Learn to recognise the signs
Many customers believe (wrongly) that if a garment or textile is damaged when it comes back from the drycleaners, the fault must have been caused by the cleaner’s negligence or incompetence. Cleaners need to recognise the symptoms of the more common problems caused in use rather than during drycleaning and to be able to explain what has happened sympathetically and avoid the discussion becoming heated. This requires considerable skill and many cleaners follow the Guild training course and gain its certificate.
Some faults may not be visible when the work is brought in but are then revealed during cleaning and pressing. The cleaner is not responsible for the problem as it already existed but now needs to explain why the problem was hidden and what has happened in the machine to make it visible.
This is the season for holes caused by clothes moth and carpet beetle larvae. The grub burrows into the fabric, munching as it goes and pushing debris above it. Before cleaning, the garment looks as though it has a bit of fluff on the surface but the solvent action kills the grubs and flushes out the debris to reveal the holes.
DTC is seeing problems with dye fastness. When poorly dyed garments are worn in the holiday sun, the light damages the dyes. During drycleaning the solvent flushes out the sun-damaged dyes and the garment looks faded.
As retail chain buyers seek ever cheaper fabrics, abrasion problems are again becoming common. In such cases, the furry surfaces that appear after drycleaning are caused by the solvent lifting the abraded fibres from the surface.

Torn fabric missed at counter
The receptionist passed this wedding dress to the cleaner without noting any damage. In the pre-cleaning inspection, the operator noticed a small tear but it was only when they put a coloured card (with rounded corners) underneath the torn netting that the full extent of the damage was seen.
Cause: It is essential to inspect dresses with layers of net or other fine fabrics against a contrasting background so that any damage is clearly visible. A piece of coloured card can be an invaluable tool here and such checks may save much argument. Holes and tears often occur on the big day but are rarely remembered.
Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for missing the damage if it was visible before cleaning, as here, and for failing to notify the customer. The cleaner is not responsible for the damage itself. When the damage was noticed, the owner should have been advised that a repair was needed.
Rectification: Repairing a tear on a net underlay would not be difficult and the dress cannot be classed as ruined. The owner should arrange for the repair and also pay for it. The cleaner might want to pay out of goodwill but even so it is best if the cleaner does not do the repair as the owner might then complain that the repair was not a good job.

Cotton tops fade at common wear points
Two knitted cotton tops looked badly faded in places after cleaning. One was faded along the collar fold, the other all round the V-neck trim.
Cause: The tops have been continuously rubbed in wear at exposed points. The V-neck top has probably been worn beneath a coat for much of the winter. The dyes used for both garments are sensitive to abrasion and DTC has seen several such cases. In the machine drycleaning process, the broken fibres and the abrasion-damaged dyes have been flushed away to reveal the bare yarns that have lost virtually all dye at the wear points.
Responsibility: The owner is responsible for the fade revealed here, because it is entirely down to the conditions of wear and not to cleaner negligence.
Rectification: None

Jacket has furry edges at the front
After this expensive jacket’s first clean the fibres at the front edges were raised giving a furry effect. The rest of the garment was fine.
Cause: The owner has worn this jacket daily at work and the edges have been rubbing constantly against a desk or counter. The yarn oils in the new fabric have held the rubbed fibres in place so the problem was not visible at reception. During cleaning the perc solvent has removed the oils, giving the result now seen. Even a good dose of detergent did not hold the disrupted fibres back in place, nor can it be expected to.
Responsibility: The owner should take responsibility as the furry edges result from abrasion in wear. The rest of the garment is fine so drycleaning has revealed the fault, not caused it.
Rectification: None.

Moth bites holes in jacket
This wool jacket had a hole when it came out of the drycleaning machine although the damage had not been seen before cleaning. Examining the hole closely shows that there was little, if any, disturbance to the woven construction but that an appreciable amount of fibre was missing from within the hole, which had a large number of chopped fibre ends.
Cause: The symptoms here are characteristic of the damage caused by a clothes moth or carpet beetle grub. Moth grubs produce tiny holes over a period of perhaps 40 – 50 days. The carpet beetle larva produces much larger holes.
Snagging on a metal coat hanger or even on a scalpel will not produce as many severed fibre ends as there are here.
Responsibility: Most people are convinced they do not have a moth problem but in reality a large number do have this problem. There is a current epidemic and the owner should take responsibility for the hole. Drycleaning kills moths and their grubs. The garment would not have been on the cleaner’s premises long enough for the eggs to be laid and the moths to grow big enough to cause this amount of visible damage.
Rectification: None. In future, all drawers and wardrobes should be treated with moth repellent every six months. Cedar wood smells much nicer than moth balls and works just as well.

Water-based stains need detergent
The shoulders of a smart grey sweater had taken on a yellow tinge after it had been cleaned.
Cause: A careful examination of the rest of the garment showed that the yellow faded progressively as the eye moved downward and there was no clear edge to the discolouration. Exposure to strong daylight over time has broken down the blue and red components of the three-component dye recipe used to colour the yarns during manufacture. The sweater might well have looked a uniform grey going in, but the cleaning fluid has flushed out the damaged dyes leaving the yellow component dominant.
Responsibility: The wearer should take responsibility as the fault has occurred while the sweater was worn in bright sun. The fault cannot be corrected. As there are modern dyes that will not yellow in this way, even in bright sun, it is worth discussing the problem with the retailer’s customer care department.

Sugar stain develops during cleaning
A suite cover had severe ingrained yellow/brown staining after cleaning in perc although neither the owner nor the cleaner saw this marking when it was handed in.
Cause: When the stain was examined under UV light it fluoresced to a very bright lemon yellow. This indicates that the mark is rich in sugars. Before cleaning, the mark would have been virtually colourless but the perc has not dissolved the sugars so they have caramelised in the heat of the drying stage and turned yellow.
Responsibility: Sugars are not used in drycleaning chemicals, so the owner should take responsibility.
Rectification: Caramelised sugar can be removed with care and much patience using a steam gun or water flush.
If this seems to be a very slow process, place a clean damp cloth on the marked area and leave for an hour or so to soften the caramel, then try again. The chances of success are much better than 50%. If any mark is still left after this, it may be necessary to use a protein remover or tannin remover to take out the last traces.

Buckle chafes against jacket lining
After cleaning, this expensive suit came out of the cleaning machine with holes in the jacket lining at the same position on both left and right fronts.
Cause: Examining the waist adjusters on the suit’s trousers indicated that they aligned exactly with the damage on both sides. Regular daily chafing of the metal buckle against the fine lining has broken many fibres and greatly weakened the yarns. The machine process has flushed out the broken fibres and the thinned yarns have parted leaving the hole. Drycleaning has revealed the damage but this has not been caused by cleaner negligence or by an accident in cleaning.
Responsibility: The owner should take responsibility as the damage has occurred during wear. However, the owner might also like to discuss the problem with the manufacturer who could use more suitable adjusters in the future.
Rectification: Re-lining the jacket will not be cheap but is better than buying a new jacket.