Know your fabrics

Wetcleaning or laundering is often the best way to remove the splashes, stains and even make-up marks that can be found on a wedding dress after the event.
While drycleaning is superb for dissolving oily stains and city grime, water-based methods are needed for removing food and drink marks.
However, wetcleaning or laundering does not suit all fabrics.
Most mid-priced wedding dresses are made from polyester with some nylon components and they often have a cotton interlining on the bodice.
These dresses are often better washed or wetcleaned, regardless of the label, but using the correct detergent is essential. To avoid greying of cream, ivory or pastel dresses, use a detergent that is free of optical brighteners.
Cleaners should be prepared to re-set any cotton parts that may have shrunk, before they return the dress to the customer.
Silk dresses should usually be drycleaned to avoid crack creasing and any associated shrinkage.
To find out whether a fabric is silk or polyester remove a thread from a seam or edge. Grip it with tweezers and bring it slowly into a gas lighter flame. This test should be done over an ash tray. Keep well away from the flame and watch out for hot drips from molten polyester.
The silk yarn will burn in spurts with an orange flame, give off white smoke, produce black ash and leave an after-smell like that of burning hair. The polyester yarn will retreat from the flame, then burn with a fierce orange flame and black smoke, leaving a sickly sweet after smell.
The two yarns react so differently that, after a few practice tests on old stock, cleaners will soon be able to tell them apart, even if the fabrics have been very skillfully woven or spun.

Cream lace turns grey
This rich cream lace overlay looked grey after cleaning. Comparing it with the uncleaned veil made the change clear.
Cause: A cream wedding dress must be cleaned in pure distilled solvent for both baths. This cleaner had used working tank solvent, which may well have contained a little loose dye from the previous dark load.
Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for the solvent used for a cream or white garment. Choosing a better cycle could have avoided the problem.
Rectification: Re-cleaning brought very little improvement.

OBA detergent leads to break marks on silk
The cleaner washed this deep cream silk dress on a 30C process with a gentle action. This removed all soiling and reduced stains to a satisfactory level but whitish lines had now appeared. They were not visible before cleaning and did not usually result from this tried and tested wash process.
Cause: The problem here is that the cleaner used a "whites" detergent with optical brightening agents(OBAs) on silk, which is a natural fibre. The dress will fold and unfold during the wash so OBA collects in the crease lines, creating the whitish lines and patches that are obvious after cleaning. Disco lighting makes the fault look worse as its ultraviolet content reacts with the OBA.
Responsibility: If the cleaner had used a neutral OBA-free detergent, the result would probably have been acceptable as the process was so gentle that it did not crack the silk.
Rectification: None.

Yellowing spoils the result
An ivory-coloured dress looked yellow after cleaning particularly compared with a sample of the original cloth.
Cause: The cleaner used a mild solvent with a drying temperature of 60C air-off-the cage and the program had been used many times before. This time, although the solvent looked clear it had traces of protein soiling from processing work with heavy perspiration staining. These protein traces have yellowed with the heat that was necessary for drying.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible as only distilled solvent should be used for wedding dresses.
Rectification: Oxidised protein soiling is almost impossible to remove, either by re-washing or by re-cleaning.

Shrinkage varies from layer to layer
This layered dress was drycleaned and pressed carefully but each layer’s hemline hung to a different level. The hemlines were also uneven so the bottom of the dress looked a real mess.
Cause: All fabrics relax in drycleaning and British Standards explain how garment makers can check the shrinkage potential of new ranges. Dress layers rarely relax to the same degree so the cleaner needs to try to make the levels uniform as far as is possible.
Responsibility: The garment maker is responsible for relaxation shrinkage and matching the potential of the layers. The cleaner is generally responsible for trying to even out variations during pressing.
Rectification: Suspend the dress from a chain or hook above the finishing table so it can be rotated, raised or lowered. Then re-set the layers to size and length with skilful use of steam, tension and vacuum. The technique is the same as that for removing puckering from armhole seams or from collar folds.

Fabric looks speckled after cleaning

Fault: The cleaner gave this silk dress a gentle wash but afterwards the fabric looked speckled, particularly under certain lights.
Cause: The powder detergent has not been dispersed fully before the dress entered the wash. The process was so gentle that the chemicals have affected the fabric before the wash action could complete the dispersion. The main problem has been the OBA in the powder, even though the very small amount would not normally have caused any problems.
Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for ensuring that powder detergents are completely dispersed before garments enter the wash.
Rectification: None. The OBA speckles have bonded permanently to the fabric.

Hemline soiling needs pre-treatment
Apart from hemline soiling, this dress looked relatively clean and unstained. So the cleaner started by drycleaning it to see how much soiling this process would remove before he treated the hem. He then found that he could only remove about 50% of the hemline’s residual soiling and this did not satisfy the customer.
Cause: Hemline soiling must be pre-treated correctly. If this is not done, then although the machine process will lift the worst of the soiling, the electromechanical forces in the fabric will attract moist of this soiling so that it re-deposits locally. The bond between the fabric and soiling re-deposited in this way is very strong and will not be broken by post treatment.
Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for the residual soiling being much worse than it need have been.

Rectification: The result cannot be improved now.

Bin liner carrier melts and marks fabric
This wedding dress was brought into the shop in a black bin liner but when the garment was removed just before cleaning, the liner was found to be slightly damaged. The cleaner processed the dress in perc in the normal way but after cleaning the dress had black marks which proved impossible to remove by post-spotting, even though it was a white garment.
Cause: Examining the dress under strong magnification showed that the marks were bits of black polythene, much of which had melted into the weave structure. Post spotting will not remove this kind of damage. The bin bag had been stored in contact with a metal surface at more than 140C, which had caused the plastic to melt.
Responsibility: If the dress was examined on receipt and no black marks could be seen at the time, the cleaner is likely to have been responsible for the bag melting and the resultant damage to the dress. The bag has probably been stored near a hot steam pipe.
Rectification: The staining has penetrated too deeply into the yarns for the fault to be corrected.

CREAM LACE TURNS GREY: This rich cream lace overlay looked grey after cleaning. Comparing it with the uncleaned veil made the change clear