The Fine Art Of Efficient Pressing And Finishing – Part I

If we think only of ourselves as “drycleaners,” we will be limiting ourselves, and our abilities. Think of being or becoming a “Textile Cleaning Professional” who is knowledgeable and proficient in the field of garment renovation and restoration.

After the garments have entered our plants, and we have accepted them, priced them, tagged them and sent them on their journey through the plant, with enough time allocated to do all that is necessary, it will eventually be time for them to begin making their way back towards the finishing, inspection, assembly, bagging and storage areas.

Finishing With Conventional Equipment

Finishing of a garment actually begins when it is marked in. The normal practice in a lot of plants is to either staple the tag on the garment care label or the brand label, or to attach it with a safety pin. Frequently other tags will also be included such as “do over,” “special” or perhaps a drop store tag. These tags hamper finishing and pressing because they frequently will either be ignored by the pressers or finishers and leave large marks, creases or wrinkled areas where they are attached and simply pressed over. As they go to the assembly area, the garment needs to be disturbed while the assembler is looking for the tag. All too often the garment gets dropped as soon as it is found and is distorted or hangs on the hanger crookedly. A more efficient way to attach the marking tags is to use a Dennison type gun with plastic strings to hold the tag….just like they do in department stores. These tags can be attached to the same side of the garment for all garments except trousers. For jackets, shirts, blouses, dresses and any other top half of a garment they can be attached at the bottom of the sleeve or arm hole. The method of attaching is by holding the doubled over tag in one hand then inserting the needle through the tag one time then the needle goes through the garments at a seam area. There is no need to double the plastic string but it is necessary to make sure the string is inserted thoroughly and the end of the needle held between the thumb and forefinger while the needle is pulled out. This simple little procedure will eliminate the tangs of the plastic not straightening, therefore preventing them from coming out of the garments. Trousers can be tagged on the inside of the fly or through a belt loop that is on the side of the assembler’s right side as they are looking at the finished garment.

As the garments enter the finishing area, they should be ready to finish. There should be no additional treatments necessary, such as aerosol spray sizing or starches. This should have been done during the cleaning procedures. Sizing can be added to the drycleaning machine by injection or as a charge to the base tank. Generally, the equivalent of ½ ounce of sizing for each 10 pounds of clothing cleaned is used in a charge machine process. This is a good amount for fall and winter but when summer garments begin coming into the plant the sizing may be raised to about ¾ ounces for each ten pounds cleaned. This small amount of sizing will allow the garments to be finished approximately 10% faster than not having sizing. Another advantage is that sizing will not allow staining material to penetrate as thoroughly into the fabric and when they are pressed sizing will tend to help the garment hold its shape better while making a better impression on your customers. If using an injection process for detergent use about half as much sizing as you do detergent. Too much sizing is not recommended.

At a conventional silk finishing station there should be the correct pieces of equipment, proper tools, adequate lighting and everything should work trouble free. The garment will usually go to the steam air finisher first (Suzie), for preconditioning. After placing the garment on the steam air finisher the body adjustments need to be made with the handles. If the bag is not properly tensioned this will result in a longer finishing time. Steam time is usually about 5-6 seconds, then air for 15-20 seconds. The object is to have the steam relax the fibers without over wetting them. The above times are correct with steam pressure of 75-80 psig, (pressure per square inch at the gauge), and a clean, cloth cover that will allow the proper airflow through it. Steam pressure below this will be too wet and will tend to over wet the garment taking much longer to dry. With the proper amount of dampness in the garment during steaming, it should be completely dry at the end of the air cycle. The steam relaxes the fiber and the air stretches it just enough to remove most of the wrinkles, then dries the fabric in a wrinkle free condition. Proper use of the steam air finisher can do wonders for production efficiency and the appearance of the finished garment. With a properly conditioned garment it is frequently necessary to only touch up the seams, collar and sleeve bottoms.

A conventional trouser unit will consist of an automatic topper and one-lay legger with a steam iron attached. The first operation will be to place the trousers on the automatic topper. Presteam, then straighten the pockets and roll pleats so they will be perfectly aligned with the creases they are supposed to meet. At this time the automatic cycle can be started, which should be timed like the steam air finisher above. It is necessary to have a good pad on the topper for best results. A hard or improperly installed pad will cause many wrinkles in the garment being finished.

After the trousers are removed from the topper, they should be placed on the press buck and the front crease lined up with the pleats. If the trousers are without pleats then the front crease is straightened and placed on the press buck so the crease will stop at about the bottom of the crotch. Hold the leg down with vacuum. After removing all of the wrinkles, bring the head down, release the vacuum and start the automatic cycle. The timing should be about 3-5 seconds of head steam followed by vacuum of 10-12 seconds. When the vacuum has stopped, the head should raise and the vacuum come back on for 4-5 seconds. This last vacuum is important as it gives the final drying of the trousers. As the head is coming up there should be no vacuum from the press buck. If vacuum is on while the head is coming up it will pull the fabric up and make a long wrinkle that must be re-steamed and dried to get rid of it. If moiré is present on thin trouser legs this is because steam and vacuum are applied at the same time.

One thing that should not happen is to allow the steam to remain on long enough to touch the top part of the trousers that is not covered by the press head. This is what causes the wrinkling in the pocket and side areas of the trousers. If you can see steam coming from around the press head…this is too much steam and should be reduced. Another little trick to avoid the blank spot between the topper pleat and the legger crease is to reach over with your left hand and hold the trouser material against the head of the press.

It goes without saying that cotton, linen and ramie trousers should not be steamed on the conventional automatic topper, then the legs mashed hard with the legger. This creates a very unprofessional looking garment with wrinkles at the top. Usually a linen or ramie garment, and frequently cottons, will need a light water mist before pressing and the tops of the trousers need to be hand ironed also with a water spray. Steam alone will not properly remove wrinkles on cotton, linen or ramie garments.

Avoid using the steam iron on a finished garment, except in extreme cases. What happens is the steam from the iron relaxes the fibers and the garment looks good…temporarily. Usually long enough to be bagged. As the fabric dries it will probably wrinkle worse than it was. If the garment is properly steamed and dried with vacuum and heat from the metal press head plate, there should be no reason to use the iron. If it is necessary to use a steam iron the vacuum should be on during steaming and left on until the fabric is completely dry. All touch ups should be made with the fabric on the press buck!

After Finishing

After leaving the finishing station the garment should glide smoothly down the slick rail on its journey to the inspection station. When it arrives at the well-lighted inspection station the tagging described earlier will begin to pay off. There will be no hunting for tags and time will be available for a thorough, methodical inspection of the garment. The overall appearance should be checked. It should be hanging on the hanger correctly, and evenly. The front will be examined for discolored areas, which could denote color loss, spots, stains, or general soiling.

Creases should be checked for sharpness and continuity, or stopping evenly on both sides of the garment. The underarm areas should be checked for odors. Whatever your inspection entails, it should be the same for every like garment….day after day. The three worst things to let pass are:

• spots, stains, streaks or swales

• double creases, wrinkles or lapels not rolled

• shine or seam impressions.

After inspection the garments are mated with their original invoice, the invoice is completed with all items being assembled together. Next comes the bagging and placing on the storage racks or conveyer.