Understanding Color Loss

Ever notice how sometimes matching colors in parts of an outfit can look faded or notice localized areas where the color has disappeared? Color loss in all its forms accounts for a good portion of the garments analyzed every year at the Drycleaning & Laundry Institutes International Textile Analysis Laboratory. The lab is internationally recognized as the CSI of drycleaning, deducing what happened to cause garments to become not ready-to-wear.

What causes color loss?

The reasons garments lose their color during wear and care are varied. Contact with bleach or a household cleaning product can disturb dyes, resulting in white discolorations. Direct sunlight can fade colors over time. Hair spray, hair preparations, and other moisture solutions can cause color loss. Perfumes and other alcohol-containing substances also have specific effects on color.

Other problems are inherent in the manufacturing of garments. Fugitive dyes - dyes that are not colorfast to water or cleaning solvents - are the biggest manufacturer-related problem reported by DLIs lab. In these cases, the dyes on the garment dissolve when cleaned in drycleaning solvent or water despite the instructions on the care label. The color loss may occur throughout the garment or be localized in certain areas. For instance, the pink flowers on a pink-and-white print may be solvent-soluble, and, after drycleaning, the garment may come out completely white.

Some dyes are more susceptible to loss of color than others. Pink, red, blue, and black are usually the most troublesome colors and can be expected to show some type of variance regardless of the precautions taken.

The degree of local color loss depends on the concentration of the staining substance, the dye's sensitivity, and the length of time the substance remains on the fabric. Some substances can cause an immediate loss or change in color, while other substances can cause gradual color loss. Color loss caused by acidic or alkaline substances may be reversible if treated immediately, while other types of color loss, such as contact with alcohol or bleach, are permanent. Removal of the soils during washing or drycleaning usually causes the color loss to become more apparent.

Common Color Loss Culprits

Many consumers are not aware that dyes can fade if exposed to light, either sunlight or artificial light. With this type of color loss, fading is generally apparent on only one side of the fabric. The reverse side is usually unaffected. Certain dyes, such as blues, violets, or greens, are more prone to this type of fading than others.

Some dyes, such as pink, lavender, and red, can undergo color reactions (usually red to blue) from contact with water or any water-bearing substance, including perspiration. If this color reaction is noted soon after it happens, it can often be reversed by your drycleaner. However, in many cases, these dyes are so sensitive that restoration is not possible.

Fume fading (gas fading) develops when air comes into contact with heated surfaces and forms nitrogen oxide gases. These gases then react with certain dyes; usually those found on acetate and nylon, and cause them to change color (usually blue-to-red). Fume fading usually occurs on both sides of the fabric.

Some dyes will exhibit a color change when exposed to an acidic or alkaline substance. Contact with fruit juice, beverages, foodstuffs, and other acidic substances can cause blue dyes to turn red; contact with perspiration, household chemicals, toiletries, and other alkaline solutions can turn blue or green dyes yellow. Alkalis can also decompose fluorescent brighteners on white fabrics, causing them to discolor. If treated immediately, most acid/alkaline color reactions can be neutralized and corrected by your professional cleaner.

Contact with alcohol can dissolve certain dyes, resulting in permanent color loss. This is especially common on dyes used on acetate and silk. The alcohol content of most colognes and perfumes is capable of causing this reaction.

Consumers are often not aware of the harmful effects home cleansers, hair products, floor scouring products, disinfectants, and other agents can have on their clothes. Some dyes are extremely sensitive to bleach, and even mildly concentrated bleaches such as chlorine can cause immediate, permanent color loss.

Caring for Your Wedding Gown

May and June are popular wedding months, particularly in the United States. A wedding gown is much more than just a dress, it is a treasure, a symbol of an important event in your life. Whether you are borrowing it from a relative or buying it new, your gown deserves your attention, both before and after the wedding.

