At a time when so many textile care businesses are just beginning to think that maybe, as lockdown eases, they might have a chance to rebuild their businesses, it was a punch to the gut to hear a radio programme announce that people need never use a drycleaner again and that proven wash processes – like using detergent – are unnecessary. LCN approached Ken Cupitt of the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers for his opinion and to clarify points made by The Laundry Guy.
KEN CUPITT, GUILD OF CLEANERS AND LAUNDERERS, pictured, said: “Our advice, from the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, is to take it to the professional because washing is not just about taking out the stain and soil but is also about restoring the finish afterwards, and here the drycleaner can do this because they have the equipment, knowledge, and skill to get it right.
Cupitt writes: “On 12 April BBC Radio 4 ran its daily ‘You and Yours’ consumer slot with presenter Winifred Robinson in which she announced that listeners need never have their clothes drycleaned again and introduced The Laundry Guy, Patric Richardson from Minnesota, USA, who we learned has a regular broadcast channel on the American Discovery Channel and who also claims to be a textile expert.
“His laundry expertise, he claims, he learned from his grandmother and over the next few minutes said that listeners did not need many different laundry products and should only use a limited amount of soap flakes for washing, and white vinegar, mixed with water, for stain removal, as well as oxygen bleach for some other stains.
“His analogy was that sheep stay out in the rain therefore all our wool garments can be washed. He started by saying that everything could be soaked in hot water (but did not define the temperature of what is hot). He also stated that garment care labels were not important guides to laundry care, but he never repeated, in the time he was on air, the reporter’s introduction that clothes never need to be drycleaned again. He also never mentioned the damage likely to knitted wool garments either in washing or drying.
“Professional cleaners know that there is a difference between soap and detergent, even though we all sometimes refer to the wash products under the common term of soap. Soap flakes, or bar soap, have a lower pH than a synthetic detergent, therefore is more suitable for washing wool because wool is damaged by alkali (higher pH detergent) but wool is also susceptible to shrinkage damage in hot water, which can be defined as water that is too hot to put your hand in. And this is where a drycleaner does have the expertise to understand and therefore uses the appropriate product and process for the textile.
“Patric Richardson never mentioned the benefit of an alkali to remove and suspend heavy soiling in a wash process on non-wool textiles, therefore, perhaps, in his world experience clothing is only ever lightly soiled.
“He was, however, right in his comments about fabric softeners and how they can stop items, especially towels, from absorbing moisture, but prescribing the use of oxygen bleach without advising prior testing on an unexposed inner seam area was not sensible advice. That again is where a professional dry cleaner does have the knowledge and expertise to understand but his advice on a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water can be beneficial in the removal of some stains but sadly he was not asked to explain when and how to carry this out.
“He also spoke about wash programmes being too long but did not explain that the actual wash sequence was already short but time was needed to heat the water in the machine and it takes time to drain, rinse and spin dry to complete the full cycle. He also failed to mention that using less soap/detergent on heavily soiled items runs the risk of greying because we need sufficient soap/detergent to hold the soil we have just washed off the clothes, in suspension in the wash water, which is also the function of the soap/detergent.
“Patric Richardson also failed to mention that proprietary wash products, our soap and detergent, also contain products to soften the water that we use in the wash and that these are there so that the mineral deposits, contained in all water, will not leave a residue if these products are not built in.
“There was much talk about putting wool and cashmere coats into washing machines which is not a good idea if you want to get a longer life out of these valuable items. Coats are structured garments made up with other fabrics sewn into the shoulders. lapels and facing and it is these components that do not withstand normal washing machine processes. In the few minutes of the interview there was much talk of residual chemicals affecting the handle of fabrics, especially from detergents, but common soap can also leave a residue, which can also build up over repeated washing, but we never heard that on the programme.
“Our advice, from the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, is to take it to the professional because washing is not just about taking out the stain and soil but is also about restoring the finish afterwards, and here the drycleaner can do this because they have the equipment, knowledge, and skill to get it right.
“The programme presenter, Winnifred Robinson, did mention having washed a much-loved garment and it came out having lost all its previous lustre, but Patric Richardson blamed the over use of wash product. A professional cleaner would have processed this correctly and the item would have been fit to wear again.”
If readers haven’t heard the segment here is the link to the recording of ‘You and Yours’ on BBC Sounds and contact details for your comments.
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