Up, up and away12 April 2022
Howard Bradley looks back over some drycleaning disasters that he cannot help chuckling about today
Now, I know that in troubled times, it is very important to keep morale up, often with humour, so I thought that I might recant some of the funnier moments that I have witnessed in my time in the industry.
I remember one day when I was working for a multi-national, experimenting with different cleaning methods and solvent types as an alternative to Perchloroethylene. The cleaning ability of the different mediums was tested on different loads of actual customer items, not old stock or charity shop stuff, but live orders. Dangerous.
This was over the course of about a month and things such as stain removal ability and garment finish were a vital part of the testing. What was not known at this time is that one of these cleaning mediums was becoming more acidic with each load that was cleaned in it and I shall never forget the silence that descended upon the place when a load had finished and the acid had built up to such an extent that instead of the expected several pairs of trousers being unloaded, just the remains of waistbands with zips attached where being pulled out of the machine as all the rest of the fabrics had dissolved.
There was another occasion when a new super-duper ‘Suzi’ or open steam former was being tested on live orders. This was also in a factory environment and ceiling height was not an issue so the idea was that wedding dresses, especially the multi-layer net items, would be lowered from a hook onto and over the former and the dress would be steamed and then a powerful air blow would push the steam through all the layers thereby, hopefully, removing creases without the need for using a finishing table for the under layers.
Well, the first test dress was an expensive, very full multi-layered item and the steam cycle, which lasted for about 15 seconds, was most effective as it successfully got through the layers of fabric. The interesting part of the new Suzi was when the blow function came into it: the air pressure was so great that the dress took off from the top of the Suzi with the seeming speed of a space rocket and flew spectacularly up 30ft to the ceiling of the factory, changed trajectory and continued on its wayward mission over the very large garment finishing area, over the top of the drycleaning machines and landed on the just emptied, but very mucky still rake out bucket.
It was a scene of almost pure slapstick.