Finishing school

12 April 2022



Roger Cawood and Richard Neale educate cleaners on finishing to the highest standard and the problems that can lie in wait for the unwary – or untrained – operator


Achieving and maintaining high finishing standards is, without doubt, the most difficult and demanding aspect of producing quality drycleaning or wetcleaning. Unlike staining and cleanliness (where an item is either clean, stain free or not) even new garments can exhibit minor finishing faults. Perfect standards of finish are not attainable, which makes final inspection a particularly demanding task, as the inspector has to constantly decide if faults are of little or no consequence or need to be returned to the finisher.

In addition to well trained, conscientious finishing staff, a range of finishing equipment that is in good condition and well maintained is fundamental to quality. The majority of cleaners today rely on ironing tables, rotor cabinets or stretch formers and various finishing aids. Whilst this will suffice, for quite a wide range of items, cleaners at the high end of the market generally find they need to employ a wider range of equipment, including a Hoffman or a modern version of the scissor press with others now investing in state-of-the-art automatic trouser presses to reach the finishing standards their customers expect.

In short, to finish a wide range of complex garments to a high standard, you do need the right equipment. Ideally this might include, for example:-

  • An ironing table with ironing surface steam, air blow, vacuum suction and a sleeve arm.
  • A professional electric steam iron.
  • A stretch former or rotor type finisher.
  • A trouser topper.
  • A Hoffman or modern manual type scissor press.
  • A range of finishing aids including a tie former.

Suits, trousers and jackets (together with costumes and slacks) account for around 70% of a cleaner’s volume. This month we are taking a look at where things can go wrong!

Finally, the secret of consistently maintaining high standards is a detailed, comprehensive, final inspection procedure.


Shabby lapels spoil the finish

Fault: the customer returned this Magee jacket and complained that the lapels were wrinkled and ‘did not look right’.

Technical cause: lack of attention to the lapel area during finishing is the problem here. This type of finishing fault can often be traced back to an over reliance on stretch formers, which usually deliver an excellent overall standard of finish. However, the lapels normally require additional ironing/ pressing followed by rolling and setting. 

Rectification: poor finish in the lapel area is a very common fault but fortunately easily rectified. In the majority of cases, the lapel needs to be ironed or pressed from the reverse side. If the edges are puckered, the lapel needs to be steamed first and the edges stretched, held under tension with vacuum applied, before pressing or ironing. The lapel should then be set and rolled; ideally the steam iron should be used for this aspect of the finish. 

Final inspection staff need to be taught what to look for when assessing the finish on lapels, a poor finish in this area will ruin what was otherwise a good standard of presentation. 

Responsibility: while this type of fault does not normally result in a claim, many cleaners are unaware of the correct standard of finish and actually believe that their customers prefer them to be pressed flat! For the vast majority of lapels, the correct standard of finish requires that they should be smooth, wrinkle-free and rolled, the roll terminating at or just above the top button of the jacket.

Soft main creases on trousers

Fault: soft, limp creases are a fault that seldom gives rise to a complaint, but they are probably the most common trouser finishing fault. Sharp main creases are very important to customers (as evidenced by the widespread popularity of StayCrease and similar services) and they differentiate between the amateur and professional.

Technical cause: there are many causes for soft creases but the most common are:

  • Ironing: ‘blipping’ the steam on and off while ironing the creases, failing to follow the creases with the point of the iron, ironing too quickly, failing to iron centre leg lays and poor vacuum.
  • Pressing lack of press locking pressure, poor vacuum, incorrect pressing technique (i.e. failure to apply vacuum when releasing the head) and insufficient steam time (minimum 2.5 seconds).

Rectification: addressing and correcting these faults should be straightforward and starts with an equipment check, followed by close observation of the finisher's technique, to establish the precise cause.

Responsibility: responsibility lies with final inspection. It is the inspector's job to maintain quality standards and to return garments to finishing when they fall short.

Ripples lead to replacement

Fault: the cleaner was unable to rectify the localised ripples and wrinkles that developed in the pocket area of this jacket during drycleaning

Technical cause: the ripples have been generated by shrinkage of the fusible interlining. These interlinings are used in the front facings and shoulder areas of jackets to provide body and support to the fabric. Prior to cleaning a large beer stain was slop-spotted with a 50:50 soap/water mixture. The moisture, together with the mechanical action in cleaning, has caused the interlining to shrink, drawing the outer fabric into the parallel ripples so characteristic of this type of fault. In some cases, the fault is down to inappropriate choice of interlining by the manufacturer.

Rectification: in this case the shrinkage was too severe and could not be reversed. However, in some milder cases the fault can be corrected. Fully heat the area with bottom steam and then immediately stretch the heated area at right angles to the ripples and hold under tension while applying the vacuum. Then, if appropriate for the textile, press and vacuum with the head locked (or steam iron with vacuum) and fully cool before moving.

Responsibility: The cleaner is responsible for the shrinkage and should negotiate with the customer. All cleaners should be aware of the location of fusible interlinings and the risks associated with the liberal use of water-based spotting chemicals and soap/water mixtures.

Trouser main creases out of Line

Fault: after cleaning and pressing, these wool/polyester trousers were returned by an irate customer who complained that the creases at the back were not lined up correctly.

Technical cause: incorrect crease positioning when pressing or ironing.

Rectification: The cleaner had attempted to iron out and reposition the incorrect crease but was unable to remove the faint line left by the incorrectly positioned crease. The problem here is that polyester is a thermoplastic fibre which softens and eventually melts under the influence of increasing temperature and unfortunately, in some cases, creases that are set in during ironing/pressing can be impossible to remove without risk of glazing the fabric. (The maximum recommended finishing temperature for polyester is 150C.) It is possible that covering the line with a thin cotton cloth and steam-ironing (at a setting of 200C) may remove the line, but at the risk of glazing/shining the fabric.

Responsibility: If the double crease cannot be removed, the cleaner should accept the blame. Every finisher should be aware of the risk of introducing double creases in polyester and polyester-mix fabrics and take great care to ensure that they keep to the original crease line. It is worth noting that double creases and incorrectly positioned leg creases are frequently the result of failure to use centre leg lays.

The customer was disappointed with the lapels on this expensive Magee jacket
After refinishing and setting the lapels
A state-of-the-art trouser press
Some well pressed main creases
After slop spotting with a 50:50 soap water mix, this interlining problem could not be corrected
As returned by the customer
The incorrect crease could not be removed


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