Case studies: Winter-proof Items
Stacey King of the Drycleaning Technology Centre (DTC) takes a look at a selection of problems with winter garments encountered by her investigators
Padding out your winter cleaning knowledge
Cold weather is inevitable in the UK. As the autumn sets in, the number of filled and padded jackets and duvets reaching the cleaner can rise as they’re brought out for a ‘freshen up’ before the winter months arrive. It is not uncommon for people to be discouraged from cleaning these type of items as there is a common misconception that they will almost certainly lose their loft, ‘puffiness’ or shape; however, with the correct cleaning these garments can be processed without any significant problems. In fact, to maintain the maximum loft of a down-filled item it is recommended that items be cleaned periodically but not excessively.
When faced with a padded item, the cleaner should always try to adhere to the garment’s care guidelines unless experience tells them that it is incorrect. Where contravening the label, this might leave you open to a claim if something goes wrong so always seek the owner’s permission and explain why you would like to process the garment differently. Potential issues that cleaning might cause can include swealing, limpness, shrinkage, deterioration of fur/leather trims, and so on. Cleaner knowledge and experience is paramount here.
Wetcleaning is recommended by several large retailers of padded items due to the greater flexibility of drying conditions which it allows compared with drycleaning. This can usually be carried out with very pleasing results provided that the item does not carry any trims, which might react badly to aqueous cleaning.
One of the most important steps when cleaning a padded item, which is essential to maintaining its longevity, is the drying process. Insufficient drying can lead to a flat appearance. Poor mechanical action during the drying stage can result in clumping of the padding resulting in a limp, lumpy appearance. These issues are typically rectifiable with re-cleaning and correct drying. Mottled marks on the inside lining, particular on down filled jackets, and swealing around seams is a common occurrence and is normally a result of incomplete drying.
Solvent evaporates very slowly from down and requires time to penetrate the outer fabrics. For this reason it is always best to perform drying at a low temperature for a longer period of time to ensure complete evaporation of the solvent. This will avoid it leaching out after cleaning and creating unsightly and marks which are difficult to remove.
With padded jackets in particular, due to their intended use during wet wintry weather, there is a tendency for the outer textile to have an inherently water resistant composition, such as polyester, nylon or similar, or to have a water repellent finish. These finishes can often be removed during cleaning if not compatible with the solvent; for example, silicone based coatings cannot withstand cleaning in siloxane. If removed, not only will the jacket no longer provide the protection it was intended to, there is the possibility of rain damage to any susceptible components. The reapplication of a suitable water repellent finish should be applied as part of the process on items of this nature.
Unhappy separation for perfect match
Fault: This gilet was cleaned separately from its detachable hood. When reunited, the two fabrics no longer matched in 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 removed the sheen and the matte finish of the underlying fabric was apparent.
Responsibility: There was no indication on the label that a DWR was present therefore the cleaner did not know to replenish it. The label advised that drycleaning and as such the manufacturer took the responsibility.
Rectification: Although DWR may be reapplied, 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 matched; the downside is that both items would then no longer be water repellent.
Strain is evident as padding protrudes
Fault: After cleaning, the owner complained that padding could now be seen protruding from the press studs at the cuffs.
Cause: A cleaner cannot produce such localised damage in a full submersion process. The material has been put under repeated strain from fastening/unfastening during wear. This has resulted in small holes where the padding has been worked through during the necessary mechanical action of the cleaning process.
Responsibility: The fault is a condition of use therefore the responsibility falls to the owner. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure an item is able to withstand reasonable wear. In that case, depending on the age of this garment, it might be possible to return the garment to the retailer.
Rectification: Mending is possible to avoid further protrusion of the padding. However the problem is likely to persist during further use as this is consider a standard point of failure. Strain is evident as padding protrudes
Dye is cast and cleaner gets the boot
Fault: This pair of boots, of a popular brand, was supplied for cleaning due to a slight oily stain on the right foot. After cleaning, the boot had lost a considerable amount of dye and now has an unsightly appearance.
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 not wholly colourfast. This makes them particularly susceptible to dye loss. The dye removal was consistent with the area that had been treated and the original stain was still visible.
Responsibility: Lies with the cleaner. The chemical used to spot-treat the boot should have been tested on an inconspicuous area prior to such heavy-handed use.
Rectification: None is possible.
Solvent mottles down-filled plumage
Fault: After drycleaning with perc the owner noticed that the lining had developed a patchy appearance.
Cause: The item is down filled; this type of garment is notorious for retaining solvent. Solvent is released so slowly from the down filled panels that the automatic sensor which measures the rate of solvent recovery from the drying air stream will wrongly detect that the garment is dry long before it is entirely free from solvent. When removed from the machine residual solvent will leach from the feathers into the exterior fabric leaving the unsightly marks seen here.
Responsibility: It is difficult to avoid this fault during drycleaning for the reasons stated above. Low extended drying can reduce the likelihood these marks occurring but, for health and safety reasons, it is not recommended that the cleaner override the automatic drying stage in a perc machine. For this reason it would be unfair to blame the cleaner provided they have used a low drying temperature.
Rectification: Experience suggests that repeated drycleaning does not remove the mottling seen in the photograph.
Polyurethane coating cannot stand up to perc
Fault: The coating on this jacket had been completely destroyed after a mild cycle in perc.
Cause: The jacket has a polyurethane coating, which is notorious for degrading in perc. In this instance, the perc has formed cracks in the coating which has subsequently delaminated the surface material resulting in the terrible appearance now seen.
Responsibility: The responsibility lies with the manufacturer as the care label states it is suitable for cleaning in perc. When dealing with polyurethane the age of the garment will often influence how much it will degrade in drycleaning.
Rectification: None is possible.
Too puffed up for to day-to-day use
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 items. The 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.
Relaxed stitching creates tension
Fault: This jacket was returned to the cleaner due to the wavy appearance of the zip and the puckering noted around seams.
Cause: Although the main fabric itself had not shrunk, puckering around the seams and waviness to the zip had occurred due to additional tension caused by relaxation of the cotton stitching used around the panels. It is the differential shrinkage of the stitching and the fabric, due to different relaxation potentials, which has resulted in the fault.
Responsibility: Drycleaning will almost always result in some shrinkage during the first few cleans due to the relaxation of any tension set into the fabric during manufacture; this is unavoidable by the cleaner. It is unusual for the stitching itself to relax more than the fabric. The fault is only mild suggesting any shrinkage which has occurred is not beyond that allowable by the relevant British and International Standard.
Rectification: None is possible. Relaxation of the main fabric during further cleans might lessen th