A question of Standards

Leathers continue to reflect higher margins for the cleaner than most other classifications, but they are also the source of the most critical complaints.

British Standards allow garment makers greater changes in drycleaning than would ever be tolerated for a fabric. The overall colour change allowed is 3 – 4 on the grey scale, whereas most commercial standards for the change for a cloth suit jacket stipulate a minimum of 4 (which is not obvious to most customers).

The shrinkage allowed is also much greater, because the tanner has to stretch the hide in different areas to create flat garment leather for cutting out. British Standards allow the garment maker a shrinkage of up to 3% in any direction. This means the girth of a tailored jacket could reduce by 3cm and still satisfy the standard. When the shrinkage is accompanied by the reappearance of fine wrinkling (on those panels cut from the points on the original hide around where an animal limb joined the body), then the cleaner’s explanation has to be very prompt and clear.

The British Standard is absolutely clear when it comes to loss of the top coat from grain leather (which could be patterned or coloured) and also on migration of adhesive from the hems. Neither of these is allowed at all. The standard provides unequivocal justification for the return of the garment to the place of purchase.

These are not problems that the cleaner can avoid or solve. The standard method of test in the British Standard for the drycleanability of a leather garment uses perc, so any suggestion from a retailer that “the cleaner used too strong a solution” is a nonsense. There is no solvent for retail leather cleaning stronger than neat perc.

Jacket mixture turns grey

Fault: This white jacket had an outer made from both textile and leather panels. After cleaning, the leather was still white but the textile was muddy grey.

Cause: It is more difficult to avoid greying in leather cleaning, but the same rules apply. Whites or pastels need distilled solvent, so there must be limited moisture in the load and a good detergent is needed to protect textiles from redeposition. The problem appears to be moisture in the textiles and/or inadequate detergent.

Responsibility: This is likely to lie with the cleaner in this instance.

Rectification: If a textile panel has greyed, try wetcleaning, but the prospects are not good.

Collar grime grows darker

Fault: After drycleaning, this beige collar was left with ugly brown staining all along it.

Cause: Skin and hair oils are made up predominantly from human protein. This does not all dissolve in cleaning fluid and the residue reacts with the oxygen in the air during tumble drying. This reaction, known as oxidation, produces characteristic dark marking of exactly the type shown here.

Responsibility: Marking of this type can neither be predicted nor completely avoided by the leather cleaner. The best cleaners will pre-treat the collar to aid removal, but this is only successful where the pre-treatment does not itself cause an area of colour loss.

Rectification: Oxidised protein bonds very securely to leather and must be treated as irremovable.

White lines spoil finish

Fault: White tramlines became evident after this soft leather jacket was drycleaned.

Cause: Soft leather is susceptible to excess pressure in pressing. Here, careless hand finishing has created hard, compressed and whitened seams.

Responsibility: Unless this whitening pre-dated cleaning and a disclaimer was given, the blame lies with the presser.

Rectification: Re-cleaning and correct re-finishing will relax the leather and improve matters but the result will not be perfect.