Valuable point of reference

Whilst the number of basic manufacturing errors in garment design and assembly still appears to be increasing as more manufacturing is moved offshore, some faults are relatively uncommon and should be added to a cleaner’s store of knowledge for future reference.

This month we look at four particularly rare problems that will need clear explanation to a disappointed customer.

Colour change to off-white

Fault: The wool fabric from which this lady’s coat was made turned from white to a pale shade of yellowy grey during drycleaning, with the button placket remaining a much closer match to the original.

Cause: There are two problems here. First, the garment was cleaned in a solvent bath containing at least some working tank solvent from which soiling has redeposited onto this white fabric. Second, the garment was slightly damp when it went into the cleaning machine and this trace of dampness has caused the soiling in the solvent to be attracted to the white wool. The fabric carrying the buttons is still white is because it was drier than the rest of the garment, which means the garment probably became damp during normal wear.

Responsibility: The blame lies with the cleaner, who should have aired all pale garments made from natural fibres in a warm dry place for a couple of hours before processing. The owner would not be expected to understand the importance of this.

Fade to grey

Fault: The elastomeric net on this evening dress changed from black to grey during normal drycleaning in perchloroethylene.

Cause: It is very difficult to dye an elastomeric yarn so as to be colourfast to perchloroethylene drycleaning solvent, which may have been why this particular dress was labelled for hand washing only. The cleaner opted to take the risk with drycleaning and stripped the dye off the elastomer, causing the apparent colour change to grey. As can be seen from the micrograph, the yarn is now a mixture of original black and pure white.

Responsibility: The cleaner must take the blame. Despite the unreliability of care labels, some are correct and some garments can only be washed.

Rectification: None is possible.

Black marks for storage
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Fault: Short black lines appeared in a wedding dress after six years in storage.

Cause: The fabric used here is a tin-weighted silk in which a tin salt has been applied in manufacture to add weight and body to a fine silk cloth. During storage the tin has reacted with the oxygen and the water vapour in the air and the resultant chemical is a dark brown/black oxidation product.

As soon as the breakdown reaction starts it spreads along the yarn to produce the short black lines which now spoil the appearance.

Responsibility: The blame here lies with whoever stored the dress. The fault is a direct consequence of conditions of storage and has nothing to do with incorrect drycleaning. Wedding dresses should be stored in one of the proprietary systems available which usually incorporate acid-free tissue to reduce the risk of breakdown reaction starting and air exclusion (by boxing or vacuum wrapping) to eliminate water vapour.

Rectification: Once damage of this type has begun there is nothing which can be done to reverse it but correct storage will slow further deterioration.

Strong bond still ripples
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Fault: The fronts of a good quality suit jacket displayed extensive rippling and bubbling during normal drycleaning, but when the lining was opened and the bond was pulled apart a strong joint was found.

Cause: A well-made interlining bond can still fail in drycleaning if the different layers in the fused laminate relax by different amounts. Most fabrics have a slight stretch set into them in cloth manufacture and this set will survive garment make-up and normal wear. However, it is released in the first few drycleans and this is termed relaxation shrinkage. Each layer in the laminate should be specified to relax by the same amount, otherwise a very strong shear force is created and this will rupture even the strongest bond.

Responsibility: The blame here lies with the garment maker. Each layer must be controlled to a relaxation potential of within 2% of the other layers to avoid this problem.

Rectification: None is possible and it is better to return the suit to the owner at this point than to attempt to re-fuse the bond.