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Wet Cleaning

The wet cleaning process involves cleansing garments in water and water-soluble detergents, such as soaps and synthetic wet cleaning detergents, and using precautions to prevent shrinkage, loss of colour and fabric distortion. If necessary, garments are measured carefully before wet cleaning, and thereafter restored to original size.

In wet cleaning garments are given special treatment in accordance with their fabric construction. The temperature of the water is controlled carefully to avoid the bleeding of colours and shrinkage of wool. Strong alkalies and strongly alkaline soaps normally not used; instead, neutral soaps and synthetic detergents are used as cleansing agents. Special treatment is given to spots and stains before wet cleaning. Garments are also given the least possible mechanical action.

Wet cleaning offers more flexibility in processing items that may not withstand a dry cleaning process or that have soils that would be better removed in water. Items with large water-soluble stains are also more likely to come clean in a wet cleaning process.

Successful wet cleaning requires that drycleaners know how different fibres, fabric constructions, dyes, and trims will respond to water and detergent. The nature of some fabrics makes them susceptible to permanent damage during wet cleaning. For example, rayon, acetate, or rayon-acetate velvet pile will be permanently flattened if wet-cleaned. In addition, many rayon and acetate rib weaves and crepe weaves will shrink and cannot be restored to their original size. Light-coloured garments with dark trim or dark garments with white trim may also bleed. Other problems, such as water-soluble finishes, are more difficult to identify. For example, some wools will change in texture or shrink when wet cleaned; interfacings or under linings may shrink; sizing may be removed, causing the garment to become limp; or dyes may bleed after prolonged exposure to moisture. This can generally be minimized as wet cleaning experience is obtained.

Modern machines are not only able to treat delicate linen with exquisite care, but also to process linen with a high soil level, requiring an energetic process. The new wet cleaning machines are equipped with a wash drum, which precisely controls mechanical agitation to mimic the gentleness of hand washing. Newer machines offer greater versatility to process a variety of articles. The cleaning cycle programs help achieve various variations, within each program as required, with the possibility to program which can be customized to match the processes to garments.

Steps in the wet cleaning Process

Just like dry cleaning, the garments should be inspected before cleaning for stains, fabric damage, fibre content, and the condition of trims and buttons.

Measuring the Garment

Garments that are prone to shrinkage or distortion should be measured before cleaning so they can be returned to their original size. Some rayon, acetate, and blends, such as acetate taffeta, as well as soft wools, may shrink in wet cleaning and cannot be restored to their original size and finish.

Testing for Colour fastness

Some garments will bleed if cleaned in water. Garments with coloured trims, multiple colours, or “dry clean only” care instructions should be tested for colourfastness. If the colour is affected, the garment should not be wet cleaned.

Stain Removal

Most water-soluble stains will be removed in the wet cleaning process and often do not require pre treatment. When stain removal is necessary on water-soluble stains, procedures can vary. While traditional stain removal agents can be used, many biodegradable stain removal agents are designed specifically for use in a wet cleaning system.

Solvent-soluble stains, such as paint, nail polish, and others, will need to be removed before cleaning. If a dry-side stain removal agent, such as oily-type paint remover, is used, it must be flushed completely from the fabric before wet cleaning. Before drying, the garments should again be inspected for stain removal to avoid setting a stain.

Classification of loads for Cleaning

Mechanical action, detergent, and water temperatures all play a role in load classifications for wet cleaning. The loads for commercial wet cleaning are usually based on fibre content and colour. Manufacturers of wet cleaning machines and detergents may have slightly varying classification systems. Garments are usually classified in three categories: a. Delicates–

  • Silk, acetate, rayon, acrylic, modacrylic, nylon, spandex, polyester
  • Wool and wool blends
  • Cotton, linen, ramie

Garments made from multiple fibres, the cycle used should be appropriate for the most fragile fiber. These clothes are further classified by colour, and if there is a sufficient number of garments to be cleaned, further classification can be done by weight.

Drying

Dryers used in conjunction with the new, mechanized wet cleaning washers have controls that monitor temperatures and the moisture present in garments. In some dryers, the drying cycle will stop when the garments reach a predetermined moisture level. Other dryers are only time- and temperature-controlled. Garments are classified by fibre content and weight for drying. Heat-sensitive fibres will need to be laid flat or hung to dry or finished on a steam air finisher, depending on their fabric structure.

Finishing

Standard finishing equipment can be used to finish wet-cleaned garments. Some finishing equipment manufacturers have developed systems that place tension on fabrics to aid in the finishing process. The finishing of some garments after wet cleaning may require more time.

Packaging

Before packaging garments that have been wet cleaned, it is important to allow them to dry thoroughly. This will ensure that garments that are prone to retaining moisture will not have fungal growth and foul odour.

Akash Dharamsey
ADD Laundry Concepts

 

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