A few weeks ago I met George Masselos of Centennial Dry Cleaners. We began talking on the subject of caring for your wardrobe and so began one of the more lengthy discourses we've posted on this blog which is why we are going to break it down into parts because this is great information and you need to digest it piecemeal.
Hello Le Noeud Papillon, it is great to have the chance to speak to your readers who love their silk, velvet, cotton and wool just like I do. My name is George Masselos and I own and operate Centennial Dry Cleaners in Sydney. I’ve owned these businesses since 1993 after leaving a career in merchant banking. Sounds funny but it was the best thing I ever did.
Centennial Dry Cleaners has won many local and State awards including NSW Dry Cleaner of the year twice. I have been a Board Director of the National Dry Cleaning Institute since 2002 and I am the current President of the NSW branch. We are one of only two dry cleaners in Australia that uses all 5 cleaning solvents, Perc, Hydrocarbon, GreenEarth, White Spirit, and Water. I really enjoy the dynamic nature of my industry as it combines retail, customer service, high tech machinery and equipment, and finding the right balance between a high quality product and service and efficient production levels. So, I still use a lot of skills I learnt in my former career.
George, what is ‘Dry Cleaning’?
Dry cleaning is the process of washing fabrics with a liquid other than water. Dry cleaning solvents dissolve oils, grease, and fats which are not water soluble. These solvents do not swell natural fibres as does water, one of the major causes of shrinkage. In laundering the solvent used is water. The dry cleaning industry started over 100 years ago in England. The solvents and machines we use today have developed considerably through new technology which has resulted in the safe and effective dry cleaning process we have today.
After the garments have been cleaned they come out of the machines dry and need to be pressed and ‘finished’. This finishing process involves steaming, pressing, and hand ironing to recreate that ‘as new’ look again.
The main solvent used for many decades has been Perc which is an excellent stain remover and is still used today. Hydrocarbon is a more versatile solvent being a litte less aggressive hence better for delicates such as silks and anything with beads and sequins. However, there has been a real move towards more environmental friendly solvents such as GreenEarth. GreenEarth replaces petroleum based solvents with liquid silicone, and is a very gentle solvent which is made from sand.
Can you tell us what we can wash at home?
The most correct and simple answer to this question is to follow the care label instructions on every garment. Many fibres, fabrics, finishes and ornamentations require particular care treatment such as dry clean only or hand wash only at 40 degrees. Unsuitable treatments can cause damage such as running colours, shrinkage or melting as a result of excessive heat or the incorrect solvent used (water or one of the three dry cleaning solvents).
To expand, most cotton jeans, pants, tops and jumpers are usually washable. To keep their colour and shape it is best to use cold or lukewarm water on a gentle cycle and preferably in a front load washer as the spindle in a top loader can be too aggressive and damage the garments. With jeans and cotton pants I always put them inside out to reduce the rubbing so they will keep their colour longer. Jumpers can also be hand washed using a mild detergent like Lux flaks or wool wash but it is important not to spin dry them and to dry them flat.
If however you have a difficult stain that is not water based such as oil, grease, fat, lipstick, some inks and paints, wax, gum, glue, etc it is best to take it to a good quality dry cleaner, preferably one that is a member of their Dry Cleaning Association. Further, garments that you should never wash are lined garments such as coats, jackets, dresses, ties, lined pants as the outer fabric and the lining will expand and shrink at different rates causing puckering and distortion which sometimes will not be able to be restored.
What about silk cleaning and restoration?
Silk is universally accepted as ‘the’ luxury fabric and is a continuous filament fibre produced by the silk worm. As you rightly point out Nicholas two of the biggest issues with silk are colour loss and loss of lustre. Be aware that perspiration, some deodorants, alcohol, and any solution containing alcohol such as after shave, perfume, and cosmetics can combine to create discolouration, colour loss and deterioration of silk fibres. If any stains occur you should never attempt to remove them by rubbing and especially when damp – silk fibres are delicate and easily damaged. If stains on silk are left for a month or more they will be much more difficult to remove and will start to oxidise on the lighter coloured silks.
Regarding dry cleaning we process all silk garments in a delicate short cycle with a lower temperature and ties are placed in a net bag. Many silks can be hand washed (not ties or lined garments, check the care label) and hang dry but you should always test for colour fastness on an inside seam with a white hanky or cotton bud. The following silk fabric, depending on colour fastness, can usually be wet cleaned; raw, spun, jacquard, pongee, shantung, and Tussah. The following should not be wet cleaned; chiffon, taffeta, satin, crepe, gabardine, and velvet silk.
Some silk garments such as wedding dresses and some evening wear are heavily sized to add addition luster and sheen. It is a little like starch in a cotton shirt that acts as a filler or glaze. It can deteriorate in washing and dry cleaning and only very few professional cleaners offer the service to resize a garment. It is very rarely requested and is a timely and ‘fidely’ process often for one garment. A more common way of restoring a silk item which most dry cleaners can offer is to use a silk finish or rebloom solution. This is great to restore colour loss or loss of lustre. The garment is soaked in a silk finish which is a mixture of dry cleaning fluid and a type of mineral oil, then briefly spun dry in the dry cleaning machine then hand pressed.
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