This means that the cleaner needs to pay particular attention to classification and to avoid as far as possible mixing lighter and darker shades and to consider carefully how any colour contrast items such as a black dress with a white collar or a red dress with white trim can be safely cleaned. The first step is of course to test the colour with solvent or water/ detergent and then, based on the result, decide how to proceed. In the case of colour contrast items they should always be classified according to the lightest colour. The greatest risk is that dye is picked up from the solvent/wash liquor by textiles that have an affinity for the dye. For example, if dye that has bled from a cotton item discolours other cellulosics in the load such as linen or viscose fabrics it may not flush out with a re-clean and prove to be impossible to remove.

So what options are available? In attempting to classify safely, the cleaner may have to make very challenging decisions when faced with items with loose/fugitive colour. In many cases where, say a black dress with a white collar and cuffs is received, the item will be cleaned in a dark or medium load simply because the white component only forms a very small part of the dress. I have to say that this is very poor cleaning practice involving a very high risk of catastrophic greying/discolouration from loose dye and/or from re-deposited soil. Under these circumstances the cleaner is responsible for any discoloration and the customer will have a legitimate claim for compensation if the problem cannot be corrected.

When faced with such garments the cleaner has a number of options available:

■ For garments where the care label allows for either drycleaning or washing, wetcleaning or washing will, in most cases, be the safest option.

■ Could the light components be easily removed before cleaning and processed separately? for which an additional charge could be made.

■ The garment could be cleaned on its own or possibly with two or three similar items.

■ The garment could possibly be cleaned at the owner’s risk.

Finally, you do not have to accept the item but if you do, you are responsible if loose dye is picked up by any other garments in the load.