Protecting Unique Characteristics

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CONCORD, N.C. — In a previous edition of American Drycleaner, readers like you were given a “heads-up” about what to expect from the fashion styles entering the marketplace (Fashion vs. Fabricare, November/December 2012).

The Federal Trade Commission’s recent request for comments on garment care labeling is a symptom of the continuing problem facing our industry.

The manufacturer’s focus on marketability and profitability at times runs contrary to serviceability. It is the obligation of the garment care professional to recognize that the customer’s item has a unique set of handling characteristics and then determine the best way to protect those unique characteristics while reconditioning the item for continued use in the future.

That is a mouthful, I admit, but I hope you get the point. “They” design the garment and “we” have to clean and finish the garment.


When garments have a dark color and light color joined at a seam, there is potential for trouble. And when garments have a dark color embroidered over a light-colored background, there is potential for trouble. When pre-spotting near dark and light panels, take the time to test the dark panel for colorfastness.

In cases where there is only minimal dye migration, mineral oil can be placed on the light side of the seam to form a barrier to the dark dye that is staining the light material. Dark embroidery on a light background fabric requires extensive testing, as even the slightest dye migration can permanently stain the light background.

Rub the embroidery with a slightly damp white cloth, then inspect the cloth for any dye transfer. If no dye is apparent, lay the cloth on top of the embroidery and then fog the area with the steam gun. If no dye transfer is apparent, proceed with caution and spot the stain using normal wet-side protocol.


Soft protein fibers contribute both warmth and appearance to the wearer. The application of a chemical tool designed to break down a protein stain can also damage these protein fibers.

Always spot these fabrics from the back side by turning the garment inside-out. Remove as much of the stain as possible using steam and neutral synthetic detergent. If it is necessary to use a protein stain remover, apply the stain-removal chemical, followed quickly by light mechanical action and then thorough flushing.

You should dry clean soft protein items by turning them inside-out and placing them into a net bag. Leave room within the bag so the items can move about during the drying cycle.


It can be extremely hard to distinguish some imitation furs from the real thing, even if you have an experienced eye. Always check the label for the exact fiber content of “furs” coming into the plant and give additional consideration to the manufacturer’s care instructions.

It is true that a knowledgeable, experienced cleaner may choose to wet clean a faux fur, but that cleaner is assuming all risk, plus putting his reputation and pocketbook on the line.

Treat imitation furs like the soft proteins. Pre-spot the item from the back when possible and dry clean after turning inside-out and placing into a loose net bag.

Cleaning real fur is risky under even the best of circumstances. The ability to successfully spot, clean and restore real fur is a product of knowledge, experience and confidence. The most common fur seen by cleaners is rabbit trim and jackets.

Rabbit pelts are small, so it takes a large number of pelts to make a jacket. This means one will find a large number of irregularly shaped seams in the jacket’s construction. Rabbit pelts are thin, meaning that they tear easily when twisted during cleaning and stressed during spotting. A majority of rabbit jackets are sprayed with dye after construction to give the surface an even appearance. And so the cleaner/spotter is faced with multiple irregular seams; a thin, drying pelt that becomes ever more brittle; and quite probably unstable color.

Spotting real fur is done without steam. Wet the area with tap water from a spare spotting bottle. Apply neutral synthetic detergent sparingly. Apply mild mechanical action. Flush the area with more tap water. Air-dry the area, maintaining twice the normal distance between the gun and the item’s surface.


Garments today are showing a greater variety of ornamental trim. Large imitation jewel stones are appearing on traditionally plain garments. Most have a painted reflective backing that will dull with normal-length dry cleaning cycles and be removed completely when using dry-side paint-oil-grease removers.

One can encounter the same problems when the trim is rhinestones or sequins. Metallic thread—which is little more than metallic paper glued to a central thread—is fragile. Consider all trim to be fragile and alter your handling procedures to protect it. Remember, your first responsibility is to do no harm.

Knowledge of unique considerations required by a particular garment’s construction demonstrates your professionalism.

About the author

Martin L. Young Jr.

Industry Consultant and Trainer

Martin L. Young Jr. has been an industry consultant and trainer for 20 years, and a member of various stakeholder groups on environmental issues. He is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Launderers & Cleaners (NCALC). He grew up in his parents’ plant in Concord, N.C., Young Cleaners, which he operates to this day. Contact him by phone at 704-786-3011, or via e-mail at


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