Are Sublimation Mugs Safe To Drink From?

I think most people own, have owned, or are still going to own a sublimation mug somewhere in the future. Personalizing specialized mugs with a customized image is very popular. Who doesn’t love drinking a cup of Joe from a sublimated cup with their face on it? A better question would be, are sublimation mugs safe to drink from?

Sublimation mugs made from polymer or ceramic mugs coated with a polymer coating are safe to drink from. The sublimation process involves the permanent bonding of an image within the polymer, or polymer coating, using sublimation dyes (ink) that are both FDA approved and RoHS compliant.

The products used in the mug sublimation process are safe for human use and eco-friendly. Think about it; no business would intentionally sell sublimation products with harmful elements. And companies selling dyes (inks) to businesses that do sublimation will also not take that risk.

Are Sublimation Mugs Safe To Drink From?

Have you ever found yourself wondering how safe it is to drink from your personalized “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug? Or your favorite “superhero” cup? I know that I had owned a couple of 100’s of these cups before the question popped into my head one day.

Sublimation specialists Colman & Company describes sublimation mugs as follows:

“Sublimation Coffee mugs are specialized mugs that are designed for printing and customizing. These are specialty coated mugs that come with a glazed ceramic surface ideal for retaining sublimation ink and prints.”

How Does The Sublimation Process Work?

Sublimation – also referred to as dye-sublimation – is a straightforward process used to permanently apply an image into the surface of polymer or ceramics, not onto the ceramic surface but into it. The process is used to create quality sealable products that are not harmful to the user of said products.

The dye-sublimation procedure employs a chemical process called sublimation, which means that the ink used during the sublimation process:

  • Changes directly from a solid state (on a printed screen) into gas form without first going through a liquid state, where it turns back into its solid state.
  • The dye then bonds within the special polymer coating of the product itself – typically done under heat temperatures that average between 385°F and 400°F.
  • After bonding with the polymer molecules, the image is now part of the mug and sealed within the polymer layer.

The print itself inserts itself to form part of the polymer coating, and you, as the user of the mug, don’t ever interact with the “ink” itself as it’s sealed within the polymer layer.

Because the sublimation dyes are infused into the substrate at a molecular level and not at the topical level, the prints won’t fade, crack or peel. Your lips will never get into contact with the non-toxic dyes being used.

Is Sublimation Ink Toxic?

The main chemical used in sublimation is dye-based ink which is both non-toxic and eco-friendly. The “ink” is fine dry granules held in a liquid carrier. If sublimation ink were toxic, we would all be in a heap of trouble, especially the manufacturers of sublimation mugs.

Let’s look at a statement released by famous ink manufacturer and inventor of Hybrid Sublimation, Sawgrass, regarding the safety of the inks they produce:

“Please be advised that Sawgrass Technologies produces aqueous sublimation ink products using non-pigment-based colorants and materials therefore contain no known heavy metals including Cadmium (Cd), Chromium (Cr), Lead (PB), Mercury (Mg), Arsenic (As), Antimony (Sb), Barium (Ba), Cobalt (Co), Nickel (Ni), Selenium (Se), and Zinc (Zn).”

“Sawgrass Technologies’ digital printing sublimation inks (non-plastisol aqueous inks) do not contain any hazardous chemicals and/or materials that are listed in the California Proposition 65, RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC, and/or listed in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement ACT of 2008 (CPISA, known as HR4040) such as phthalates or formaldehyde.”

“Furthermore, due to specific advantages of digital sublimation transfer printing, the transfer printing, products manufactured by Sawgrass’ sublimation ink are free from any hazardous metals through the process.”

Companies that produce sublimation products use FDA-approved quality printers and the best dye (inks) that work with the specific printers when manufacturing products for the general public.

No reputable sublimation company will produce or use dyes (ink) that contain heavy metals or hazardous chemicals, as the FDA won’t approve their product for sale. It’s prohibited by the RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC.

Being RoHS compliant and certified indicates that if you sell electronic equipment locally and to European markets, you are within specific parameters regarding including restricted substances in your product.

Restricted Substances Include:

  • Cadmium (Cd): Less than 100 ppm (0.01%)
  • Lead (Pb): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Mercury (Hg): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Hexavalent Chromium (Cr VI): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)
  • Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP): Less than 1000 ppm (0.1%)

Are Sublimation Polymer Mugs Safe To Drink From?

They are made from a specially formulated polymer that can withstand the sublimation process. The mugs are BPA-free and safe to use in the dishwasher. Sublimation polymer mugs are safe to drink from and should indicate that it’s approved by the FDA and RoHS compliant.

Are Sublimation Coated Mugs Safe To Drink From?

A ceramic mug’s surface needs to be prepared for the sublimation process. There are many sublimations (polymer) coating solutions on the market that is entirely safe for human use before and after the application.

Ensure that the ceramic mug you’re purchasing is of AAA standard, and if you are applying the sublimation coat yourself, ensure that you buy a high-quality product:

Conclusion

Sublimation is a safe process of ingraining a picture into a ceramic polymer-coated or polymer mug through a heat transfer process. The dyes (inks) used in the sublimation process are non-toxic and governed by the FDA and RoHS directives.

When you buy from a reputable sublimation company, you can be confident that the safest methods and products were used to create the sublimation mug. When doing it yourself, buy a quality heat-press, non-toxic dyes, and only use AAA ceramic and non-toxic sublimation polymer coating products.

References

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