The dyeing and colouring of fabrics involve several different methods and processes. Fabrics may be dyed after weaving or constructed from yarns already dyed. Other fabrics are coloured by a number of shades by simply printing the surface. While the quality of colours and dyes have greatly improved with advances in modern technology, failures may still occur.
According to the Care Label Rule, every garment must have a label providing directions for their care so that the owner or professional cleaner can appropriately tend to soiling without damaging it. So, if the care label says Dry Clean, then the garment it is attached to should be able to withstand the related processes and agents. This refers to every part of the garment, from the main fabric to the trim and dyes (unless otherwise stated.)
While you should always follow the instructions outlined by the label, unfortunately, some are inaccurate and problems may arise despite the greatest of care taken by the cleaner. To reduce the risk of fading or discolouration, it is advisable to perform a test prior to cleaning to ensure the suitability of a method.
In general, it is your right to assume that a properly tended to white garment will retain reasonable whiteness for the duration of its normal life expectancy while coloured garments retain their depth or brightness. Please note that cautionary steps should be taken to protect any colour of garment from excessive light exposure, as this can weaken the fabric and dyes. Always follow bleaching instructions as they appear on the label. If you have any questions or concerns regarding a garment, consult a professional cleaner for assistance.
Colour Loss in Dry Cleaning
Minor to severe fading can occur when garments that are dry cleaned have been coloured with solvent-soluble dyes. In some instances, more than one dye is used to colour a single garment, and if only one is solvent- soluble, a dramatic color change may occur. For example, the red component may be removed from a purple garment, leaving it blue. Another problem that may occur is when only one part of an outfit is cleaned and fades, thereby creating an outfit that no longer matches. For this reason, it is best to wash all parts of a set at the same time for consistency.
Household textiles are most susceptible to fading, such as comforters and draperies.
Washable and Water-Based Dyes and Colours
Many stains are treated using water and water-soluble chemicals, and even if the label says Dry Clean Only, the dyes should be water-resistant. However some dyes bleed even when exposed to perspiration, rain, or excessive moisture.
Sizing, used to provide body in a fabric, may be adversely affected by water and excessive moisture as well, forming dark rings or streaks as it dries. Unfortunately, discolouration related to sizing are difficult to treat on dry cleanable garments as they require additional water to remove the sizing disturbance, possibly aggravating the problem.
Considering that most fabrics are naturally off-white or have a yellowish cast, it is not surprising that white is actually a dye and colour. Optical brighteners, also called fluorescent whitening agents, may also be used to make fabrics as bright white as they can be. Their whiteness fades when these brightening agents are exposed to light (particularly when wet), since they tend to be unstable. As a matter of fact, fading may be in the form of not only a yellowish hue, but even gray or a pink or green cast.
Yellowing is a common problem with white garments. It is common when chlorine bleach comes into contact with resins, which sometimes are added to impart a "permanent press" quality. Avoid this by simply following the care label instructions for bleaching. Normal aging, oxidation, and exposure to atmospheric soils can also cause yellowing; fortunately, this may be resolved by carefully wet cleaning and bleaching, applying a fluorescent brightener during dry cleaning, or using a laundry detergent containing brightener .
Light and Chemical Damage
Extended sunlight and artificial light exposure causes most dyes to fade, particularly in areas such as the shoulders, collars, and sleeves of the garment. Take special care in protecting silk and wool, as well as garments dyed blue, green and lavender.
Chemicals, such as alcohol, can damage dyes. Avoid exposure to alkaline household substances such as toothpaste, hairspray, perfume, and deodorant. Some dyes may even by affected by the acidity of lemon. And as previously mentioned, bleach should always be used with extreme care as it is one of the most common causes of color loss and fabric damage.