One of the advantages about being a member of the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Institute is they send out regular bulletins about garments and fabrics known to cause problems. The latest is a pair of women’s’ gold colored pants made with metallic fibers available from www.ashro.com, according to a recent notice from the International Textile Analysis Laboratory.
Metallic fiber garments can be huge problems. Typically, tiny strands of metal are woven into strands of fabric to make the garment shimmer. This isn’t usually a problem as long as the proportion of metal doesn’t exceed around 10 percent and the care labels are strictly followed. The main concern is controlling fiber distortion. Metal fibers do not shrink, but rather bend and crimp like aluminum foil when agitated in the cleaning process. During the cleaning process, the fabric may become hopelessly wrinkled and distorted from its original shape.
This example garment, however, contains around 65 percent metallic fibers! Basically, it is impossible to clean with any standard method – even any non-standard method. It is essentially an uncleanable item. There is a separate all-cotton lining. The care label says, “Dry Clean Only” with no other instructions or any International Cleanability Code symbols.
As dry cleaners, we are often caught in the middle and similar considerations exist for any difficult-to-clean item. All the customer knows is their precious metallic item was fine when they brought it in, then destroyed when it came out of our process. Under the “Care Label Rule”, the Federal Trade Commission advises that items like this be returned to the retailer where they were purchased. Sometimes, we will reimburse the customer, then seek compensation from the manufacturer under federal law. Often, we will advise the customer in advance the item will be problematic and they should have their receipt ready for return to the retailer if the item is damaged in the cleaning process. For a few items, like these pants, we would simply decline to clean them, knowing it will end in disaster.
These pants wrinkled and puckered badly during drycleaning.
This close up view of the pants reveals severe metal yarn distortion after proper professional drycleaning.