Dry Cleaning FAQ

Dry cleaning is the use of solvents to remove soil and stains from fabric. It is called “dry cleaning” because the solvents contain little or no water and do not penetrate the fibers as water does. Dry cleaning solvent is not harmful to any fabric, and dry cleaning is the only safe method for cleaning many types of garments.

Natural fibers such as wools and silks will shrink and perhaps loose their color when washed in water, but will dry clean beautifully. Cottons and linens, unless they are preshrunk in manufacture, will also shrink in home laundering. Drycleaning is particularly effective in removing greasy, oily stains from synthetic fibers, which have an affinity for oils.

But the professional dry cleaner provides more than just dry cleaning. This service also includes professional removal of problem stains that will not come out with simple dry cleaning. It also includes professional pressing, careful packaging, and inspection at every step along the way to make sure that all stains have been attended to and the item has been properly pressed and finished.

Dry cleaning can extend the life of your wardrobe, and your knowledge about dry cleaning can bring you more value for your clothing dollar. Dry cleaning does NOT reduce the life of your clothing.

Buying new clothes is often an exciting event, related to special events, holidays, and great expectations. But it is also the time to think about the serviceability and cleaning requirements of the garment.

Before you buy, read the care label attached to the garment and any hang tag or care instructions on garment packaging, The Federal Trade Commission requires apparel manufacturers to attach permanent labels to garments supplying instructions for dry cleaning or laundering. Look for this label when you are considering a purchase. The care necessary to keep a garment clean and attractive may be important in deciding whether to buy it in the first place.

Great technological advances have been made in both the improvement of natural fibers and the creation and development of synthetic fibers. Special finishes impart body, permanent press qualities, water repellency, and other qualities to fabrics. Fibers are blended to obtain fabrics with the best qualities of both natural and synthetic materials. But there is much you should know about the peculiarities of various fabrics and constructions.

– Many beautiful fibers may lack durability and should be purchased only with this understanding. These include cashmere, camel’s hair, and mohair. Angora, another luxury fiber, can shrink excessively even with the most careful care in cleaning.

– Lightweight and loosely woven wools, gauzes, and loosely knit sweaters have a tendency to snag easily or become distorted in wear and cleaning.

– Suede and smooth leathers have a high incidence of color difficulties. Genuine suede and leather items require special processing to preserve their finish, feel, and color. These garments should only be handled by cleaners equipped for this specialized job.

– Imitation suede and leather may become stiff or peel in dry cleaning. These items are often accepted for cleaning only at owners risk.

– Suede-like materials and other materials with a flocked finish may develop bare spots in wear and cleaning. The life expectancy for these garments is generally rather short.

– Many tailored garments contain interfacings in the collar and lapel that are fused rather than stitched to the shell fabric. In some cases, blisters and wrinkles develop when these items are dry cleaned. This is the fault of the manufacturer.

– Some poorly constructed bonded fabrics may separate from the face fabric or lining, or there may be shrinkage, puckering, stiffening, or adhesive staining.

– Acrylic knits are inclined to stretch when wet or when exposed to steam in finishing after dry cleaning.

– Some dyes and pigment prints may fade in dry cleaning solvents. Others are water soluble and may fade when exposed to water in spot removal.

It is impossible to determine simply by looking at the fabric whether the color will withstand exposure to sunlight, water, dry cleaning solvent or various spot removal agents or chemicals. Reading labels and tags may give you some information. Some blue jeans and other denim items are labeled “guaranteed to fade,” for or example.

Colors are applied either as dyes, which are absorbed into the fibers or as pigments, which adhere to the fabric surface. Usually, both are reasonably colorfast. Some colors, however, are totally unserviceable, not fast in either water or dry cleaning solvent. And some colors “crock,” or rub off on the skin or other fabrics.

Some dyes are called ‘fugitive” dyes, because they will run, rub off, or bleed onto other fabrics. Pigment prints and metallic prints are held to the fabric with an adhesive and may wear off over time, from wear as well as cleaning.

