Grey day for a white wedding dress

25 October 2022

SPECIAL REPORT: Our resident experts Roger Cawood and Richard Neale respond to a reader’s problem with a wedding Gown

Problem: this wedding dress was wetcleaned by an experienced cleaner. On removal from the machine, it displayed greying of the shoulder straps and of the ornamental ‘bow’ overlay. The rest of the garment looked fine, with no obvious discoloration at all.

Technical cause: it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a cleaner to cause this type of fault by incorrect cleaning, because only three panels of the garment are affected (the two shoulder straps and the bow). The most common cause of this particular problem is the use of an incorrect optical brightening agent on the affected areas. The brightening agents used for good quality textiles designed for normal cleansing and re-use do not react adversely with the brightening agents used in aqueous cleaning detergents. This applies both to wetcleaning products and normal laundry detergents. However, this fault does occur if one of the less expensive brightening agents of the type used for paper is used on a textile. Many of these react with the brightening agent in the detergent to give a blue, pink, green or, in this case, grey cast to the fabric.

Responsibility: in order to establish beyond doubt the cause of the problem here, it should be sent to a reputable testing laboratory with specialist equipment. It first needs to be examined under light of different wavelengths.

Rectification: once brightening agents have bonded to a fabric, they can be very difficult to remove and although OBA quenchers are available they require precise application and a further process may then be required to establish the correct handle. In this particular case we believe the best solution would be to commission an expert dressmaker to remove the straps and waist overlay and replace them with new white material.

LOCAL PROBLEM: After wetcleaning, this dress displayed localised greying to the shoulder straps …
... and to the bow overlay around the waist.

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