It’s not always a tale of happy ever after

There is no other item which the DTC receives that has greater sentimental value than a wedding dress. It’s an expensive item, intended to be worn for that single special occasion and either kept as a keepsake or resold for second use. Is it any wonder, therefore, that several brides are unhappy with the results achieved after cleaning?

The wedding dress presents us with a potential mountain of hurdles to navigate in order to avoid upsetting the new bride. With bespoke/unlabelled dresses, multiple layers of potentially different fabrics, lustrous yet delicate silk composition, delicate beads, sparkling adornments and mud-stained trains, there are many things that could go disastrously wrong. However, with careful consideration, time and effort a wedding dress should not cause the cleaner a headache and can be a highly profitable service.

Firstly, it is important to manage a customer’s expectations. After cleaning, no item of clothing will look as it did when on a hanger at the retailers. Unremovable staining, relaxation shrinkage and the loss of natural oils resulting in loss of sheen are all unavoidable issues for the cleaner. Heavily soiled trains can be vastly improved with time and effort, but it is impossible to guarantee that all these stains will be fully removed. It is crucial that the owner is aware of this when leaving the dress, to avoid unanticipated issues on their return. A simple information sheet provided alongside the counter inspection ticket may help to explain what is realistically achievable.

Wedding dresses predominantly collect water soluble staining during wear from food and drink splashes. that will not be removed in standard drycleaning, so it seems an obvious choice to professionally wetclean them. While the DTC will often commend a cleaner for wetcleaning a polyester wedding dress, for example, wetcleaning delicate silks with too much mechanical action can result in cracking and the use of an incorrect detergent could cause irreparable damage. If there is no label within the garment, proceed with extreme caution. Where garments are unlabelled it is always wise to obtain a written disclaimer for items of unknown composition. DTC would always advise using the mildest process available.

Sparkling gems and sequins  are a little less impressive when they have fallen off during processing or have melted and stuck the beads together;  or worse, deposited themselves over the dress. If in doubt, and with the owner’s permission, simply removing a small inconspicuous bead and soaking it in the solvent for a few minutes could reveal if the beads will survive the process. Although this issue is typically found to be a manufacturer fault, avoiding the issue with this simple test could save this sentimental item from certain demise.

Bodice has gone bust

Fault: A wedding dress exhibited yellow discolouration on the bust area, both inside and out.

Cause: Opening up the dress revealed that the breast pads had significantly yellowed. A reaction with the solvent and the foam inserts had resulted in yellowing occurring, this colour had then leached through the fibres of the dress resulting in the now unsightly yellow marks.

Responsibility: It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that all components of an item can be cleaned as per the care label instructions. The cleaner could not have foreseen that the internal breast pads would cause discolouration to the dress and should take no responsibility here.

Rectification: Further post-spotting and drycleaning was carried out on the dress, although the marks were reduced, the staining was still visible. This is likely to be the best outcome achievable here.

Tread carefully up the aisle

Fault: This dress exhibited several areas of damage to the train. The damage manifested as ‘bubbled’ areas of weave distortion.

Cause: There was no evidence of any spot treatment or staining in this area. Therefore the localised areas of damage were thought to be most likely areas where the dress has been stood on and subsequently pulled. This results in a mild parting of the weave and what now appears to be an excess of fabric, giving the bubbled appearance. When examined under magnification, this weave distortion became much more apparent, confirming the theory.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the wearer. Although this particular fault may have been exacerbated during cleaning, there is nothing that the cleaner could do to prevent this.

Rectification: None is possible.

Brightening up a step too far

Fault: This originally ivory coloured dress was supplied to the DTC because the customer felt that it looked white in appearance after cleaning.

Cause: The cleaner chose to wetclean the dress, which in theory was a good choice due to possible water soluble staining. The issue here is that the cleaner has chosen an incorrect detergent which contained optical brightening agent (OBA). OBA are colourless dyes, found in many proprietary detergents, which emit a blue hue; to the human eye this blue hue makes whites and other pale colours appear whiter. For example, they can turn pastel shades, particularly ivory, white. Examining the dress under UV light revealed that it did not have sufficient movement within the machine resulting in uneven distribution of the detergent, which in turn resulted in the patchy appearance seen here.

Responsibility: The cleaner should take responsibility. Simply using an appropriate OBA free detergent would have avoided the shade change from ivory to white seen here. 

Rectification: OBA suppressor treatments are available; however, these often result in severe yellowing of the fabric in question as it ensures that all optical brighteners, even those which might have been added during the textile manufacturing process, are suppressed. It is unlikely that the dress will be recoverable to its original colour, however, white is a classy, timeless colour though and the dress would likely retain some resale value.

Wedding party hangover

Fault: This mother-of -the-bride’s bolero-style jacket was returned after cleaning with significant brown staining.

Cause: Inspection under ultraviolet light revealed tell-tale signs of a rather large sugary contaminant, namely a lemon coloured fluorescence. Sugars are not present in drycleaning solvents or spotting agents so cannot have originated during processing. The temperatures achieved during the necessary drying stage has caramelised the sugars and turned them brown making the unremoved sugars highly visible.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the wearer as the stains were not visible prior to cleaning and were acquired during wear. The cleaner cannot be held responsible for a developing stain such as this which they would not have known to pre-treat.

Rectification: Any stain which has been on an item for an extended period, and particularly after drying tends to become ‘fixed’ to the fibre and subsequently difficult to remove. Post treatments and careful use of steam to solubilise any caramelised sugars may help to improve the appearance, however there are no guarantees it will be fully removed.

Heavy-handed treatment leaves cleaner in a hole

Fault: This dress was provided to the cleaner with some underarm staining, which had been caused by a mixture of perspiration and deodorant. This resulted in an unsightly pink hue to the textile. After treating a hole had become apparent.

Cause: The cleaner knew that the stain would not be removed by dry-cleaning alone so chose to spot clean the area. Unfortunately, heavy-handed treatment has resulted in breakages to the delicate fibres in this area. The damage fibres have then been removed during cleaning resulting in an unsightly hole. 

Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the cleaner. It is generally accepted that attempted removal must not cause any further damage to the item, in this case the staining has been removed, but there is now an equally unsightly hole.

Rectification: This type of underarm staining is not uncommon. Removal might be achieved via localised use of a warm solution of a non-chlorine, oxygen based bleach followed by flushing with water, drying and re-cleaning. DTC would advise that any intended treatment is trialled on an inconspicuous area to ensure no damage to the dyes or fabric itself will occur. Careful application and gentle tamping should avoid any damage to the fibres.

Melting moment as care label fails

Fault: After cleaning all the beading on the bodice of the dress had become severely melted and stuck together. Traces of glittery deposits could be seen across the skirt of the dress.

Cause: The plastic beads were not able to withstand the solvency power of perchloroethylene solvent, despite this being the solvent recommended by the label. During cleaning the beads have become softened and in some instances, have fallen apart, dropping onto other areas of the dress. The drying stage has then re-set the plastic resulting in the brittle deposits now seen across the dress. Laboratory testing of the bead in perchlroethylene solvent resulted in it becoming almost instantly tacky as can be seen in the photo here.

Responsibility: The responsibility here lies with the manufacturer. They must ensure that all aspects of a garment are drycleanable under the conditions recommended by the care label. 

Rectification: The fault cannot be rectified.