Case Studies – Rectifying faults

28 January 2019

It is inevitable that sometimes things can and will go wrong. Stacey King of DTC examines a few rectification processes

A cautionary Christmas tale

No matter who is to blame for the failure of a garment during cleaning, making the decision whether or not to attempt to rectify the damage incurred can often be a difficult one. Where the Consumer Rights Act 2015 advises that a repeat performance might be required, and it is the cleaners right to offer this, this does not apply in all circumstances – for example, if the damage cannot be successfully rectified or where rectification might result in further damage to the garment. When offering rectification, this is typically considered to be a new contract and can leave the cleaner open to liability even when the original fault was not the cleaner’s.

Offering rectification should not be taken lightly. Where the fault is one related to the manufacture of the garment then the cleaner should offer their customer a choice. Either the cleaner can attempt to rectify the damage at no extra charge but with no promise of success or the customer can return the item to the place of purchase and request a refund or replacement. The feasibility of rectifying the fault should be carefully considered and the customer should be advised on the likelihood of success and any risks associated with the planned remedial process. The customer should be advised that, if rectification is not successful, returning the item to the retailer might no longer be an option if the planned remedial process destroys any evidence, which proves that the manufacture of the garment was responsible for the original fault. This should all be done in writing and a signature should be obtained on a disclaimer outlining any relevant risks.

When a rectification arrangement has been agreed, the cleaner should use extreme care to ensure that no further damage is incurred. Rectification might require non-conventional cleaning techniques but these should only be used if the cleaner is familiar and comfortable to do so. Where any rectification contravenes any care labelling within the garment, this should also be explained to the customer prior to any cleaning attempts. Their permissions should be recorded in a formal manner where possible.


Abrasion scratches out garment’s sheen

Fault: This shirt lost colour overall during cleaning. The seams have whitened and the customer reported a loss of sheen.

Cause: All clothing endures abrasion in wear. This damage is not immediately visible but, in ensuing washes, the broken fibres are removed and whitening becomes evident. The textile finish applied by the fabric maker is also progressively removed, eventually making the fabric look duller. The overall result is that seen here.

Responsibility: The manufacturer is ultimately responsible because these changes are features of the fabric in multiple wears and laundering and not symptoms of incompetent washing or finishing. On this occasion, the fabric has worn out with age and no claim is viable.

Rectification: Reprocessing with a high dose of textile conditioner in the last rinse will form a replacement finish on the fabric. This then needs to be finished from damp by hot-head pressing, or by using a shirt finishing machine, to bring out the sheen and to enhance the remaining colour. This will not put colour back but it will enhance what is left everywhere else. This type of rectification is worth doing because the improvement will be substantial. No rectification should be carried out until the customer accepts that this is a gesture of goodwill and not as an admission of any liability.


Breaking up is hard to do

Fault: The fibres of this faux-fur blanket shrank and broke up in the tumble dryer after washing, giving the throw a very harsh handle.

Cause: The combustion characteristics of the fibres, which make up the outer layer of the blanket indicate that they are made of mod-acrylic. Mod-acrylic is inherently sensitive to heat. The fibres became damaged during tumble drying because the inlet air temperature was too high. The blanket is labelled as “do not tumble dry” and would probably requiring hanging to drip dry. This would not take very long as mod-acrylic does not hold very much water.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible on this occasion. The drying did not comply with the care label and the cleaner should have recognised that the article was a faux-fur, which is notoriously heat sensitive.

Rectification: None should be attempted. The danger of doing more damage is far greater than any hope of improving the appearance.


Hot chocolate leaves cleaner in a hole

Fault: A hole has emerged in an area where chocolate was known to be present on this coat prior to cleaning.

Cause: When viewed under strong magnification, the crystalline residual of the dried on chocolate can be seen. Around the hole, the fibres have melted and a combination of melted polyester fibres and caramelised sugar can be seen. The stain had been treated on a spotting table multiple times in an attempt to remove the chocolate.

Excessive heat from the steam gun has allowed the sugars to caramelise and melt the fabric in a very localised area.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible here. The stain removal technique used was not appropriate.

Rectification: No rectification is possible.


Silk dress comes under stress

Fault: This silk dress came out of the drycleaning machine with patterns of tiny slits in the front of the hips and shoulder area near to the underarm.

Cause: Examination under magnification reveals that the slits have been caused where the weave has moved and is now allowing light to pass through the gaps that have been left behind. The yarns have moved slightly out of line creating the unsightly areas of damage. In these particular locations, they indicate stress in normal wear (such as where the fabric will pull on a tight fitting garment).

Responsibility: The blame here ultimately lies with the wearer; the fault has stemmed from conditions of use.

Rectification: In theory, the distorted weave could be pushed back into position by a skilled repairer but in practice this would be fruitless. The fault will recur in any subsequent cycles of wears and cleans.


The trouble with toggles

Fault: A loose toggle has allowed for the cord to unravel during the tumbling action of the drycleaning process.

Cause: The toggle at the terminal end of this drawstring has worked free. It is difficult to determine if this is due to conditions of wear or if the initial construction was lacking but the other toggles on the jacket appear to remain well attached. The inner fibres are partially exposed and become susceptible to unravelling, leaving the frayed appearance seen.

Responsibility: The toggle may have been poorly attached during initial construction or perhaps snagged or repeatedly pulled during wear. As the other toggle appears well attached, this might suggest that the loose toggle has not been glued quite as effectively. Either way, the fault has not occurred due to cleaner negligence.

Rectification: The toggle could be removed and the frayed end cut to neaten the drawstring. The toggle could then be re-adhered to the end of the neatly cut end of the drawstring. The string on the opposite side might require the same treatment to ensure there is no discrepancy in length. It should be made clear that this would be a gesture of good will and the customer should be given the opportunity to return the jacket to the retailer if they believe that the manufacturer is to blame.


Sequins take on colourless appearance

Fault: This heavily sequinned dress lost significant amounts of colour during drycleaning.

Cause: The dress was labelled with a P. However, when tested, the coloured coating used on the sequins was found
to be soluble in perchloroethylene and rubbed off.

Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the manufacturer, as the dress cannot withstand the recommended care process.

Rectification: A skilled repairer could probably colour match and replace the damaged sequins. However, the dress will not stand up to further cleaning and the customer has very good cause to take the dress back to the retailer.

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