Raincoat stiffens up

Problem: The coating of a polyurethane-coated showerproof raincoat went stiff and crinkly after drycleaning in perchloroethylene solvent despite the “P” symbol on the label.

Cause: In order to make polyurethane coatings more flexible some suppliers have introduced a softening plasticiser of the same type as that used in PVC coatings. Unfortunately these plasticisers leach out in perchloroethylene and also in hydrocarbon or fluorocarbon, although more slowly so that the worst effects are not seen for two or three cleans.

Responsibility: It is the garment maker’s responsibility to check the cleaning instructions on a care label by proper test drycleaning. If this had been done the fault would have been revealed before manufacture.

Metallic gown fades away

Problem: A strapless evening gown, woven from an attractive brown metallised thread, was drycleaned in perchloroethylene on a single bath delicates process and suffered from an overall colour fade. The owner demonstrated the colour fade by comparing the garment with a matching scarf—which had not been submitted for cleaning.

Cause: The metallised yarns used in the manufacture of this garment were not designed to resist drycleaning—even in a mild solvent or on a short process—and the surface coating came away resulting in the faded appearance.

Responsibility: The advice “Dry clean only” as given on the care label means that in the absence of any other symbols, the garment has been designed to be cleaned in accordance with the reference process given in British Standards which uses perchloroethylene. This garment did not meet this criterior and the responsibility lies with the supplier for issuing an incorrect care label.

Perils of optical brightening agent

Problem: During pressing the cleaner noted that the jacket of a lady’s two piece suit looked several shades paler than the dress.

Cause: Examination under ultraviolet light indicated that the jacket had been washed in a detergent containing an optical brightening agent which had deposited on the fabric surface and caused considerable fade.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with whoever washed the jacket. If it was washed by the owner then it should have been visible when the garment was taken for cleaning. If the cleaner found it necessary to use wet cleaning then for any garment other than white a detergent should have been used that did not contain optical brightener.

Wedding gown shrinks and distorts

Problem: After drycleaning in perchloroethylene, an intricate wedding gown made from an attractive floral brocade suffered from an overall shrinkage which created unsightly puckering.

Cause: None of the fibres in this blend were sensitive to perchloroethylene. The problem was caused by relaxation of manufacturing strains set into the fabric by the original cloth maker. Unless these are properly relaxed out before use in an intricately designed garment of this type then the strains will be released in the solvent wash stage of the drycleaning machine process giving rise to relaxation shrinkage.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the garment maker and ultimately with the original cloth producer.