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Wetcleaning silk and rayon wedding gowns requires more expertise and skill due to the
inherent fiber sensitivity and weave limitations.
Wedding Gown Preservation Co.,
owned by Michael Schapiro, is a
large wedding gown specialty
cleaner located in Binghamton, NY.
They service drycleaners and bridal
shops worldwide.
The success of the company is
having the best trained and skilled
personnel possible.
I spend a great deal of time there training the staff on fabrics and chemical applications.
Other consultants are brought in including Bob Edwards of A. L. Wilson Chemical Co. who
trains the staff on new chemical formulations and applications to wedding gown fabrics.
Silk
It is important to evaluate the look, feel and finish before wetcleaning so it can be duplicated
after wetcleaning.
For example, some silks may require softening agents while others may need more body and
hand, requiring stiffening agents.
Pre-spotting
Before wetcleaning it is important to pre-spot all stains and soil due to the fragile nature of the
fabric that can only receive minimum mechanical action.
I try to stay away from anionic detergents to avoid a counter action with cationic detergents
that are used for wetcleaning silk. We use nonionic detergents and other formulations that do
not react with these detergents.
Some of the pre-spotting agents that we use have a hydrogen peroxide base which is effective
for oxidized stains. The important thing about the pre-spotters is that they must be left on the
fabric for a period of time to loosen the staining prior to wetcleaning. It should be left on at least
one hour, which gives it time to loosen the soil and staining.
Wetcleaning
The best detergent to use is a cationic detergent which has enzymes and a slightly acid base.
It softens the silk, giving it luster and inhibits shrinking.
The gown should be soaked at least 15 minutes in 100°F temperature and drained. It should
then be put in a rinse tank with a softening agent. It is then hung and possibly hosed off to
remove residual residue. Remember the water temperatures in wetcleaning, rinsing and
bleaching should be the same to avoid thermal shock to the fabric.
Bleaching
We stay away from sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate, which is alkaline in nature.
We find that these bleaches may affect the fluorescent brightness used in the gown.
We find that a hydrogen peroxide soaking is very effective. We add a nonionic lubricant that
aids the penetration of the bleach and often serves as a softening agent.
The gown is then rinsed with a softening agent and hung. A reducing bleach that acts as a
whitening agent is sodium hydrosulphite.
Use two ounces of sodium hydrosulphite per gallon of water at 100°F.
Nonionic detergents are also used for penetration and softening of the fabric. Similar rinsing
and softening agents are required.
Rayon
Rayon fabrics have a great deal of potential for shrinkage, which must be addressed. Although
some rayon fabrics can be washable, the rayon fabrics used for wedding gowns are not
washable.
Rayon fabrics are often stretched and stabilized with the sizing. The wetcleaning process
removes the sizing and produces shrinkage.
Pre-spotting
The rayon fabrics are pre-spotted. Alkali, however can be added to pre-spotters for better soil
and stain removal.
Wetcleaning
The wetcleaning process used for rayon is similar to the processes we use for silk. After the
silks are rinsed and softening agents are added and then hung, weights are clipped on to the
hemline to alleviate the chance of shrinkage. If the weights are properly applied, the possibility
of shrinkage will be eliminated. Rayon stretches while in a wet condition but not in a dry
condition.
Bleaching
The best bleach for rayon is sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate. Sodium percarbonate
is usually chosen because of its ability to dissolve in cooler water.
Add two or three ounces per gallon of water at 100°F temperature. Add a nonionic detergent
to maintain softness. Soak for two to three hours, rinse and use an acetic acid bath to neutralize
the alkali in the bleach. Rinse, using a softening agent and hang.
As we previously mentioned, use weights to correct any shrinkage.
Clarification of June article on training 
It was brought to my attention that I should have stated that drycleaners should use only
those paint removers designed for Green Earth solvent. I apologize for this omission.

Wetcleaning silk and rayon gowns
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Dan Eisen is the former chief garment analyst for the Neighborh