Sublimation plates are popular as showpieces. They brighten up the atmosphere and make an excellent present for Christmas. But after using dozens of sublimation mugs and tumblers, you start wondering, can you serve food on sublimation plates?
To provide you clarity on this topic, I’ve written this article describing the in and outs of sublimation plates. You’ll get to learn whether sublimation plates are food-safe, how you can make them, and how to detect a food-safe sublimation ink.
So, stay tuned and keep reading the article till the end.
Are Sublimation Plates Food Safe?
Yes, sublimation plates are food safe. They don’t contain any toxic or harmful ingredients. But most of the manufacturers don’t recommend using them for serving food. It’s because most of the sublimation plates don’t use food-grade sublimation ink.
Can You Eat Off A Sublimation Plate?
Yes, you can eat off a sublimation plate if the plate has food-safe certifications like ISO-9001 and MSDS. ISO-9001 approves the quality of the sublimation plates.
On the contrary, MSDS or Material Safety Data Sheet informs if there are any potentially hazardous chemicals in the plate and how you should use it.
Is Sublimation Ink Food Safe?
Yes, sublimation ink is food safe. Usually, the inks are BPA-free and don’t contain any toxic ingredients. BPA means Bisphenol-A which is a harmful chemical for human body.
Usually, it’s used in manufacturing plastics and epoxy resins. Sublimation inks from reputed brands don’t contain BPA.
But some sublimation inks can produce fumes when heated on a neoprene substrate. As a result, a strong odor will contaminate your food on the sublimation plate.
So, if you’re using low-grade sublimation inks, you shouldn’t use them for making a food-safe sublimation plate.
What are the Sublimation Plates?
Sublimation plates are blank polymer-coated plates that support sublimation ink with heat and pressure. You can sublimate on different kinds of plates like metal, ceramic, and glass plates.
Now, whatever the material is, if the plate doesn’t have a polymer coating, the sublimation ink won’t embed into the plate. You can either buy a blank plate and put a polymer coating yourself or purchase a blank sublimation plate having already coating on it.
How Are They Made?
The sublimation plates are made with sublimation inks pressed with a heat press on the preferred part of the plate. First, you have to print out the design on Teflon paper. Then, put the paper on the plate and place it on the heat press.
By adding the correct heat and pressure, the patterned ink will embed into the plate. Finally, let the plate cool down and you have a beautiful sublimation plate.
You’ll get to learn more about the process in the later sections. But for now, you should know why generally sublimation plates are considered food-safe.
Reasons Why Sublimation Plates Are Safe
There are 4 reasons why sublimation plates are food-safe.
- They are made of high-grade, BPA-free material.
- They have a special glaze at the end of sublimation for protecting against food contamination.
- The plates are usually non-porous to prevent bacteria buildup.
- The plates are sublimated with non-toxic printing materials (e.g., sublimation ink, heat press, sealants).
Now, let’s dive into the details to learn how these characteristics actually make a sublimation plate safe.
Reason 1: High-Grade Material
A safe sublimation plate is made from high-grade melamine or ceramic material. Melamine and ceramics contain BPA-free properties. So, they are widely used in serving foods.
Moreover these sublimation plates can withstand high temperatures. So, even if you serve hot food on sublimation plates, it doesn’t affect the ink.
Reason 2: Special-Glazed Plate
Another reason sublimation plates are safe is having a special glazed coating at the end of the sublimation process. This glaze seals the sublimation ink and prevents it from mixing with food. So, this coating makes your plate food-safe whether it’s put in an oven or a dishwasher.
Reason 3: Non-Porous Surface
Sublimation plates usually come in non-porous material. So, there’s no chance of bacteria growing up on the plates. This prevents foods to get poisoned or contaminated by the sublimation ink.
Reason 4: Harmless Printing Materials
Finally, food-safe sublimation plates are made of non-toxic, food-grade materials and sublimation ink. They don’t melt in heat and contaminate the food.
Check List On Is Sublimation Ink Food Safe
So, you understand, sublimation inks play a huge role in the safety of a sublimation plate.
Here’s a checklist on how you can be sure if the sublimation ink is food safe.
- Check for manufacturer food-grade certifications (like ISO-9001 and MSDS certified) in the label.
- Inspect confirmation about migration testing of the inks.
- Ensure that the sublimation ink doesn’t have any strong odor or taste.
- Check the manufacturer’s reliability by reading customer feedback from Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.
So, now that you’re aware of all the food-safe reliability options, check out how you can make a food-safe sublimation plate.
How To Check If Old Sublimated Plates Are Food Safe Or Not?
To check old sublimated plates are food safe or not, you have to figure out what type of coating and glazed were used in the plates.
You can check the labels or user manuals browsing the web. But if you fail to extract these information, you should contact with manufacturer directly.
Now, there are a few signs which confirms your old sublimated plates aren’t food safe anymore. In most cases, you’ll notice cracks, chips, or flaking on the plates. This means the ceramic is damaged and lead is leaching through those spots.
Note that lead is highly dangerous for human consumption. If lead comes in contact with your food, it’ll turn your food into poison. That’s why the FDA marks old and vintage ceramics unsafe for serving food.
Apart from ceramic damaging issues, the polymer coating or glazed coating can also deteriorate in your old sublimation plates.
