wash but turns a lot harder as it cools down.

WASH 7Washed using Surf Essential Oils Lavender & Spring Jasmine Laundry Powder at 40°C – Beacon 3 in 1 continues to be the only test square losing crystals at this hotter wash temperature.

WASH 8Washed using Surf Essential Oils Lavender & Spring Jasmine Laundry Powder at 40°C – Again Beacons 3 in 1 again lost a few more crystals but no change from the other test squares.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 9 view of crystals
WASH 9Washed using Surf Essential Oils Lavender & Spring Jasmine Laundry Powder at 40°C – This is the last 40°C wash and again Beacons 3 in 1 has lost a few more crystals but no change from the other test squares. Up until now the Hotfix has lost one crystal on the first wash cycle, Shoo Goo also 1 crystal on the 6th wash cycle and neither test square for gemtac or e6000 have lost any crystals despite Gem-tac clearly softening and re hardening after each wash.

Adhesives test after wash cycle 10 view of crystals
WASH 10Washed using Surf Essential Oils Lavender & Spring Jasmine Laundry Powder at 60°C – Most people won’t or at least shouldn’t wash crystallized clothing at 60°C so I wasn’t going to test at this temperature but curiosity won in the end.  This is the 10th and final wash and as it’s a cotton wash the pre-programmed duration is also a lot longer than the standard coloured 30°C or 40°C wash cycles.  At this temperature as we can see for the image above that it was just too hot for Gemtac which lost all of the crystals on one test square and 47 on the other. Shoo Goo lost another crystal and Beacons 3 in 1 lost the last remaining crystal on the test square it also melted and set hard as you can see above. When I tried to straighten out the fabric the creased edge was bonded so strongly to the glue that the t-shirt tore.  You can also see the Citrine (yellow) and Padparadscha (salmon) colour crystals have stuck to the 3 in 1 adhesive while the glue was hot and tacky in the 60° wash. E6000 and Swarovski Hotfix crystals are the only ones that withstood the heat from all the adhesives tested, yet despite them not loosing any crystals washing at this high heat is not something I would recommend. For the full results see the table below.

The Results

Swarovski Flatback Crystals & Hotfix adhesive Washing machine test results

Conclusion

Depending on the fabric I would recommend either using Hotfix Crystals or non hotfix crystals with E6ooo glue. If you are worried about the nasty fumes that E6000 has then opt for gemtac glue, but take care to wash any clothing on a low hear and allow the clothing to drip dry or lay it out flat when it comes out of the machine to allow the glue to cool and re harden.

I hope you found the test useful if you did please give us a like or share and drop us a comment to let us know your views on the post or any experience you have had using other adhesives. You can view our full range of crystals here.

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17 comments

  1. Which is better hotfix or e6000 and non hotfix for clothing I want to add some crystals to jeans?

    • Hi Ingrid
      It very much depends on personal preference of application. The plus for hotfix are that there is no messy glue but at the same time you have to purchase an applicator tool which is expensive for a one off use, the non hotfix the crystals on the other hand are cheaper and you just need a small tube of adhesive. The downside is you have to be more careful applying the adhesive so it doesn’t splodge around the side of the crystals which is easy to do after a few practices.

  2. This was absolutely perfect! Thank you so much!!

  3. This was really helpful and so detailed. Thanks for taking the time to do the test and show the results. I now know what I need to do to make my t-shirt. I am so happy I stumbled upon your site!

    • Hi Lisa
      Either e6000 or hotfix will work well on clothing and is pretty much down to personal preference although it’s easier to get a neater effect with hotfix as you don’t have to worry about adhesive seepage from around the crystals.

  4. Will the crystals stay if a wedding dress is getting steamed for wrinkles. I used hotfix application.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Madeline
      I haven’t had experience with steam cleaning sorry but it would depends on how long the steam is being applied to the dress. If the adhesive heats and softens it will generally re harden once it cools and the bond re-strengthen so it will depend on if they are heated enough to soften the glue and if anything is going to dislodge the crystals for that short period.

  5. Thank you so much for this very(!) elaborate test!
    Just letting you know that it´s still being read and greatly appreciated!

  6. I have a heat press machine would this be okay? I looking into using large swarovski crystal for my designs.

    • Yes you can use a heat press for hotfix crystals, its what they often use for large transfers. You just have to be careful when laying out the crystals.

  7. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to do such a comprehensive test! I use E6000 & it’s great to have it confirmed as the best of the non-hot fix glues!

  8. Thank you so much for this! Definitely going to try out the E6000! I was debating whether to splash out on the hot fix and heating tool but I only need to do this for a one off project. This is the most helpful review/test I have read!

    Do you think it would also work for leather on metal or have you any other suggestions for this type of application? Thanks again

    • For leather ive not found any adhesive that works perfectly, as regards metal non hotfix and a suitable adhesive would give the strongest bond. Hotfix crystals are better suited to fabric, paper or card.

  9. Thank you so much for this thorough test! I’m very happy to have stumbled across this post. After reading it I ordered a hot fix applicator : ) I can’t wait to try it. Glue, be gone!

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