Some dyes fade on exposure to strong light, especially sunlight, but sometimes strong artificial light as well. Some dyes change color on exposure to combustion gasses present in the air, This is called “fume fading,” and is especially common in acetate fabrics.

In addition to fabric and color, you must also be concerned with how buttons, beads, sequins, and other decorations and fasteners will hold up to dry cleaning.

Most troublesome in this respect are buttons and beads made of polystyrene, which softens or melts on exposure to dry cleaning solvent.

Beads and sequins may be covered with a thin coating of color, which may come off during wear or cleaning. Beads or sequins may be merely glued on and come off during wear or in cleaning. Trim that is sewn on with a single continuous thread may all come off if the thread is broken. Belts or other items that contain cardboard stiffeners or glues will require special attention.

According Federal Trade Commission care label rule, trims must be able to withstand the recommended care process, so if you do have a problem, you should return the article to the retailer.

Who has not had the experience of spilling something on a garment on its first wearing, fresh from the cleaners? It seems wasteful at such times to send an entire garment back to be cleaned again simply to remove one little spot. But spot removal at home should be undertaken only with great care. Improper use of water or chemicals in removing spots at home sometimes sets the stains or damages the color, water can loosen soil or sizing and simply displace it, causing a “ring” that looks worse than the original stain.

The resurgence of natural fibers such as silk and wool make it even more difficult to remove stains safely at home. Silk should never be rubbed when wet. This causes fibers to break, resulting in a permanent light area. Wool is difficult because often the staining substance will be absorbed deep into the fibers.

Spillage of food and beverages is probably the most common cause of spots on clothing. Many of these are combination stains containing oils, sugars, and other staining substances. These stains may take more than one procedure to remove completely. Stains from beverages containing sugar may seem to disappear, but will show up later when the sugar caramelizes in response to age or exposure to heat.

Another cause of accidental stains is the many ordinary chemicals found in your bathroom cabinet. These agents may also leave stains that aren’t visible at first but become visible later. This phenomenon is particularly true with protein fibers such as silk and wool. Such stains need immediate attention.

Alcohol in perfumes and colognes can be damaging to silk, It is a good idea to use these products and let them dry before you get dressed.

Skin care preparations containing benzoyl peroxide also require special care in use. Benzoyl peroxide is a bleaching agent and can cause permanent areas of color loss on towels and clothing.

Be careful, also, in handling chlorine bleach. Bleach spillage can cause color lose and can weaken the fabric to the extent that holes appear when the garment is next washed or cleaned. Exposure to acids, such as in car batteries can also cause disintegration of fabrics.

Good first aid for stains is to blot up the staining substance at once. Don’t rub a stain. This may make it penetrate further into the fibers and may damage the fabric surface. Consult a stain removal guide or call your dry cleaner before attempting further action at home. And never return a stained garment to the closet. Spots and stains can set with age, and food spills attract insects, which can do permanent damage.

If you have been alert at the time of purchase and careful while wearing your clothes, you can help your dry cleaner to give you the very best service. Be sure to inform the cleaner of any spots or stains, especially if they are colorless spills. The cleaner will want to treat some stains before the dry cleaning process.

Bring with you any hang tags that contain extra care instructions or fiber information. Acrylic knits, for example, are difficult to identify and are inclined to stretch with the heat of cleaning and finishing. So if you know what fibers the garment contains, tell the cleaner. Point out the presence of items containing glues plastics or cardboard stiffeners. And point out any special trims you are concerned about.

Outfits it’s with several pieces and any accessories, such as belts, should all be cleaned at the same time to avoid any color discrepancies resulting from cleaning.

Knits that have shrunk can often be shaped back to size if you ask for this service. Sizing, which is applied during manufacture to give a garment body or shape, can be removed after one or more cleanings, as can water repellent and spot repellent finishes. These finishes can be re-applied if you ask your cleaner to do so. Your cleaner can also provide professional repairs and alterations, garment storage, and other clothes care services.

