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

Why your cottons and linens feel stiff and crusty

Ladies blouse and slacksNew clients often ask me why their cotton and linen garments feel stiff and crusty when they're returned by a cleaner.

Here's why ...

Your cottons and linens feel stiff and crusty for 2 reasons: because cleaners love to add sizing to their dry cleaning solvent or fluid and/or because your cottons and linens have probably been "washed" or "wet cleaned".

The first reason your cottons and linens feel stiff is that ordinary cleaners love sizing. So they add or inject sizing into their dry cleaning  machines during the dry cleaning "wash" cycle. In much the same way that you inject detergent or softener to your home wash.

Their stated reason? According to one Phoenix cleaner's literature, to "keep each garment feeling new and crisp" and to "retain your garment's original shape, weight and feel" (Really, I'm not making this up!).

And the true reason? The more sizing they add, the quicker and easier it is for their employees to bang out your garments on a press.

What gets sized? Everything in the load. Cottons. Linens. Silks. Rayons. Wools such as alpaca, angora, camelhair, cashmere, escorial, marino, mohair and vicuna. Super 100s, 120s, 150s and 160s.

Girl in white outfitThe second reason your cottons and linens feel stiff and crusty is that they were either "washed" or "wet cleaned".

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 care label.

Here's what ordinary cleaners typically do to your cotton and linen garments...

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 cleaned.

After machine washing or wet cleaning, your cotton and linen garments are machine dried, machine pressed and bagged.

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 will still smell and look dingy when they come out of the dry cleaning machine.

(There's an interesting contradiction here: Many ordinary cleaners will claim 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?)

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 garment.

And ANY dry cleaner should be able to do all this while simultaneously producing an odor-free and intensely bright garment.

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".

A true quality cleaner will take a completely different approach:

* Sizing will never be applied to an entire load of dry cleaning. Sizing will only be applied to cottons and linens only - by a skilled finisher - during the finishing stage only. And only according to your stated personal preference.

* Your cottons and linens will be dry cleaned even if they were wet cleaned during a prior stage of the cleaning process.

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