Shiny but weak design

Problem: After a jacket in shiny bronze fabric had been drycleaned in perchloroethylene, tears appeared running across the front.

Cause: This fabric is made using a very heavy weft and a very light warp. Although the individual warp threads are quite strong they are very fine and spaced widely so the material has a very low tear strength in the weft direction. This means that any slight damage in use will open up in the cleaning machine because solvent is 60% heavier than water and tumbling, even in an underloaded machine, will produce sufficient stress to open up a tear of this type.

Responsibility: This garment was labelled for normal drycleaning which means there would have been no reason for a cleaner to enclose it in a net bag. In fact, it needed quite tight net bagging to avoid stresses of the type which caused the damage.

The blame here should remain with the garment maker because of the wrong labelling and the fitness for purpose of this fabric should be called into question.

Plasticised back coating

Problem: A black windproof jacket with lightly plasticised back coating suffered shrinkage and distortion in cleaning.

Cause: The back coating here is not resistant to perchloroethylene cleaning fluid. Immersion leaches out the plasticiser causing sticking and shrinkage, resulting in the faults described.

Responsibility: The blame here lies with the garment maker. Again, putting a bar beneath the P in a circle symbol on the care label does not make the coating any more resistant to perchloroethylene or any less likely to lose its plasticiser. This happens very quickly during the first minute or so of the solvent wash.

Fine feathers fading

Problem: The feather trim on a black evening dress faded after the dress had been drycleaned in perchloroethylene.

Cause: This garment was labelled for sensitive drycleaning with the symbol P in a circle with a bar beneath.

The dyes used for the feathers will not resist this fluid and much of the dye dissolves off, even on a very short cycle.

Responsibility: The blame here lies fairly and squarely with the garment maker.

There is no point in the designer putting a bar beneath the P in a circle symbol on the care label in the hope that this will make the dyes become colourfast!

Care not taken

Correct interpretation of care labels is not easy with some modern designer ranges. Most cleaners believe that they are expert at interpreting care labels but hidden meanings are catching out many, even experienced professionals.

The bar beneath P in a circle signifies sensitive drycleaning but this often calls for much more than simply processing on a shorter cycle with cooler drying.

If the fabric is weak or distorts very easily, the cleaner should interpret the bar as requiring the garment to be folded in a net bag, sometimes the right way round and sometimes inside out, depending on the trim. This prevents mechanical forces causing tearing or excessive distortion of weak or unstable fabric.

If the components of the garment, such as dyes or coating or adhesives, have not been designed to resist perchloroethylene drycleaning fluid there is no point in the garment designer simply putting on the symbol for sensitive drycleaning in the belief that if the garment cannot withstand normal drycleaning that will do the trick! Dyes which bleed in perc, and coatings which become sticky, will fail in just the same way in a sensitive process as a normal one, particularly during the tumble dry. The optimism of some designers is sometimes unbelievable.

One dot iron

The one dot iron carries with it an implied precaution that the use of steam may be risky. This means the article cannot be put on to a steam-air former or even steamed at length on the bed of a professional ironing table. The risk on the former is of causing enlargement or shrinkage depending on the construction whereas steaming on the bed of the table usually produces shrinkage and puckering. The time when a finishing operative could ignore the care labels has long gone and this important precaution needs to be applied to most modern

bi-stretch fabrics. Some expensive designer ranges call for finishing with a damp pressing cloth and dry iron, often using two pairs of hands to keep each lay under tension.

Causing shrinkage to a bi-stretch fabric by inappropriate use of steam when the garment is properly labelled would quite reasonably be held as a cleaner fault not a garment fault.