I love wearing black but I
recently dropped off some new black cotton slacks and blouses at my
regular cleaner and they came back faded. I think they washed them.
The cleaner says it's the manufacturer's fault, and that the dyes
are bad. They are all well-known brands. What do you think?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but ...
At worst, your cotton and linen garments have been "washed." At
best, they've been "
wet cleaned." But, in all likelihood, they
haven't been dry cleaned as you specified or as specified by the
Here's how ordinary cleaners typically handle your cotton and
They give your cottons and linens a quick "look over" for
oil-based stains, such as body oil, creams and salad dressing. If
there are no visible oil-based stains, and they determine that your
cottons and linens can be washed or wet cleaned, they're sent
directly to the washer (often regardless of whether the care label
says "dry clean" or "machine washable"). If there are visible
oil-based stains and if it's your lucky day, your cottons and
linens are first tossed into a dry cleaning machine to dissolve the
oils before being sent to the washer to be washed or wet
After machine washing or wet cleaning, your cotton and linen
garments are machine dried, machine pressed and bagged.
Now you know why
So why do ordinary cleaners subject your cotton and linen
garments to this treatment?
Primarily because of the fear of odors and
dinginess resulting from the use of
perchloroethylene and synthetic petroleum solvents -- the dry
cleaning solvents used by 97% of all cleaners.
You see, cottons and linens are natural fibers. And, just like
sponges, natural fibers absorb even the slightest odors and
dinginess from dry cleaning solvent or fluid. So even if the
cleaner uses (or claims to use) "pure solvent" or "pure fluid",
your cotton and linen garments might still smell and look dingy
when they come out of the dry cleaning machine.
By contrast, what should a cleaner do to your "machine washable"
cotton and linen garments?
Use wet cleaning and other restoration techniques to remove
water-based stains (instead of machine washing). Hang or flat dry
the garments (instead of machine drying). And, finally, dry clean
the garments to remove oil-based stains, enhance the intensity of
the color and restore the "soft as butter" texture to the
And ANY dry cleaner should be able to do all this while
simultaneously producing an odor-free and intensely bright
Which, of course, they can't. Which is why ordinary cleaners
"wash" or "wet clean" as many of your cotton and linen garments as
possible. Even if you dislike faded, stiff, fragranced garments.
Even if you specified dry clean only. Even if the care label says
"dry clean only".
There's an interesting contradiction here: Many ordinary
cleaners will tell you that they use "pure" dry cleaning solvent or
fluid. This way they can claim their dry cleaned garments are
always "odor-free" and "bright". Yet they won't risk dry cleaning
your cotton and linen garments because they're afraid they'll smell
and look dingy. How can the dry cleaning solvent or fluid be "pure"
if their dry cleaning produces cotton and linen garments that are
smelly and dingy?
If you have a question for Stu, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I help you?
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