What Causes a 'Skunky' Odor after Drycleaning?

Alan Spielvogel |

Q: I received a white silk blouse that had a foul, “skunky” odor prior to the drycleaning process. After drycleaning, the odor was noticeably worse. I tried an odor-removing agent, but was not successful. What is the cause of this odor?
A: This can be a problem with a variety of fabric types. Manufacturers often chemically treat fabrics during the manufacturing process. Acids, alkalis, urea, formaldehyde, metallic salts, gums, resins and fluorescent sizing agents are used in processing yarns and fabric. Fabrics are treated with these chemicals to add weight, impart texture, stabilize dyes, enhance color, and provide body, luster, sheen and brightness.
Occasionally, the chemicals used in these treatments are not completely rinsed out or neutralized during the manufacturing process. This can result in the development of an objectionable odor in the finished garment. In many cases, the odor becomes more noticeable or stronger after the garment has been drycleaned or wetcleaned. This is a manufacturing problem, and shouldn't be confused with odors that may form due to the condition of the drycleaning solvent.

About the author

Alan Spielvogel

National Cleaners Association (NCA)

Technical Director

Alan Spielvogel is technical director of the National Cleaners Association (NCA).


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