Winter wear worries

Winter woollies are a staple wardrobe item. Along with padded jackets and warm bedspreads these items will inevitably land at the drycleaner’s door after the winter period has passed.

With padding comes problems. Down-filled items can be particularly tricky when encased in a non-permeable textile such as nylon, or similar. These items need to be dried at a low temperature over a longer period to ensure that the filling is properly dry. This will prevent solvent leeching through the fabric at a later date leaving an unsightly mottled appearance across the quilted surface. This is not the only problem posed by padded garments, they can be particularly susceptible to abrasion which can manifest as unattractive white discolouration along seams and other areas of high wear. Any jackets which are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish can suffer shade change or loss of sheen if the DWR is removed. Care should be taken to check the fastness of the finish if using an alternative solvent which is not covered by the care recommendations as this could be the difference between the blame resting with the cleaner as opposed to the manufacturer.

High tog duvets with synthetic fillings are ever more popular for the winter months. The sheer size and weight of these duvets can pose challenges for cleaners if not processed in a suitably sized machine. Overloading can result in overheating and possible melting of the synthetic filling. This will affect the overall aesthetic of the duvet, resulting in a lumpy, plastic-like finish.

Other items include fur coats, winter boots and scarves. When cleaning anything of animal origin it is sensible to ask the customer to sign a disclaimer outlining the risks associated with this. Any inherent flaws in the pelt or directional patterns of growth may revealed during cleaning. Dyes are typically not wholly colourfast therefore localised treatment of stains can be very challenging. Woolly items in particular can hold a lot of moisture from the atmosphere and should be aired prior to cleaning.

This article looks at a selection of winter items sent to the DTC for analysis.


Unmatched disaster

Fault:  This gilet was cleaned separately from its detachable hood. When reunited, the two fabrics no longer matched in their appearance. The body which had been cleaned now appeared dull.

Cause:  The gilet had a durable water repellent (DWR) finish which was soluble in drycleaning solvent. The DWR was responsible for the sheen, which was present on the garment. When this was removed, the matte finish of the underlying fabric was apparent.

Responsibility:  Because there was no indication on the label that a DWR was present, the cleaner did not know to replenish this. The label advised that drycleaning was recommended and as such the manufacturer took the responsibility.

Rectification:  A DWR may be reapplied, however, this is not guaranteed to restore the finish to its original sheen. Drycleaning the hood would ensure that both the body of the gilet and the hood match but both items would then no longer be water repellent.


Hole in one

Fault:  When returned to the customer they pointed out a hole to the outer layer of this padded jacket.

Cause:  Examination under magnification revealed that the edges of the hole were melted indicating that the damage had been caused by a hot object. The hole was singular and was reasonably small therefore unlikely to have occurred due to a hot-spot in the drycleaning machine or during finishing.

Responsibility:  Lies with the wearer, although it was not noticed at counter inspection it does not seem feasible that such a small localised hole which has been caused by heat has stemmed from conditions of cleaning, it was much more likely to be a cigarette burn.

Rectification:  None is possible.


Melting point

Fault:  Large areas of a plastic like substance became visible on this duvet. This made the outer shell noticeably discoloured with a hard coating sporadically across the surface.

Cause:  The duvet was filled with polyester hollowfibre, which has melted during tumble drying of the duvet. The melted hollowfibre has bonded to the outer fabric leaving a plastic like coating on the inside of the cotton shell. Polyester has a relatively high melting point and would only melt in this manner if the drier had been overloaded or the load over dried. This would quickly allow for heat to build up.

Responsibility: This lies with the cleaner on this occasion. Care guidelines on the duvet were satisfactory.

Rectification: None is possible.


Sugary residue not so sweet

Fault:  The owner of this bedspread was displeased with its appearance after cleaning due to a large array of stains now scattered across the fabric.

Cause:  The stains were an orange/brown in colour and when viewed under ultraviolet light they were found to fluoresce to a lemon yellow. This type of fluorescence is typically caused by sugary contaminant but can also be caused by bodily fluids and certain types of bacteria. During tumble drying, stains which are not present prior to cleaning can often develop due to oxidation of any residues which remain on the fabric.

Responsibility: Drycleaning detergents and spot-treatments do not contain any sugars or similar which could cause staining of this type. The original contaminant must have been introduced in use, where the original stain is not present prior to cleaning a cleaner would not know to pre-treat this area and, as such, cannot be held accountable for the development of any discolouration. The responsibility lies with the user.

Rectification: Post-treatment of the stains could successfully remove some of the discolouration. This may be a challenge if the owner cannot confirm the nature of the stain.


Damaged fibres flush free

Fault: A black padded jacket was removed from the drycleaning machine with significant areas of white discolouration, predominantly along the seams.

Cause: This is a common issue with highly padded item. This sheer amount of padding within the garment results in rubbing of the outer fabric against itself. When drycleaned, any damaged fibres are flushed free resulting in white discolouration. This is easily recognisable when viewed under magnification as the abraded fibres can be seen gathered in the weave.

Responsibility: Lies with the manufacturer provided the garment is within its life expectancy. The item cannot withstand typical wear and tear.

Rectification: None is possible.


Bedspread becomes untucked

Fault: A series of holes manifest on this velveteen bedspread after cleaning.

Cause: After inspection it became clear that the holes were situated in areas where the bedspread had been constructed in a pin-tuck style. The pin-tuck design had resulted in increased tension in these areas; when exposed to a mechanical process the additional tension has resulted in tears.

Responsibility: The bedspread was labelled for a non-restricted drycleaning process. The blame is therefore with the manufacturer, as the item was not deemed able to withstand the process advised by their guidelines.

Rectification: Although the bedspread could be re-stitched, the fault is likely to recur in further cleans. It is likely that any mending carried out would be visible to some degree.


Lost colour on stained boot

Fault: This pair of boots was supplied for cleaning due to a slight stain on the right foot. After cleaning, the boot had lost a considerable amount of dye.

Cause: The boot had been heavily treated to remove the stain. Leathers and suedes are very sensitive to this type of treatment as dyes on animal skins are particularly susceptible to removal. The dye removal was consistent with the area that had been treated and the original stain was still visible.

Responsibility: Lies with the cleaner.

Rectification: None is possible.