Dry Cleaning Fact and Fiction
FICTION: Dry cleaning wears out clothes.
FACT: Dry cleaning prolongs the life of clothes.
In over 80 years of researching fabrics and dry cleaning solvents, the International Fabricare Institute has never seen any indication of the dry cleaning process wearing out clothing.
Not only do stains set with age, rendering garments unwearable, but ground-in dirty and soil act as an abrasive ,like sandpaper, causing deterioration of fibers. In addition, microscopic insects are attracted to soiled clothes, causing further damage. Some people mistakenly recommend spot cleaning and pressing in lieu of dry cleaning a garment. By pressing a garment before it is cleaned, unseen dirt, stains and body oils may be permanently set.
Although it is a matter of personal preference how frequently people dry clean their clothes, consumers should know they can’t overclean their clothes.
FICTION: Manufacturers’ and care labels are never wrong.
FACT: Manufacturers are not required to test before deciding on a care label, so mistakes can occur from time to time.
The federal government fines manufacturers that fail to provide a reasonable basis for the care instructions they provide. However, manufacturers are not required to verify what is printed on a label is accurate. Unfortunately for consumers, the Federal Trade Commission, the agency responsible for the Care Labeling Rule, can only enforce the rule after garments have already been ruined and a pattern of damage is detected.
In other instances, a manufacturer may add care instructions that do not comply with the FTC care labeling Rule. These include: “Dry Clean Only, Exclusive of Trim”; “Do Not Wash, Do Not Dry Clean, Take to a Laundry Expert”, “Special Precautions and Care to Beading. Do not wash or clean by fabric methods. Must be cleaned by laundry expert”.
FICTION: When it comes to shirts, cleaners’ prices discriminate against women.
FACT: Cleaners charge according to the amount of labor it takes to clean and press each shirt, not by gender.
Men’s shirt styles are relatively static and don’t change radically from year to year. For this reason, automated equipment has been designed to press standard shirts, which cut down on labor costs.
On the other hand, there is little consistency in women’s shirts. They often contain various trims, delicate fabrics (silk, satin), and other embellishments (ruffles, pleats, tucks) that require hand ironing. Women’s styles change from year to year and season to season. The result is that most women’s shirts have to be hand-finished individually which is a very labor-intensive process. This additional charge applies to any shirt that requires additional labor, be a man’s or woman’s shirt.
FICTION: All stains can be removed.
FACT: Not all stains come out.
Most but not all stains can be completely removed by an expert stain removal technician. Many factors determine if a stain will be removed, including the type of stain, the fiber type and color of fabric, and the length of time the stain has remained on the fabric.
Stains from some dyes, medicine, or ink may not be completely removed because they contain permanent coloring matter. The most common stains are food and beverage stains. Salad oils, other food fats, and greases oxidize over time, leaving a tan or yellow stain. Other food and beverages contain animal proteins (i.e., dairy products), tannins (coffee, tea), or sugars (juices, soda, alcohol) that can similarly oxidize with age, discolor, and become permanently set.
The good news is the chances of removing stains improve with your assistance. The sooner you get a stain to a professional, the better the chances are of getting it out.
FICTION: Men’s cotton dress shirts don’t shrink.
FACT: If improperly pre-shrunk during manufacturing, cotton shirts will shrink
Fabrics are woven under tension. If the fabric is not adequately preshrunk before the shirt is constructed, the agitation of any laundering process can relax the fabric resulting in shrinkage. If shrinkage does not occur until the shirt has been laundered several times, it may be due to the removal of finishing agents such as sizing, starches, and stain repellents that held the fabric in place. Not only do shirts shrink, but most other items do too.
Shrinkage is so common in fabrics that the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has established standards for the amount of acceptable shrinkage in all items. Typically shirt manufacturers allow for 2 to 3 % shrinkage even on properly stabilized fabrics. This means a shirt with a 15 1/3-inch neck and 33-inch sleeve length could shrink approximately 1/3 to 1/2 inch in the neck and 2/3 to 1 inch in the sleeve. On fabrics that are improperly stabilized, shrinkage is higher, resulting in a shirt that is too small.
Fact Sheet Courtesy of the IFI.