Choosing a Gown
If you are buying a new dress, wedding consultants recommend shopping at least six months before the big day. This provides ample time to find the style, fabric, and accessories best suited for you. It also allows time for the manufacturing and shipping of a special-order gown. If you plan to wear a bridal veil, look for a veil that matches your gown.

If you are wearing an heirloom gown, allow plenty of time for professional cleaning as well as any necessary alterations. Many fabrics can yellow with age Check the gown carefully for discoloration. Often, yellowing can be corrected if the gown can be carefully wetcleaned.

After the Wedding
Brides often want to preserve their gown as a keepsake, particularly if the gown is an heirloom. We recommend having your gown cleaned as soon after the wedding as possible.

The gown may have invisible stains from food, beverages, and body oils. If these stains are not properly cleaned, they may become permanent. It is important to point out any stains or spills before cleaning. Most wedding gowns include decorative trim. It is important to inspect these trims with your cleaner prior to cleaning since some may not withstand the cleaning process. Often these trim pieces can be removed and cleaned separately, then reattached.

Storing Your Gown
Unfortunately, no process or storage method can guarantee against yellowing or possible deterioration of fabrics. There are, however, several steps you can take to protect your garment:

Let us pack the gown in a special storage box that will help prevent contamination.
Store your garment in a cool, dry place. Do not store it in a basement or attic. Basement dampness can cause mildew while attic heat promotes yellowing.
If you are storing a long wedding gown on a hanger, sew straps to the waistline of the dress to relieve pressure on the shoulders from the weight of the dress. Wrap the dress in a protective white sheet or muslin covering.
Whether the gown is hung or boxed, the bodice should be stuffed with white tissue paper to prevent wrinkles. It is a myth that blue tissue paper helps to preserve a wedding gown. It can add up to disaster if the gown ever gets wet. Blue dye can transfer onto the gown, making restoration very difficult, if not outright impossible. Use pure white tissue paper only.
Never store headpieces, veils, shoes, bridal bouquet, or other accessories with your gown. Consult your florist about bridal bouquet storage.
Inspect your gown from time to time during storage (your anniversary date is a good time to remember). Stains not initially apparent could appear later, and should be tended to immediately.
Preserving the quality of your wedding gown may be one of the finest gifts you can give yourself and a loved one.  

Fabric Tips


Life Expectancy of Shirts

The International Fabricare Institute (IFI) has done a study comparing the life expectancy of 100 percent cotton oxford cloth as opposed to 100 percent cotton broadcloth. One factor not taken into account in the previous study was that of abrasion during normal wear. In the latest study, 100 percent cotton broadcloth and 100 percent cotton oxford shirts were worn by three members of the IFI staff. The shirts were washed in a 35-pound commercial washer using the white work formula on the reverse. The shirts were then finished on a single buck shirt finishing unit by an IFI staff member.

The three shirts were tested for tear strength and tensile strength in their original condition. These shirts were tested before wearing in both the warp and fill directions. The shirts were then tested similarly after 30 washings and wearings. The shirts were also visually observed after each fifth washing. When testing the shirts in their original condition, it was found that the 100 percent cotton oxford shirt had a higher tear strength as well as a higher tensile strength than did the 100 percent cotton broadcloth shirt. After 30 washings, the findings revealed that the percentage of tear strength loss experienced by the oxford cloth shirt was greater than that of the broadcloth shirt.

Tensile strength refers to the resistance of a fabric to the pressure required to create a tear. The greater the pressure required to tear the fabric—the greater the tensile strength of that fabric. Tear strength refers to the resistance of the fabric fibers to additional tearing in each direction once a tear has occurred.

The findings also revealed that the percentage of tensile strength loss experienced by the oxford cloth shirt was greater than that of the broadcloth shirt. This would lead one to believe that the oxford cloth shirt would not have as long a life expectancy as that of the broadcloth shirt. However, the findings revealed that even though experiencing a greater percentage loss, the oxford cloth shirt retained a higher tear strength as well as a higher tensile strength at the end of the experiment than did the 100 percent cotton broadcloth.

