While the six “Styles of The Season” spotlighted in American Drycleaner and at AmericanDrycleaner.com will pose problems in the weeks and months ahead, there’s another recurring look that drycleaners dread: Sparkle.
Even this year’s moody color palette of deep blues, browns and blacks shimmers, thanks to metallic threads, sequins, crystals and mirrors. In other words, whatever designers can use to get garments to shine, they will — and that’s part of the problem. Every metallic thread or sparkly detail presents a worst-case scenario for which the drycleaner must be prepared.
“There’s a big problem with metallics,” says Alan Spielvogel, garment analyst at the National Cleaners Association (NCA), offering a laundry list of issues. “They can distort or shrink. Metal fibers are heat-sensitive. They have low abrasion resistance and stain easily. Chloride salts from perspiration can cause acid damage.”
At the spotting board, never use rust removers on a metallic fiber. Made to rid fabrics of metal oxides, they will “tarnish the metal immediately,” says Joseph Hallak Jr., vice president of Hallak Cleaners in New York, N.Y.
Improperly handled, metallic fibers can affect the garment’s look. “Metallic threads are prone to crimping,” which makes the base fabric bunch up, says Chris Allsbrooks, a trainer for Greenbelt, Md.-based ZIPS Franchising. “Be prepared for your customer to say that the fabric isn’t flat anymore.” And there’s no fixing the problem once the damage is done. “Once you bend metal, you can’t straighten it out,” Hallak says. “You can’t press metal flat.”
Worse still, metallics can actually shred the garment. “A lot of metallics are actually a piece of wire, and the wire is often stronger than the other fabric,” Spielvogel says. “It can cut the through the fabric like a cheese cutter.”
Other sparkly accents have plagued drycleaners with problems for as long as they remember. With sequins, “we have the same old problem — is the color going to stay on or not?” Hallak says. “I hate to say that it’s a crapshoot, but test the sequins to make sure.”
Other embellishments offer whole sets of issues, Hallak says. Crystals might be made of glass or plastic — if they’re glass, try to prevent breakage and snagging; if they’re plastic, test them to make sure they won’t melt in solvent. Mirrors, too, should be tested to ensure that the silver backing won’t come off in the load.
Most garments decorated with sequins and crystals will have enough of them to make testing simple. “You can almost always steal one from the garment,” Hallak says. “Have a seamstress take a sequin or a crystal off, and run it through a load with the solvent you plan to use.”
Whatever makes the garment sparkle, the experts say, follow a cautious strategy. “Do more work on the spotting board and use short cycles,” Hallak says. “Use your solvent process strictly as a rinsing agent for these garments. Rinse them for a minute, and dry them out.”
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