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Fabricare FAQ

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Frequently Asked Questions

Good dry cleaning is good for your clothing, and bad dry cleaning is bad for your clothing.

Dry cleaning is a method of removing stains and dirt from garments and fabric by using little or no water. Actually, dry cleaning is not “dry” because solvents, or liquids, are used to perform the cleaning, but with little water, thus the term “dry.”

Dry cleaning machines are similar to front-load washing machines in that a large tumbling basket is used to facilitate the cleaning process. Garments are placed in this basket, which is partially filled with solvent, and tumbled through the solvent. This agitation and flushing action of the solvent are responsible for the majority of the cleaning.

There are filters to pick up impurities, storage tanks for the solvent – hopefully one for white garments and one for dark garments – a distillation system to keep the solution clear like water, computer or card controllers, etc. The solvents most widely used are perclorethylene and hydrocarbon.

Some of the more difficult stains are removed with the use of chemical agents, water, steam, air, and vacuum on what is called a spotting board. This technique is performed both before and after cleaning, and the stains are removed individually.

Consumers should expect superlative customer service, outstanding quality, and a 100% Safe-Cleaning Guarantee™. Customers should be able to ask for advice about all fabrics and expect accurate information about the proper care for clothing, household items, bridal, suede, leather, and heirloom items. Today’s best drycleaners are continually educating customer service staff and production employees.

Most “better” fabrics should be drycleaned. Designers are readily using four-ply polyester, organza, chiffon, taffeta, acetate, linen and linen blends, and of course, silk and satin. All of these fabrics require professional care.

Since we now know that the dry cleaning process involves many steps, we’ll address the “cleaning” process first. Dry cleaning removes body and food oils, wax, and most things that contain oil. Water-based stains, such as soda, coffee, alcohol, and perspiration, require extra spotting prior to dry cleaning, which is why it’s so important to select a cleaner with great technical skills. Leading Cleaners affiliates specialize in designer and couture clothing, so they know how to best remove water-based stains. Stains such as paint, ink, curry, and superglue, as well as stains that have aged, may not be completely removed.

The second part of the process is the finishing. A quality cleaner can finish a garment without incurring shine, fabric and button impressions, crooked pleats, etc. A garment can be expertly cleaned, but if the finishing is sub-par, the garment can look cheap, and the longevity can be compromised.

The process encompasses the acceptance and inspection of clothing, with special attention to fabric, design, and construction; application of tags for identification and emptying of pockets; protection of buttons, zippers, and accouterments; pre-spotting for stains that do not come out in dry cleaning; the actual cleaning and classification (which can involve the use of dry cleaning solutions and, at times, water); post inspection; hand finishing, ironing, and steaming; “nuance” control and final inspection to catch missing or broken buttons, minor repairs, etc.; and, finally, luxurious packaging.

FYI: Dry cleaning is becoming a bit of a misnomer, in that the “dry” in dry cleaning is not totally applicable these days. The proper term is fabricare. From the inception, dry cleaning — which was discovered in France in the late 1800s and originally used kerosene — involved the use of either a petroleum product or a synthetic solvent, neither of which contained water. Today, there are so many solvents, of which water is one, that the term drycleaning is not totally applicable

One of the dry cleaner’s worst enemies are invisible stains, such as spray from a grapefruit or apple, hairspray, and perfume. These are the stains that you may see on your freshly cleaned garments and exclaim, “That wasn’t there when I gave it to you!”

These types of stains are not visible until the heat associated with the drying cycle or pressing made the stain visible. The sugar of the apple stain caramelized, and the oil stains oxidized, making them visible. Dry cleaning may not remove these without the help of an expert technician, and some may never be removed.

If you know of any such invisible stains, be sure to point them out to the customer service representative so they can be flushed out before dry cleaning.

One method we recommend is to contact your local fine garment retailers. Ask a manager or two from the upscale departments, try a couple of stores. If there is a general consensus, you have probably found one of the best cleaners in town. The stores are in the business, and it is to their advantage to see that the clothing they sell is cared for properly.

