True Quality CleaningStraight talk about caring for fine garments & household textiles from an expert who calls it like it is. In plain English.

Ask Stu: Your questions answered


Ask StuI live in sunny California and have quite a number of Tommy Bahama and Nat Nast short sleeve silk shirts. I've noticed that my dark colored Tommy Bahama silk shirts (particularly the black ones) tend to fade rather quickly. My dry cleaner says it is the manufacturer's fault. Please enlighten me.

Bill, Laguna Beach, California


Hi Bill. The fading of dark colored Tommy Bahama shirts is a fairly coAsk Stu Tommy Bahama shirtmmon complaint.

Here's my basic explanation....

Typically, these dark colored casual garments are not manufactured from fabric that has been woven from thread that has been dyed prior to weaving. They're manufactured from fabric that has been dyed after weaving.

These fabrics are called "top-dyed" or "surface printed" fabrics. Tommy Bahama print and dark colored garments are mostly top-dyed or surface printed.

Top-dyed or surface printed garments tend to fade or streak (a process known as "crocking") when cleaned in perchloroethylene ("perc") or synthetic petroleum, the dry cleaning solvents used by 97% of all cleaners.

A true quality cleaner should always be able to maintain the intensity of your colors. Even on top-dyed or surface printed garments.

For two reasons...

One, they'll use a dry cleaning fluid such as siloxane that's very gentle on fabrics. Fact is, siloxane is six times less aggressive than perc and two times less aggressive than petroleum. So gentle, it's been used for decades as a base ingredient in many of the personal care products you use on a daily basis. Such as shampoos, antiperspirants, deodorants and moisturizing creams.

Two, they'll use a dry cleaning fluid such as siloxane that's chemically inert. Meaning that the dry cleaning fluid does not react chemically with garment dyes, "bleeding" or "fading" the colors.

Does your cleaner guarantee the color intensity of all your casual garments that are "top-dyed" or "surface printed"?

Or does your cleaner point to the care label that states something to the effect that the color is intended to fade over time (I don't think you bought that black silk shirt because you wanted it to fade to gray)? Or does your cleaner attribute any fading of color to a "manufacturing defect" involving fabric or dye?

That's the difference between true quality cleaning and ordinary, "bang and hang" cleaning.

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