Treating Fragiles After the Festive

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CONCORD, N.C. — During this post-holidays time of year, you will probably see a wide assortment of items with ornate trim. Your approach should be to spend more time and effort in pre-spotting in order to allow for reductions in run time and mechanical action during cleaning. Reducing the intensity of mechanical action on certain garments will go a long way to reduce or eliminate damage claims.

Various kinds of sequins are used to accent garments. The painted sequin is a common type of fragile trim, characterized by a small, clear or semi-clear disk painted to either match or contrast the color of the main garment. This paint is easily worn off in areas like the underarm, the elbow or the wrist.

The more aggressive the mechanical action that is applied, the greater the likelihood of the paint being removed during the cleaning process. Contact with a strong alkali (such as perfume or alcohol) will also loosen the paint on these sequins. Many times, this potential damage will not be apparent until after cleaning.

These sequins are a common characteristic of festive holiday garments worn to parties where alcoholic beverages are sometimes spilled. The time between spillage and cleaning gives plenty of time for the paint to loosen. The CSR must recognize these garments as fragile and be more diligent in asking about spots, stains and spills to avoid claims for “damage while cleaning.”

Supplemental stain removal on sequin trim requires added care and consideration. Keep dry-side stain removal to the absolute minimum, using wet-side stain removal protocols when possible. Even then, the cleaner/spotter should allow at least 6 inches of distance between the steam gun and the garment’s surface. This distance (or even further) will reduce the pressure and heat reaching the surface of the sequins.

There is a big advantage to be gained by turning a sequin garment inside-out when cleaning. There is even more to be gained by then taking that garment and running it in a net bag. When you are dealing with a sequined/ornate bodice only, you can cover the bodice with a pillowcase that is secured around the garment’s waist with a cotton cord. Taking the additional steps to reduce mechanical action is important for both wet cleaning and dry cleaning of ornate garments.

Be aware of how trim is attached to the surface of items. Items that are “crafted” by customers or their children may take on a great deal of sentimental value. However, they will become dingy over time and find their way to your counter. School glue is easy for consumers to work with but also easy to dissolve with steam.

Crafting a Christmas stocking can be simple, but if the holly and snowflake trim is attached with school glue, supplemental stain removal using the steam gun will distort or remove the trim and thus should be avoided. On some items, it is best to take a pass. When you notice trim dangling, estimate the amount of heat and/or moisture it will take to render the item useless. There are times that a quick brushing with a dry nylon brush and some compressed air are the best choice on an item of limited serviceability.

Metallic thread can be easily damaged during supplemental stain removal. Never use rust remover on metallic thread or in an area that contains metallic trim, as the rust remover will cause irreversible damage in the same way it removes the rust. With the exception of an enzyme digester, all chemical tools should be immediately flushed from areas containing metallic thread or trim.

Most metallic thread consists of a thin metal foil that is glued over a spun fabric thread. This foil surface should be treated with the same care and consideration as sequins. Garments containing even a small amount of metallic fiber must be cleaned by turning the garment inside-out and running it in a net bag.

It is the responsibility of the cleaner/spotter to “First, do no harm.” Be proactive in protecting the customer’s item. It will result in reduced claims, a higher level of quality, and a customer duly impressed by your knowledgeable service.

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 mayoung@vnet.net.

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