Why Do Shirts Discolor?

Alan Spielvogel |

Q: Plants have received a number of complaints concerning cotton and cotton-blend dress and golf shirts of various colors. These shirts develop discolorations in the collar area, and sometimes under the arms and on the back after laundering or finishing. Why?
A: This is a tough call. Some manufacturers are using sulfur dyes in various shades that have proven to be acid-reactive. The dyestuffs may discolor from the acids in perspiration (when worn by certain individuals), or may react from a combination of perspiration and the use of sours in the laundry formula.
If the dyestuffs are adversely affected through contact with perspiration, the extent of the damage will depend largely on the physical chemistry of the individual as well as the conditions of wear. If this is the case, this problem will only affect the shirts of a specific customer or customers. If the problem is widespread, however, the laundry formula (for colored shirts only) may have to be modified.
This type of discoloration can sometimes be corrected by applying a mild alkali or protein formula to the discolored area, followed by a rinse in water. If the problem occurs with specific customers, their shirts should be laundered separately, using a low-alkali detergent or a detergent that does not need to be soured.

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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