Shirt Laundering Questions

April 1, 2011 11:06 pm
“What causes buttons to break in shirt laundering?”

A. The two main reasons buttons break are time and construction of the button. Over time, buttons become brittle and break from normal wear and tear. But in many cases they are made of materials that do not handle the heat involved in home or professional laundering. Sometimes the crack is so fine, it is difficult to detect. This is one of the most common problems facing drycleaners and at Anton’s we are taking extra steps to ensure that your buttons are intact. We know how frustrating it is to put on a shirt and find a broken button!

“It seems as though I’m always replacing my shirts. How long should they last?”

A. Although industry experience shows that on average shirts have a two-year life expectancy, the number of launderings is a better indicator of the life of a shirt. The average shirt should have a wear life of 35 to 50 washings. Of course, this will vary depending upon the fiber content, the type of fabric and the severity of stains and perspirations and overall strain put on the shirt when wearing. If left untreated, spills can quickly weaken cotton fabrics and shorten the life of a shirt.

“Some of my dress shirts have been fraying on the cuffs and around the collar. These are good shirts. I have them professionally laundered. Is taking them to the cleaner the problem?”

A. There are a couple of possibilities. Time goes by so fast, we often fail to realize just how many times we’ve had a particular shirt laundered (some of our customers actually write the date they bought a shirt on the inside of the collar or the tail). The collar and cuffs are the first areas to show wear. Then, heavy starch can also be a factor. Wear is caused by constant bending and straightening of threads––much like constantly bending a wire. Eventually, it breaks. Cuffs, collars and elbows suffer from too much starch. If you like crisp shirts, ask your cleaner to use a lighter starch.

Shirt collars, cuff and elbow areas are generally the first to show wear. Visually checking your clothing a couple of times a year will help avoid wear surprises. Some people actually write the date of purchase on the tails of their shirts!

“I am wearing more colored shirts than in the past. Some are the popular darker colors. While I never noticed a “ring around the collar” with my white shirts, it’s a different story with the colored shirts. When I get my shirts back from the cleaner, the “ring” is still there. What should I do? I don’t want to throw away perfectly good shirts.”

A. “Ring around the collar,” the phrase made famous by Wisk commercials many years ago, is a common problem with colored shirts. Perspiration, body oils, colognes, hair tonics, medicines and other types of skin preparations can all contribute to creating the famous “ring.” Many professional cleaners recognize the problem and are prepared to use special detergents for removing “rings.” They then inspect the garments to assure quality care.

“Why are my dress shirts losing color in certain areas?”

A. The International Fabricare Institute reports that there are many color loss complaints from consumers. The problems can result from the dyes used, body oils, and aftershave lotions, and even certain skin ointments. The loss may appear after the first washing or not until later. Some discoloration may be improved by dry cleaning the shirt to remove the dye transfer. If you are dissatisfied with a shirt, you may want to return it to the store where it was purchased, or directly to the manufacturer.

“What causes those tiny holes in oxford and pinpoint oxford cloth shirts?”

A. These fabrics are known as “unbalanced weaves.” They are characterized by a basket weave construction in which two tightly twisted yarns are interlaced with a low twist. The heavier twist yarns are usually of a heavier density and contribute to the imbalance of the weave, so that the low twist yarn gives way as the result of chafing or friction. It is then that the tiny holes appear. As you can see, this might make a good trivia question!

“What is your policy on replacing missing shirt buttons?”

A. Our procedure at Anton’s is to inspect each and every shirt for missing buttons, “ring around the collar,” and stains. Our processing plants are equipped with special machines for sewing on buttons. If a button is missing, we replace it without charge. We know how irritating it is to put on a fresh shirt and encounter a missing button. It’s just as disconcerting to have a seemingly good one break while buttoning it. While it’s impossible to anticipate a button breaking, we’ll be sure to replace it the next time we see the shirt or blouse.

“A member of our family started taking clothes to a new dry cleaner. When I saw several white and colored shirts, I couldn’t believe how dull they looked. What would cause this?”

A. This is an easy one. There are three reasons why whites look gray and colored shirts appear dull: 1) an insufficient amount of detergent was used; 2) the detergent was ineffective; and 3) the washer was overloaded. Some cleaners try to save time and money by cutting corners on supplies and procedures. Frankly, you’re quite correct. It’s easy to spot the difference. By the way, we are one of a very few drycleaners in our area licensed to use Sanitone™ products, including the Platinum® shirt care detergents. The difference is obvious to the eye.

“My husband has gained some weight, but he claims his shirts are shrinking! Do shirts shrink when cleaned?”

A. Industry standards allow for a normal shrinkage of two percent that is not usually noticeable. You can measure the collar and sleeve length to be sure it corresponds to the shirt size. Measure the collar from the beginning of the button hole to the center of the button and measure the sleeve length in a straight line from the center of the back of the collar to the end of the cuff. If there is shrinkage, it is usually due to poorly stabilized materials.