CHICAGO — I usually devote my time to explaining what should be done in order to achieve effective stain removal. This month’s column is devoted to spotting don’ts — the no-nos I see and the results I am asked to correct. Some may seem like no-brainers, but they happen every day in plants across the country.
SHIRTS ARE LAUNDERED; A SILK WEDDING DRESS IS NOT
I couldn’t believe my eyes when another cleaner opened a bag at my counter. What was once a lovely “candlelight” silk wedding dress in a satin weave was now a mess of limp, chafed cloth. The cleaner explained that since the dress arrived extremely soiled, he decided to “wetclean” it, thinking that any water process qualifies as wetcleaning.
Silk should never be laundered. It is a protein fiber, and it gets very weak when exposed to water. Silk does not react well to alkalis. When you combine a relatively high water temperature, the high alkaline content of laundry chemicals, and high levels of mechanical action, the outcome is not good.
The term “wetcleaning” is reserved for items that bear a care label that limits approved processing to drycleaning. When you immerse a “Dryclean only” garment in water (without a release), you assume all of the risk. If anything goes wrong and the customer forces the issue, you will pay.
Do not go against care-label instructions unless you’re sure of the results you’ll produce. The wedding dress was new. The bill of sale was located easily in the receipts for the wedding. The customer was insistent. And the magistrate passed the case to a district court because of the high monetary damages.
CHLORINE BLEACH SHOULD NOT BE USED ON PROTEIN FIBERS AND FABRICS
In fact, avoid the use of all bleaches on protein fibers. Chlorine bleach causes chemical burns on protein fibers, which can’t be corrected. Protein fabrics include silk, wool, cashmere, angora and camel’s hair. Any garment that contains one or more of the above fibers is a protein-fiber garment.
DO NOT CLEAN A GARMENT WITH AN UNPROTECTED TRIM
If the trim catches your attention (which it is intended to do), test it to ensure it can withstand the intended cleaning process. Also test the solvent on fake leathers and suedes.
Cover ornamental buttons with foil. On outerwear, pin the button flaps over to protect the buttons. If you choose to wetclean a gown or cocktail dress with a beaded bodice, place the bodice inside a pillowcase and tie it with a cotton cord.
NEVER TOUCH THE GARMENT WITH THE STEAM GUN
The pressure at the nose of the gun can cause yarn slippage, even in a twill. Some spotters habitually use the nose of the steam gun to apply mechanical action; make sure it is about four inches above the garment and use the bone or brush to apply mechanical action instead. The four-inch rule also applies to drying the area with air.
DON’T WALK AWAY FROM A WET-SIDE SPOTTER
The moisture in a wet-side spotter can easily cause the garment’s dye to migrate or lighten. The pH of a tannin or protein formula will eventually affect the color of most garments. Flush any wet-side spotter from the garment quickly. If you choose to let a wet-side spotter soften a stain, flush the area with steam and dry it.
DON’T USE A POG ON A STAMP PRINT OR A FLOCKED DESIGN
You can identify a stamp print by looking at the backside of the fabric. The surface side will have a vivid design painted on it, but the backside will show little. Use of a paint remover will remove the painted-on design along with the stain.
A flocked design has a distinct texture (usually “velvet”) on the front side of the garment, but none on the backside. This design is glued-on; using POG will soften or remove the glue, causing damage to the surface design or its complete loss.
When it comes to stain removal, knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what can be done.