In comparing the tear strength and tensile strength in the warp direction for both oxford cloth and broadcloth shirts worn and washed 30 times as opposed to the broadcloth and oxford cloth shirts tested in TOI-627 after 50 washings, we find that the tear strength and tensile strength of the shirts that were worn 30 times is less than the tear and tensile strength of the shirts that were washed 50 times.

Upon visually inspecting the oxford cloth and broadcloth shirt after the fifth wearing, the collars and cuffs of both shirts showed slight shrinkage on the under side. After ten washings, the shrinkage of the underside of the collars and cuffs continued. After 15 washings, all three staff members complained of slight tightness of the collar in both shirts. After 20 washings, the visual inspection followed the pattern exhibited by the visual inspection after 15 washings. After 25 washings, abrasion became evident. The abrasion was more pronounced in the broadcloth shirts affecting both collar and cuffs. In the oxford cloth, the abrasion was apparent only on the cuffs. After 30 washings, the abrasion became more pronounced on the broadcloth shirt to the point of making the shirt unwearable. The oxford cloth shirt exhibited slight abrasion at the collars and cuffs. The abrasion on the oxford cloth shirt was not to the point of making the shirt unwearable. Only one of three oxford cloth shirts exhibited the usually normal, pinhole areas.


Due to the fact that the oxford cloth shirt originally has a much greater tear strength and tensile strength, the wearability was greater for the oxford cloth shirt. The abrasion factor was more evident in the tighter weave broadcloth shirt than in the oxford cloth shirt. Not withstanding the drycleaners experience with oxford cloth shirts and the appearance of pinholes, it was found that after 30 washings the oxford cloth shirt was in a wearable condition; the broadcloth shirt was not.

Consumer News You Can Use 

Making Draperies Last

Draperies can be susceptible to a wide variety of problems, ranging from shrinkage and fading to stains and abrasion damage. Too often we only think of cleaning draperies after they have been framing our windows for a few years. Sometimes problems can develop over time while they are just hanging there, doing their job of beautifying out homes.

What problems are associated with draperies?

Because draperies are exposed to atmospheric conditions in greater concentrations and for longer periods of time than most garments and textiles, they can encounter a number of problems. Often these problems do not become evident until the item has been drycleaned or wet cleaned.

Some of the more common problems associated with draperies are damage due to light exposure; poor colorfastness; yellowing due to the deterioration of finishes or soil accumulation; water marks; shrinkage; abrasion damage; and deterioration of the coating or lining during cleaning. Some of these problems are a result of defects in manufacturing.

Others, however, such as damage due to light exposure, yellowing due to soil accumulation, water marks, and abrasion damage, can usually be attributed to circumstances of use.

What can you do to make your draperies last?

The American National Standards Institute's Fair Claims Guide for Consumer Textile Products gives the following life expectancies for draperies: • Lined Draperies 5 years • Unlined Draperies 4 years • Sheer Draperies 3 years • Fiber Glass Draperies 4 years.

How long a drapery lasts depends on the fabric type and density, finishes, window location, and length of use. But it also depends on their selection and the care they receive. Here are some tips to help you keep your draperies looking great:

• To protect drapes against yellowing due to excess staining and soiling, clean your drapes at least every other year.

• It is best that you have your drapes cleaned by a cleaner who is experienced in the cleaning of drapes and is knowledgeable in drapery problems.

• Protect drapes from prolonged dampness. Moisture from rain, leaky pipes, or condensation from window panes can result in water marks and mildew.

• If possible, rotate draperies periodically to vary the amount of light exposure received.

• Protect drapes from abrasion damage by avoiding constant rubbing on window sills or furnishings while in use. Abrasion damage can also be caused by a family pet snagging the fabric with sharp claws.

• Keep draperies away from the kitchen, wood stoves, or fireplaces. Smoke from wood stoves, fireplaces, and cigarettes; cooking fumes; and other atmospheric contaminants can contribute greatly to drapery soiling.