Designer garments27 January 2020
Designer items can turn drycleaners into fashion victims, writes Stacey King of DTC, who has a few pointers on how to avoid this dire fate
Contributors to confusion
Designer garments come with a large price tag and a large range of cleaning issues. With intricate trims, delicate fabrics and multi-coloured designs, the drycleaner is faced with a challenge from the start.
Although the consumer might assume that the quality of these garments is superior to garments of lesser cost, often the truth is far from this. In a surprising number of cases, the research into the fabrics used, particularly the compatibility of linings, is glossed over and the dry-cleanability of a prototype is rarely checked. This can result in substandard, contradictory or completely incorrect care labels, which in turn gives dreadful outcomes after cleaning. This is a rising problem and something we see more and more cases of particularly in the modern world of ‘fast fashion’. Unfairly, the blame for faults that arise as a result of this manufacturer negligence is frequently pinned on the cleaner if they do not have the knowledge to manage customer expectations or defend their actions.
Often customers will find it very hard to believe that a cleaner is not responsible when their garment was in good condition prior to cleaning; however, inherent faults of the textile are almost impossible to predetermine so related cleaning problems are unavoidable and in a lot of cases non-rectifiable.
From delamination to colour bleed, melting buttons to dissolving fabric, the cleaner certainly has their work cut out. Here we look at some typical cases.
Tangled up in knots
Fault: Knots covered the outside of this black and white dress.
Cause: The knots were caused by tangled elastane. The elastane fibres had broken during cleaning due to application of too much tension during manufacture. The necessary solvency power and mechanical action of the process released the tension causing the fibres to snap. The broken fibres were then worked free and have most likely become tangled during tumble drying.
Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer for incorrectly weaving the elastane. Elastane fibres can break in the presence of steam however if this was the case here the broken fibres would not have has opportunity to tangle as they have.
Rectification: The appearance might be improved by trimming the knots away but the broken fibres are non-rectifiable.
Shocking shredding horror
Fault: After having an Alcantara® jacket cleaned the owner was horrified when they found the material had completely shredded.
Cause: Alcantara® is a synthetic microfibre fabric produced by combining advanced spinning processes with textile processes such as needle punching. It is a blend of polyester microfibres adhered to a polyurethane foam in a non-woven structure. This jacket carried a care label which stated the garment could be washed at 30C or drycleaned in perchloroethylene. However, polyurethane notoriously deteriorates in this solvent. When cleaned in perc, the polyurethane began to dissolve allowing the microfibres to fall apart.
Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer for both a contradictory and incorrect care label. It is arguable that the cleaner should have noted the polyurethane content on the label and not drycleaned the item.
Crossing the line
Fault: Linear damage was observed on this red dress after cleaning.
Cause: The fault manifest as lots of linear white lines down the front of the dress. Upon examination under magnification it was noted that the weave had slipped revealing the white yarns of the weft which were previously concealed. The weave slippage was localised, no evidence of cleaner pre- or post-treatment was noted.
Responsibility: The wearer was deemed responsible here as it was concluded the slippage had occurred due to rubbing of the delicate fabric however there was no evidence to suggest this has been done by the cleaner.
Rectification: None is possible.
Sticky situation that could be avoided
Fault: A dress was brought in with a customer complaint of ‘glue’ all over. The dress was covered in a sticky, sparkly white substance after cleaning.
Cause: The dress had a row of beaded adornments down each side and a care label which stated dryclean in perchloroethylene. The beads had never been tested for their drycleanability and dissolved in the strong drycleaning solvent. While in the solvent the residue had transferred to other areas of the dress leaving behind a sticky mess. All beads had changed size and shape and many had become weak and broken.
Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer. British and International Standard 4162:1983 describes a test method for the assessment of the stability of such adornments to drycleaning solvent and would have foretold this issue had it been followed.
Bubbling up all over
Fault: Mild bubbling was observed under the lapel of this jacket and also to the front panels above the pockets.
Cause: The interlining substrate used in this instance had been over-fused, this resulted in an uneven spread of adhesive between the interlining substrate and the outer fabric. This in turn made the bond between the two very weak. The weak bond was sheared during cleaning due to shrinkage of the interlining substrate, giving the outer fabric the appearance of being ‘bubbled’ and in excess.
Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer for selecting an interlining substrate with a greater relaxation/shrinkage potential than the outer fabric. Had the fusing been carried out correctly the bond might have been strong enough to prevent materialisation of the fault.
Rectification: Heavy pressing might temporarily re-fuse the joint however re-cleaning will reverse this and the delamination is likely to get worse with further cleans.
Beads and pieces
Fault: Various beads and sequins came off this garment during cleaning.
Cause: Upon examination, the stitchwork across the remaining beads and sequins was variable. Small sections and individual beads were stitched well but in larger areas the threads were loose and the decoration was thus not well secured. The dress was unable to withstand the normal process outlined by the care label which in this instance resulted in the removal of some embellishments. Further to this, some of the beads had begun to dissolve in the solvent recommend by the care label.
Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer. A mild process would have better suited a dress with so many adornments. It is recommended that cleaners take extra care by placing items such as these in a net bag or similar.
Rectification: If spare beads were provided a skilled repairer might be able to reattach them without significant difference in appearance.
Heavy lettering spell disaster
Fault: Multiple small holes surrounded a metal trim on a cashmere jumper.
Cause: The jumper carried several heavy metal letters. The care label stated clean in perc on a normal process and no mention of the trim. The letters were non-removable so the cleaner took precautions to pad them prior to cleaning to prevent snagging or damage to the pearl like beads. The sheer weight of the letters put too much strain on the yarns during the mechanical action of the cleaning process. This resulted in broken yarns and many small holes in a linear pattern away from the point of attachment.
Responsibility: The manufacturer was deemed responsible here for not ensuring the garment could withstand the process outlined by the care label.