Streaks, Swales And Itsy-Bitsy Fabric Pieces By: Kenney Slatten

Ah, the days of constant swales and streaking. Yep, those days are still here. No matter the solvent of your choice, you can expect streaks and swales from time to time. Countless NID/IFI/DLI & NCA bulletins have been written on this subject. As always, the answers are there for those who wish to commit to being a member and reading the material. If you are already an affiliated member of DLI through your state or regional association, then you know you have the resources to go to. Tragically, a lot of people choose not to be a member – citing everything from solvent issues and cronyism to deflate the importance of membership over the years.

“DLI Has Always Been In Favor Of All Working Solvents
That Are User And Environmentally Friendly”

I read recently where DLI was accused of favoring certain solvents over the years. This was more nonsense bellowed through one of the popular forums out there, where the experts remain silent and do not participate. It is a real tragedy that newcomers (and some old) rely on this unprofessional messaging source to belch platitudes and bad advice. As it goes, monitors of this group report that DLI has occasionally been held accountable for not advancing alternative solvents. As a board member, I can tell you that is nonsense. The “White Paper’ on solvents written four years ago by DLI mentioned all solvents as viable alternatives if they met the criteria of quality cleaning, were EPA acceptable, and economically feasible. Perc never has nor ever will be touted as the “savior solvent.” That is just pure empty gossip with no foundation of truth. Seventeen board members in DLI history vote on such matters and all of them use different solvents. No one person was ever entrusted with an “opinion of solvents” from DLI.

Back to streaks and swales. They can be a real nuisance. And I can tell you that by using all solvents over the years that classification has more to do with this problem with solvent clarity running a close second. There is a list in maintenance literature that cites about 16 typical causes of streaks and swales. Machine maintenance runs a close third as a cause. Newer machines today have hone in on producing good air flow, which is accountable for a lot of the problems with heavy and light solvents mixing with heavy and light weight clothes. Today’s machines dry so much more efficiently and our issues with streaks are less than they once were.

The itsy-bitsy pieces of fabric is a common phenomenon related to the mechanical action of tumbling clothes. Most fabrics take tumbling and wetness (drycleaning or water) well and hold up for years. However, there is always some loss of fibers to each garment per cleaning. Often these minuscule pieces of material will loosen, drift and attach themselves to other garments in the wheel and you now have a fuzzy garment. Some lint rolling (and a good detergent and sizing) will help, but for the most part those fibers are permanently locked into other fabrics and have a fuzzy appearance. On the whole, every cleaning will render itsy-bitsy pieces of fabric fibers loose in the wheel. Again, proper classification is of major importance.

Classification was the hallmark of a good, careful cleaner when using the older solvents that were much more aggressive. Today’s solvents are pretty mild and meek and don’t do the damage that carbon tet, perc and naptha once did. I’m sure that the newer cleaning machines have lessened that problem as well. In the old days, it was considered normal to classify clothes in a smaller plant by at the very least, separation of hard wools and silks by weight and dark/light colors. Further classification would be regular/hard and fragile/soft silks and wools. Which is the most important, color or weight? That’s a tough one but to be sure that with today’s lousy dye coloring in clothes, color is still an all-important factor. Then there were also hard and soft wools classified by regular or fragile, further broken down by light and dark colors. If today’s discerning cleaners break them down much further than darks and lights, I am surprised. Naturally, the larger the operation, the better one can afford to have more categories of classification. At the very least I don’t see how anyone could do less than dark-white-medium of hard and soft wools, silks and cotton blends in any solvent!

Overloading of the machines was always a cause of streaks and swales and as I mentioned before, dirty solvent full of NVR (the bad kind-not the good kind) will always cause a silk to act up. Drycleaning 101 is always the answer for these problems. Today, with our poor economy, I realize it is difficult to walk the straight line in drycleaning. However, if we choose the broad path too many times, destruction and failure will follow. Frankly, in my day of plant ownership I would rather have closed up shop than to have to scrimp and look for savings over quality. Of course, I’m just a country boy from east Texas…and I scratch when I itch. We all must do what we have to do to survive. I wish everyone great survival.

I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!

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