You can check it by simply leaving some food on the sublimated area for several hours. If you notice the color, odor, or taste of the food changed, this means your plate isn’t food-safe anymore.
So, this is how you can check if old sublimated plates are still food safe or not.
How to Make a Food-Safe Sublimation Plate?
Making a food-safe sublimation plate isn’t too complicated. It’s almost similar to sublimating on a mug or tumbler.
Now, before you start, you should collect the following tools and materials for sublimating a plate.
- Sublimation Plates
- Sublimation Printer
- Sublimation Ink
- Heat transfer paper
- Heat press machine
So, the first step is to get a blank polymer-coated ceramic or glass plate. Note that if the plate isn’t polymer-coated, the dye won’t stain the plate.
Then, print your preferred design on heat transfer paper using a sublimation printer. Let the sublimation ink rest for 2-3 minutes.
After that, put the designed transfer paper under the plate in a heat press and heat it for 385°F- 400°F at 35 psi. Keep it for around 80-120 seconds depending on the manufacturer’s guideline.
Finally, turn off the heat press and take out the plate. You’ll get a beautiful customed design imprinted. Let the sublimation plate cool down and it’s all set!
2 Best Heat Press Machines For Food-Safe Sublimation Plate
OIIEE Heat Press Machine is one of the sturdiest heat press machines for creating food-safe sublimation plates. It only has 3 settings which makes it a beginner-friendly heat press.
Though the machine has a 360 degrees rotation knob, you’ll receive the best result at 90 degrees. It’s outstanding for creating a food-safe sublimation plate as the temperature remains consistent.
The temperature is hotter in the middle and cooler in the edges, making it a perfect heat press for sublimation plates.
The HORGELU Upgraded Heat Press Machine is another outstanding heat press that can produce sublimation plates efficiently.
The best thing about this heat press is that it is designed with multiple safety structure protection. It has an insulation cover on the plate so that you don’t accidentally burn your hands. Again, there’s a circuit protector that prevents any short-circuit issues.
You can count the number of plates you’re sublimating with this heat press. It’s a great feature if you’re mass-producing sublimation plates.
2 Best Blanks Plate For Food-Safe Sublimation
MR.R Sublimation Blank Plates are porcelain-made 8 inches blank sublimation plates. The porcelain material ensures bacteria prevention which also makes the plates durable in the long term.
Another great aspect of these blank plates is heat tolerance. They embed sublimation inks very well and you can also put them in a microwave, dishwasher, and freezer. So, you won’t have any problem eating off the plate.
Here’s another MR.R sublimation blank plate set which is perfect for a larger design than the previous blank plate we described above. It’s 10 inches in diameter and made of AB-grade porcelain.
It has almost all of the same characteristics as the previous MR.R sublimation blank plates. However, you can also store the plates with ease anywhere.
2 Best Inks For Food-Safe Sublimation Plate
The INK+ Sublimation Ink Refill Kit is great for sublimating on polymer-coated plates. The manufacturer is ISO-9001 certified which means it doesn’t interact with food. This means if you use this ink on sublimation plates, you can use those plates for eating food.
Now, these inks are not only toxic-free but also great for creating pop-up colors. They have excellent heat resistance. The color comes out vibrant if you use a good heat press.
If you want to create realistic printing effects on your sublimation plates, Printers Jack Sublimation Ink Refill is the best option.
What sets them apart is the embedding the Anti-UV technology. This increases the retention time of the sublimation ink. So, you don’t have to worry much about the durability.
However, the color of the ink might seem a bit faded on the Teflon paper. But once you sublimate it on the plate using a heat press, it turns out vibrant and clear.
Are Sublimation Plates FDA-Approved For Food Use?
Yes, sublimation plates are FDA-approved for food use. But if you use a mod podge as a sealant, it imposes health concerns. It’s because the mod podge isn’t FDA-approved and so you can’t use it for serving food.
Can I Safely Microwave Or Heat Food On Sublimation Plates?
Yes, you can safely microwave or heat food on sublimation plates if the manufacturer approves. If the plate isn’t sublimated in the correct process or uses low-grade sublimation ink, the ink will melt and contaminate the food.
How Should I Clean Sublimation Plates To Maintain Food Safety Standards?
You should use mild soap and lukewarm water to clean sublimation plates to maintain food safety. You can also clean them in a dishwasher following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Can Sublimation Plates Be Used For Both Hot And Cold Food Items?
Yes, sublimation plates can be used for both hot and cold food items. The temperature of the food doesn’t affect the sublimation print under any circumstances.
Can I Safely Use Sublimation Plates For Children’s Meals Or Baby Food?
Yes, you can safely use sublimation plates for children’s meals or baby food. But you must ensure the coating on the plate is non-toxic. You should also choose an age-appropriate design that doesn’t cause any hazards to your child.
Can I Safely Serve Acidic Or Alkaline Food On Sublimation Plates?
Yes, you can safely serve acidic or alkaline food on sublimation plates. However, remember that serving acidic food regularly can cause discoloration of the design over time. So, it’s best to avoid serving acidic or alkaline food on sublimation plates frequently.
So, what do you think? Are sublimation plates food safe? Hopefully, you don’t have any more confusion regarding this matter.
Always remember to use premium-grade materials when there are health hazards involved. So, the best way to ensure this is to read the manufacturer’s labels thoroughly for making food-safe sublimation plates.