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Season’s Bling and Your Spotting Thing (Conclusion)

Take the time to inspect fragile and decorative holiday garments

CONCORD, N.C. — I have vivid memories of my early years trying to prosper as a cleaner.

When Halloween passed, my dad would begin pointing out garments, fabrics, and trim that could present a “hidden” problem for me, resulting in a claim.

It is reasonable to assume that the manufacturer is presenting a garment based upon marketability and profitability.

Also, it is reasonable to assume that the consumer is purchasing a garment based upon anticipated visual impact.

That leaves the cleaner with the task of dealing with the garment’s serviceability or, more accurately, the garment’s limited serviceability.

I have developed a sensitivity to holiday garments. Many of these festive clothes are likely to require modified classification and handling.

These are garments that are purchased for holiday gatherings based upon “bling” where the consumer has given little or no thought to care and cleaning.

You will see some of these garments over the holiday season and being aware of how to deal with their weaknesses will preserve your reputation and your checkbook.


A festive holiday party is sure to bring out bright and colorful trim, so watch for ornate buttons, beads, sequins, and my personal favorite: glued-on glitter (“crushed ice”).

If the act of laying the garment on a flat surface leaves a trail of loose glitter, you have a problem garment. All decorative trim should be inspected before cleaning.

Shell buttons can crack and break from mechanical action. Beads are often painted styrofoam, with the styrofoam dissolving during cleaning and the paint crushing with nothing to support it. Sequins can be discolored during cleaning.

Fake leather presents a special problem for cleaners.

It is a product of modern chemistry, and much of it appears authentic. Fabrics made from polyvinyl chloride, polyurethane, and pleather (synthetic leather) can fool a cleaner/spotter if the inspection is not adequate.

Start with the care label. Any mention of “poly” is a sign to slow down, as many drycleaning solvents will adversely affect the softening agent (plasticizer). This leads to stiffening and cracking in the garment.

You will find metallic fabric as trim on a variety of garments and also interwoven into knit wear to give it sparkle for the holidays.

While some metallic is the product of gluing a strip of foil over yarn, the most common type of yarn is to fold and glue the metallic foil between two layers of clear film. This construction is weak and subject to tearing or breakage from even mild mechanical action.

Garments that contain any metallic thread should be turned inside-out and run in a net bag. Never use a rust remover on metallic thread.

Due to the weak construction, metallic yarn will eventually show signs of wear at the elbows and the collar.

Metallic yarns are easily damaged by alcohol, be it a spilled mixed drink, perfume, or cosmetics.

When finishing, you should use buck steam and a hand pad. It is too risky to bring the head down on metallic yarn.

The increase in fragile garments will require that the customer service rep (CSR) and the cleaner/spotter spend the time to read care labels and to consider all options possible for cleaning that garment.

I recommend that garment classification be made a high-priority point of emphasis. You should, at the very minimum, be classifying garments by weight, color, tensile strength and trim.

Productivity is an important variable and most owner/operators are focused on PPOH (pieces per operator hour). However, running a white sequin silk dress and a navy surplus pea coat in the same load is courting trouble from streaks and swales — and chafing.

Use this time of year wisely to reinforce proper classification and operational protocols. Take the time to inspect fragile garments and to protect them from any harsh procedures used in the cleaning process.

The consumer is probably anxious about getting their fragile and decorative holiday garment cleaned and has little idea about the process used to restore their garment.

You should take the time to review the basics of cleaning. Commit to establishing a reasonable balance between the speed at which a garment moves through your plant and the little things that require a minimum of time but can provide service that far exceeds customer expectations.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].