Most drycleaners know that using a good detergent in the drycleaning cycle has many advantages including better removal of water-based soiling and stains, reduced static and fewer problems with greying whites and pastels.

The benefits of other additives are less well-known. The solvent emissions legislation requires high solvent mileage. This often means extended distillation at higher temperatures to obtain every last gram of solvent from the still. When perc is the solvent of choice there is a danger that the heat will break the solvent down into by-products that either corrode the still or smell foul.

However, there are chemical additives that will control both the odour and the corrosion. Some will go directly into the still and others into the button trap.

Some chemicals that are designed for a specific purpose, will also have other uses. Suede oil can be used in the final cleaning bath to enhance the lustre, sheen and body of a silk fabric. Silk finish or a good re-texturing agent could also be used for this purpose but both items are becoming more difficult to find in suppliers’ catalogues. Some cleaners will also use a standard detergent but at a dose near the recommended maximum.

Increasing revenue is becoming difficult but the informed use of chemicals can help by improving results.

Static makes dress cling

Fault: This designer dress in knitted viscose/polyester cleaned well but when the customer put it on it clung to her legs.

Cause: This particular fabric tends to acquire a static charge, first when it is dried after being drycleaned and then during normal wear. The maker was probably relying on a fabric finish to dissipate any static in wear but drycleaning may have removed this.

Responsibility: The maker is responsible if the fabric cannot withstand the cleaning process on the label without causing static. The cleaner should share the blame if he did not use any detergent in the final bath as this would have avoided the fault.

Rectification: Re-clean the garment with a good cationic machine detergent in the final bath. An increased dose may be needed but the fault will be cured immediately.

Blind looks grey

Fault: This blind looked grey after cleaning but the other household textiles in the load were not affected.

Cause: The overall greying indicates that the blind has attracted soiling from the solvent wash. As this was the only item affected it must have been too moist when it went into the machine. Many fabrics can hold over 8% of their weight in moisture without feeling damp. Moisture attracts soiling so if there is not enough detergent to disperse it the greying will be worse.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible if soiling redeposits during the solvent wash. He could have prevented this by airing the blind in a warm, dry place before cleaning and then using an adequate dose of a good machine detergent.

Rectification: Air the blind then re-clean with the maximum detergent dose. If possible use an anionic detergent in the first bath and a cationic one in the second. If this does not work, then wash by hand. There is a considerable risk of shrinkage but if the first result is unacceptable, it is well worth trying.

Bad smells are bad for business

Fault: For three weeks, every garment that has come out of the hydrocarbon machine smells foul.

Cause: Foul odours in hydrocarbon machines are often caused by bacteria building-up. The bacteria might be breeding on the inaccessible backplate of the drum or in the water separator.

Responsibility: It is up to the cleaner to control odours.

Rectification: Clean the machine thoroughly, paying particular attention to the tanks, filter, water-separator and the backplate. It may be necessary to disinfect the accessible parts with bleach. The backplate should be flushed with solvent by filling to a high dip and rotating the cage, with reversals. Textiles should be cleaned again to remove the smells. Use a disinfecting detergent at the supplier’s maximum dosage for three months or more, until the machine smells completely sweet.

Limp and faded silk

Fault: Before cleaning this dress had a good sheen and handle and the characteristic silk “scrunch.”. Afterwards it looked faded, felt limp and had lost its body and sheen.

Cause: The drycleaning solvent has dissolved the silk’s oils and manufacturer’s finish, leaving the dress limp and lifeless and without any sheen. The oils would have enhanced the colour so it is their loss that has produced the fading rather than a loss of dye.

Responsibility: This dress would probably have performed satisfactorily in the International Standard test for drycleanability which uses an oily dispersant as a detergent. The problem here is that the cleaner has not included a large enough dose of the right detergent to give the fabric a good finish to compensate for the loss of silk oils.

Rectification: The dress should be re-cleaned with the correct additive in the final bath. This could be a good silk finish, a standard re-texturing additive or a good cationic detergent dosed at the maximum recommended dosage.

Coat has spots and lets the rain through

Fault: After drycleaning, this brushed cotton coat was worn in a rain shower. The wearer noticed that it not only had rain spots but was also letting the rain in.

Cause: The coat had not been sold as a raincoat but was originally made from proofed fabric. The drycleaning process has removed this proofing so that the rain soaks through, leaving dark spots.

Responsibility: The cleaner did not class this as a raincoat but traditionally drycleaners take responsibility for restoring proofing and doing this will correct both faults.

Rectification: The coat should be rinsed in pure distilled solvent to remove any detergent residues and the rain spots. It should then be re-proofed using a good quality proofing and following the product instructions on the dosage and process.