Profit by avoiding basic errors

A wedding dress service can be one of the drycleaner’s most profitable lines but many cleaners fail to maximise the potential of this for increasing revenue because of faults that leave the customer disappointed and angry.

By following some simple procedures, cleaners should be able to avoid some of the worst problems.

Potential wedding dress problems can start at counter reception when the dress looks relatively unmarked except for the hemline.

Cleaners that use an ultraviolet lamp at this point have the opportunity to highlight drink and food stains and determine the source.

The inspection should establish whether there could be hidden stains that need expert handling so that they do not darken during cleaning and become irremovable.

Hemline soiling will not come out in machine drycleaning (and sometimes not in washing either) unless it is correctly pre-treated.

This might involve pre-treatment detergent but to remove heavy mud and particulates a team of two will need to work with bar soap over a shower tray. If a silk garment with such staining is to be drycleaned, every particle of mud must be covered in bar soap and every trace of moisture allowed to dry off naturally overnight. Then there is a fighting chance that the drycleaning solvent will pull off the bar soap, bringing with it the mud particles.

It is not unusual for wedding dress pre-treatment to take well over an hour and even three hours is not unusual for a difficult garment or for extensive soiling. Once the garment is washed or drycleaned, the result will be as near to immaculate as is possible and the cleaner can charge a realistic price for the work involved.

Crack creasing on silk dress

Fault: When the staining on this dress fluoresced pink or yellow under ultraviolet light, the cleaner rightly decided that these were mainly sugars and food proteins. However the cleaner incorrectly decided to wash the dress. The result was severe crack creasing of the main fabric as seen here. After many hours, the cleaner agreed that the creasing was not going to come out in pressing.

Cause: This dress was labelled as being made from 100% silk, which usually displays irremovable crack creasing if washed. The correct technique would have been to remove each of the protein stains with a protein remover, then take out each of the sugar stains with water or steam, allow the garment to dry and then dryclean it.

Responsibility: The cleaner is to blame for the crack creasing.

Rectification: None is possible.

Pressing polyester problem

Fault: This polyester dress had unsightly hard creasing after it was finished by an enthusiastic presser.

Cause: Polyester is usually the cleaner’s friend, releasing stains readily and allowing washing or drycleaning. However, polyester is also thermoplastic so it melts and distorts with the application of heat and pressure.

If the iron is too warm or too much pressure is applied, this softens the yarns and creates creases of the type shown here.

Responsibility: The blame here lies with the presser. This fault can be easily avoided.

Rectification: The creases on this garment cannot be rectified. Use of hotter temperatures to re-soften the polyester usually causes glazing.

Beading becomes sticky

Fault: This beaded dress was labelled for drycleaning in perc solvent, but it came out with the lower beading intact and the upper beading soft and sticky.

Cause: The polystyrene beads in the lower section were coated to prevent them being attacked by the perc. This worked well although there was some attack around the thread holes, which were drilled after coating. Unfortunately, when the first batch of beads ran out, the maker switched to an uncoated batch with the result seen here.

Responsibility: The manufacturer should take the blame here. It is relatively simple to instigate a factory method for checking the coating and if this had been done, then the fault would have been avoided.

Rectification: None is possible. This garment should be returned to the retailer with clear advice from the cleaner.

Hemline soiling still visible

Fault: The cleaner brushed the hemline soiling shown here with pre-treatment detergent and then drycleaned it in perc, the strongest solvent available to the UK drycleaner. However, the mud and floor dirt remained and the cleaner could not remove this by post-treatment either.

Cause: The ingrained soiling needed thorough coating with enough concentrated detergent to coat every particle, so that the drycleaning solvent could flush it out. In this case the particles have lifted and then re-deposited onto the fabric, where they are now held by strong electrochemical forces that make further attempts at post-treatment fairly hopeless.

Responsibility: Although the responsibility for the hemline soiling lies with the wearer, the responsibility for the inadequate pre-treatment lies with the cleaner in this instance.

Rectification: None.

White cotton turned beige

Fault: This cotton dress went into the cleaning machine white and came out an ugly beige.

Cause: Moisture was left in the dress, either from pre-treatment or from the wedding day itself. This made the fabric attract every trace of particulate and dissolved soiling from the cleaning solvent. Here the change is so great that there must have been a second factor and dirty solvent is the most likely. A white wedding dress needs every bath to be pure distilled solvent. Working tank solvent for the first bath will not do if it carries this level of contamination.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the cleaner.

Rectification: It is still worth attempting to bring the dress back to white by skilful washing but the prospects are not good.

Glass beads need protection

Fault: Some of the heavy glass beads on this dress were chipped or fell off altogether during cleaning.

Cause: Glass beads need surface protection. Turning the dress inside out can work, unless there is beading on the front and the back. If this is the case, the beads will strike each other and cause more damage. Then basting layers of cotton cloth over the beading is the only solution. Disappearing beads are rarely found by looking in the button trap. They can be caught by cleaning the garment in a duvet cover, so that every one which comes off can at least be recovered.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for protecting the beads from chipping against the metal cage or against each other. The maker is responsible for making sure the beading is attached securely enough to withstand drycleaning, if it is labelled for drycleaning.

Rectification: If new glass beads are available a good seamstress should be able to rectify this. garment.