WHAT WENT WRONG How to avoid chemical damage

Chemical damage to textiles is very hard to recover from so getting it right at the very beginning of the process is key to success. LCN’s experts Richard Neale and Roger Cawood share their expertise with drycleaners and wetcleaners


ou do not need to have a degree in chemistry to be a successful cleaner, but you certainly need to have your wits about you to avoid unnecessary claims. This month we look at some of the common problems with unexpected chemical reactions and some simple tips which minimise the risks of spoiling an

‘Like a faded limp dish rag!’

Fault: After this grey silk dress was drycleaned in perchloroethylene solvent, the fabric had lost its sheen, it looked faded and washed out and the handle resembled that of, in the customer’s own words, ‘a limp dish rag’. Technical cause: The power of perchloroethylene has been sufficient to strip the yarn oils off the silk so that it has lost its sheen and resilient ‘scrunchy’ handle. It looks and feels thin and faded, even though it has probably lost little, if any, colour. Responsibility: This is often an inevitable feature of this fabric when it is drycleaned in perchloroethylene. It is labelled with P in a circle with a line underneath

 so the

cleaner was quite right to assume it could be drycleaned in perchloroethylene. The key precautions for silk implied by the line under the symbol are reduced moisture and reduced mechanical action, so cleaning on a short, high dip cycle will minimise the risk. However, the effects can be progressive, leaving garments looking and feeling dry, limp and faded. Using a detergent incorporating a softening agent may help to counter this.  Irrespective of the care label the garment would probably have cleaned well in hydrocarbon or cyclosiloxane solvent. To improve the result in perc, include a little suede oil in a distilled rinse followed by a short spin – tumble for 30

Sensitive dye makes stain removal impossible

Fault: Application of a tannin remover took out the colour immediately from this tan jacket when the cleaner attempted to pre- treat a heavy beer stain (without having tested a hidden area first). Addition of a few

drops of protein remover did not reverse the colour change. Technical cause: Tannin removers are designed to de-colour vegetable dyes by mild chemical oxidation, which works well with beer, red wine, tea, coffee and beetroot. However, if the dyes used by the maker are not resistant to this pre- treatment, then the tannin remover can decolour these as well, ruining the garment. Unfortunately, there are many garment ranges in circulation at present which are at risk, especially those made from lightweight cotton, viscose or linen blends. Responsibility: It is solely the cleaner’s

20 LCN | June 2021

responsibility to ensure that the chemicals that are used to remove a stain are safe in terms of both the fabric and the dye/ colour. Textile manufactures cannot be expected to rigorously test for dye fastness and fabric safety against the multiplicity of spotting chemicals used throughout the cleaning industry.  Sometimes, (with dark navy and dark shades in particular) it is possible to re-colour the damaged area using textile felt pens. However, the size of the damage seen here on a light colour makes success most unlikely. The chances are the garment is ruined.

expensive garment. A cleaner encounters many different types of chemical every day, as staining on the item itself, in the stain treatments, in the cleaning fluid and in the detergents used. The problems described occur every day in retail cleaning units and the degree of damage caused varies with the skill and foresight of the cleaning team. ■

 If you have problems you would like the authors to examine please send with a good quality, high resolution (300dpi/1MB at least) pic of the item to kathy.bowry@

seconds before turning on the fan. The optimum dosage of suede oil is about one third of the manufacturer’s recommended dosage for a suede. Silk re-oiling products are available for application from an aqueous bath.

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