A fine dry cleaner these days should do a lot of hand washing and wet cleaning and hand pressing. On your first visit, ask to see some of their work.

If your clothes are returned to you from the dry cleaner and smell of solvent, it’s time to change cleaners. This smell is a sign of impure solutions and bacteria growth in the system. Freshly distilled solvent should be used on every load to properly care for your clothes. A properly maintained dry cleaning system should produce odor-free clothes with every cleaning.

The first thing that you need to do is to have the dress cleaned, even if you do not see any stains. Make sure that the drycleaner pre-treats the underarms well. Chiffon is a bit tricky, especially when there are beads involved. Most stains are absorbed into the chiffon layer and are not always visible on the satin beneath.

Your dress should be stored in a 100% acid-free archival box. Davis Imperial Cleaners is the only licensed preservation specialist in Chicago. After preservation, remember to store the box in a dry area, never in a basement or attic, never against an outside wall or anywhere where there is the chance of extreme fluctuations in temperature, and out of direct sunlight.

If so, can this be fixed? Poor dry cleaning can. If a dry cleaner does not maintain his solution, impurities will accumulate. These impurities will then be re-deposited back onto other items being cleaned, causing the effect you have noticed, dulling the brightness or yellowing. It can be possible to restore to the original condition depending on the makeup of the affected item. Washing can help if the item is washable, re-cleaning in clean solvent sometimes results in an improvement, and it may be necessary to use dye strippers as a last resort. Not all garments can be washed, nor can dye strippers be used in every case.

The white spots are probably the result of mold. Wiping the white spots only removes the fungus from the surface. Spores will remain in the fibers, and the fungus will quickly return. Do not leave your clothes in the plastic garment bags, and you will need to address the humidity condition that most likely exists in your closet.

The fact that the dresses are washable and polyester helps a lot. The main problem with deodorants and the stains are the white rings that form from powder and some roll-ons. On some poly and acetate fabrics, the deodorant gets ground into the fabric from friction and stubble under the arm that acts like sand paper. Make sure that you are freshly shaven before wearing dresses and blouses of this type, and make sure that your deodorant is perfectly dry.

Considering that all the clothing was white and washable, you have a pretty good chance of restoring it. You will need to have the pieces dye-striped. If the garments are valuable, then consult your drycleaner. They have lots of experience with this dilemma!

Many pants made of cotton/lycra can be washed and air-dried. However, there have been complaints of wrinkles after drying. Cotton/spandex can be sprinkled with water and ironed while moist, with a setting just below cotton setting. However, cotton/spandex can shrink, so either buy a size larger or have them dry cleaned.

Without seeing the garment it’s hard to know the problem, but there are typically two issues. Many times sequins are sewn onto a garment in a string, with the same thread. Check the sewing with a magnifying glass, under good light, and stitch up any loose areas. If the sequins are glued onto the top, then be very careful about washing or dry cleaning. Read the care label or consult your drycleaner for advice.

This is an age-old problem with velvet, with darker colors presenting the most challenge. You probably have sewing holes and matted velvet, where pressure flattened the fabric. Velvet is a pile fabric, so the nap is easily crushed – not just by old sewing machine holes and stitching, but also by alcohol and liquid spills, as well as perspiration. It is very hard to “lift” the nap of velvet, even for professional drycleaners with the best equipment.

A drycleaner can open the seams, steam and brush the velvet, and remove many of the marks. Be very specific about your expectations, but the cleaner should be able to test the fabric and give you a prognosis.

Your drycleaner may have a wax stick that they can use to lubricate the zippers. If not, they could replace it with a better-quality zipper.

Ink on a suede garment is a difficult stain to remove even for an experienced suede cleaner. Dyes on suede and leather garments are not as color fast as one would desire. Often it is necessary to remove some dye along with the ink, then replace the dye. This is a difficult process depending on the color of the suede. Be sure to ask your leather cleaner how they do with ink before entrusting them with the item.