For the past couple of months, this journal has been corresponding with Next concerning problems that drycleaners have experienced with its curtains with a heavier lining to reduce light.

I was disappointed that the first two responses came from customer service and home relations departments although I had written to a director. Clearly the message was not getting through to the right level.

However, I was then given another management contact and this time got a response from the director for home products and one which was much more informed (Letters page 07).

The director’s letter makes it clear not only that the company is taking this seriously but also that it is carrying out testing and research into test methods, giving hope for the future.

For the present, concerns remain. The main problem seems to be that a lining based on rubber latex or similar that is sensitive to the ultraviolet element in natural daylight will cause problems in the exposed parts of curtains when they have been drycleaned in perc – the greater exposure, the higher the risk of damage to the lining in perc drycleaning, even on the cycle indicated by the care label.

The problem is not one that can be predicted when the curtains are inspected at the drycleaner’s counter as the variables in exposure and hanging conditions are too great. Even talking to the customer may not help as they may not remember accurately when the curtains were bought and cannot calculate the degree of exposure.

Spot testing is not a practical solution in this case as it is the exposed parts that will fail and these will vary according to the curtain and how and where it has been hung.

For these reasons, as I have informed the company, the advice to drycleaners is still that the best and safest course for all concerned is for the drycleaner to refuse the curtains and refer the customer back to Next with an explanation as to why this is being done. Otherwise the customer may be disappointed with the result and the cleaner may also find the process has affected equipment and/or other items in the load.

Any cleaners that feel they do want to clean such curtains should explain the risks fully to the customer, get authorisation and fully record as much detail about the curtain as possible including batch or serial numbers.

However, while feeling I have to give such advice I am still positive that Next is trying to find test methods that will help them resolve the problems.

I am also encouraged to learn that Next is arranging a meeting with Textile Services Association CEO Murray Simpson to discuss the work they are doing on this product. I will also be attending the meeting and hope to keep in touch with Next and report on progress in a future issue. The company deserves praise for taking the problem seriously and conducting research.

Thanks to the drycleaners who have shared their experiences of these curtains with LCN and to Richard Neale for his technical advice.