Fabric Care Questions

April 22, 2011 7:00 pm

Fabric Care

“How can I tell the difference between real and imitation suede?”

A. Natural suede is made by the abrasion of leather to produce a napped, velvet-like surface. Imitation suede is made one of two ways––synthetic fibers in a non-woven construction or with a flocked pile adhered to a woven or knit base. The flocked pile type is easily recognized by the base fabric. The non-woven is often difficult to distinguish from the real thing. If both sides look alike, chances are it’s imitation since the real suede tends to have an uneven surface on the inside. Also, if the clothing care label indicates that the garment should be cleaned like any other fine fabric, it is probably imitation. Real suede should be cleaned by an acceptable leather-cleaning process. Imitation is usually labeled dry-cleanable.

It’s that time of year to wear more wool garments. Do you have any suggestions for proper care?

A. After each wearing brush your garment with a soft but firm bristled brush to remove the dust that collects between the fibers. When hanging garments, be sure to empty pockets, hang on a wooden hanger in a space where they can breathe. Wool needs air to renew its shape. Always fold knit garments and store flat or folded over a padded rod of a hanger to prevent shape distortion.

If you notice any surface stains rinse with cool water before putting away. Clean wool garments regularly – cleaning removes soil that is abrasive to fibers.

“What is the best way to clean spandex fabrics?”

A. Spandex is a synthetic fiber that has high elongation and recovery properties, which means it can be stretched five to six times its original length. Because of this characteristic, it can return to its original length without loss to its “springiness.” Despite its ability to stretch, spandex can experience a high degree of shrinkage if it is not cleaned properly. It’s important to follow the care label instruction closely. If the care label indicates that laundering is an acceptable process, avoid using chlorine bleach since this can lead to discoloration, strength loss and eventually cause the spandex fiber to break. Since high heat (446º F) can melt spandex, avoid high temperatures during pressing.

“How should I clean Rayon and “washable silks”?”

A. The answer (as you might imagine) is a bit complicated––but taking time to get the facts may help avoid an unpleasant situation. Both Rayon and “washable silks” dry clean very well. Washing, however, may damage garments containing sizing and/or dyes that are sensitive to water. To avoid unnecessary problems, follow the care label on the garment. Then, if a dye should run, for example, you can return it to the store where it was purchased indicating that you followed the manufacturer’s instructions.

“What should I be aware of in caring for silk garments?”

A. Silk is easily degraded by mineral acids. This means that perspiration, for example, causes discoloration and weakening of the silk fabric. Here’s the important point: To help avoid unnecessary degrading, silks should be cleaned immediately after soiling to avoid staining.

Aluminum chloride, a common ingredient in deodorants and antiperspirants, will also stain silk. To help avoid staining, let deodorants dry thoroughly before putting on a silk garment. Alkaline substances, such as soap, toothpaste, shampoos and other alkaline toiletries, may irreversibly spot silk.

By all means, do not bleach silk with chlorine bleaches. Silk deteriorates over time with exposure to oxygen in the air. To help avoid this problem, silks should be stored in dry, dark, and cool conditions, preferably in acid-free paper.

“Linen clothes are so cool during the summer, but they wrinkle badly. Is there anything that can reduce the wrinkling?”

A. On a hot, humid summer day, a linen outfit is indeed cool and thin, but your outfit will wrinkle. Perspiration, combined with the pressure of sitting, will cause deep wrinkles in this natural fabric. You can help reduce the wrinkles by hanging up the clothes, rather than depositing them in a pile for your next trip to the drycleaner. Your drycleaner can let you know if starch and sizing will help. There are many factors that come into play when caring for linen–the degree the fabric was pre-shrunk, composition of thread and trimmings, the dye used, tightness of weave and construction of textile–that will influence the effectiveness of treatments for crease resistance. Wearing it soft and natural may be the best answer.

“My husband has a lovely cashmere scarf that he only wears on special occasions. I insist on cleaning it at the end of the winter season and he says I am foolish because he has not worn it frequently. Who is correct?”

A. You are. Cashmere is a fine wool blend that is soft and lightweight and ideal for special occasions. Even if the scarf is worn only once, perspiration, body oil, moisture and food stains attract insects that can cause damage to your scarf when it is stored for the season.