You may not always be completely satisfied with the way your clothes come back from the cleaner, even if you have followed our suggestions. Look at your dry cleaned clothes as soon as they are returned to you and point out any problems right away. Some problems may be curable, such as a spot that was missed or an inadequate pressing job. Some wools and synthetics may show pilling, the appearance of tiny balls on the fabric surface. Cleaning may increase their number, but sometimes your cleaner can remove them.

Although dry cleaning does prolong their Life, clothes, like people, eventually show their age, and some problems the cleaner can do nothing about.

Fluorescent brighteners, used by garment makers to make colors brighter or whites whiter, may become dull or yellowed with exposure to sunlight. This may not be apparent until a good cleaning job removes surface soil that may have masked the condition,

Insects often finish their meal leaving the skeleton of the fabric intact. The weakened fibers are flushed away in cleaning and the garment comes back full of holes- Chemical damage sustained in use may also not be obvious until after cleaning.

If you feel that damage to your garments was caused through no fault of your own, read the following section carefully.

If clothing comes back damaged from the dry cleaner the dry cleaner is often blamed as the last to handle the garment. But the responsibility may lie with the manufacturer or retailer, or with you – the consumer,

As mentioned before, care information must be permanently attached to all garments. If this information is not present and the garment is damaged as a result, or if care instructions are followed and the garment or some component part fail, the responsibility is with the manufacturer. Your best recourse is to go to the retailer who sold you the item. Good retail practice requires that a store exchange a defective item or refund the price.

If the information was available to you, but you did not follow it, for example, washing a garment that should have been dry cleaned, then you are at fault.

If your dry cleaner fails to follow care instructions or did not exercise reasonable care, then the cleaner is at fault.

Some stains simply can’t be removed by any known method, and while no one is to blame, there is no remedy. This is also true of the damaging effects of age on all fabrics.

if your dry cleaner is to blame, you are entitled to recover the value of the garment’s remaining life expectancy. According to the International Fair Claims Guide for Consumer Textile Products, published by the International Fabricare Institute, suits are expected to last 2 4 years, dresses 1 to 5 years, coats 4 years (fur coats 10 years), and dress shirts 2 years. The guide assigns such life expectancy ratings for all categories of textile products, and it provides tables by which to determine the worth of a product based on the unused portion of its life expectancy and its condition at the time it was lost or ruined. It is up to you to negotiate an adjustment with the cleaner.

If there is disagreement about the party responsible for the adverse condition, it is suggested that the item be sent to the Textile Analysis Laboratory at the International Fabricare Institute for testing and determination of the party responsible. Such items can be submitted by the member dry cleaner, retailer, Better Business Bureau, consumer protection agency, or textile affiliate. Items cannot be submitted directly by the consumer. Most cases are successfully settled, however, when the customer first returns the article to the cleaners.

Draperies have a number of invisible enemies. The sun can fade and streak them. (Sometimes you will not notice this until the soil is removed.) Draperies are also affected by gasses, fumes, and humidity. Open fireplaces, wood stoves, and smoking also contribute to the staining of draperies.

You can expect some shrinkage from laundering or cleaning unless the fabric has been totally preshrunk, Sometimes the drape shrinks more than the lining, causing a puckered effect.

A variety of draperies are combined with insulating backings or linings. In selecting these draperies, make sure you know the specific care procedure the manufacturer recommends. Some of these coatings react adversely in both dry cleaning and washing.

The International Fabricare Institute recommends that glass fiber draperies are washed and air dried rather than dry cleaned, to avoid color loss and chalky streaks. Care must be taken to subject them to as little abrasion as possible.

If you make your own draperies the following suggestions may be helpful.,

  • Pick the right fabric for the job, For sunny locations, use fabrics that are resistant to deterioration from sunlight. Synthetics are more resistant than cellulose fibers while silk is least resistant.

  • Line all draperies for protection against fading and fiber rotting.

  • If you are using cotton and rayon fabrics, allow for changes in length caused by atmospheric changes. These fibers tend to expand when the relative humidity is high and contract when it is low.

  • Remember that synthetic fibers pick up dust due to static electricity and that cotton and rayon tend to yellow as they age.