Damages & Responsibilities

worn-sweater-80x80When a garment or other textile article is damaged in use or in the care process, a determination of the cause can often be made because of the obvious nature of the damage. Once the cause is identified, responsibility can usually be assigned to the consumer, manufacturer or drycleaner.

The manufacturer is responsible to offer a product that will perform satisfactorily for its normal life expectancy when it is refurbished by the care process specified by the care label instructions. Damage such as severe general color loss and dye bleeding in the care process, shrinkage that makes an item unwearable, color fade from the decomposition of fluorescent brighteners, and failure of trim and decorations to withstand the care process are examples of manufacturer responsibility.

The consumer is responsible for damage that occurs during use and home care. This includes failure to follow care instructions, further complicating a stain by using a home remedy such as water or soda, chemical damage from spillage of alcoholic beverages, medications, perfumes, after shaves, hair dyes, perspiration and shrinkage of garments due to improper washing techniques.

The drycleaner is responsible for damage caused by redeposition of soil in the care process, damage due to improper spot removal procedures, holes or tears caused by mechanical means, damage resulting from articles left in pockets and failure to follow care label instructions.

It may be difficult to determine responsibility for some types of damage. In cases where the cause of damage is uncertain, a garment can be examined by laboratory methods to analyze the nature of the damage and the probable responsibility.

The following are definitions of the various common types of textile damage, with responsibility attributed where possible:

Appearance Change – Any change of appearance in the product such as pilling, puckering, or permanent wrinkles is attributable to characteristics of the fabric if prescribed care procedures have been followed. (See also Color Change and Fading.

Change in Body or Hand – Changes in the feel of the fabric such as stiffness or limpness are usually attributed to characteristics of the fabric or failure of the fabric finish, assuming prescribed care procedures have been followed.

Delamination – Delamination is the separation of a layered fabric structure in laundering or drycleaning, and is considered a product failure if the prescribed scare procedure has been followed. Blistering or partial delamination is more common than complete separation.

Crocking – A transfer of color from the surface of a colored fabric to an adjacent area of the same fabric or to another surface principally by rubbing action. For example, when the dye from a blouse rubs off onto the waistband of a skirt.

Color Change – As used in lightfastness testing, a change in color of any kind (whether a change in hue, saturation, or lightness) discernible by comparing the exposed area of the specimen with the masked area, when viewed in north skylight or equivalent source with illumination of 538 lux (50 foot candles) or more on the surfaces. For example, under the collar or lapel and inside seams or hems.

Felting Shrinkage – Felting is peculiar to animal fibers which include wool. Felting is the irreversible dimensional change that occurs in a relaxed fabric when it is subjected to heat, detergent, and agitation on repeated laundering, or the mechanical action of drycleaning at high moisture levels, and is accompanied by a change of surface appearance of the fabric.

Dimensional Change – A generic term for changes in length or width of a garment or fabric specimen subjected to specified conditions. The change is usually expressed as a percentage of the initial dimension of the specimen.6Most fabrics, unless specially treated or processed during manufacture, tend to undergo dimensional changes in length or width during laundering or drycleaning. The three types of shrinkage in fabrics are relaxation, fiber or yarn swelling, and felting.

Relaxation Shrinkage – This type of shrinkage occurs when the latent strains in the fabric, acquired in manufacture, are released by the fibers. This tends to occur more readily in laundering than in drycleaning. Heat, steam or water, and mechanical action are the primary causes. Such shrinkage can be minimized by manufacturing controls or special finishes. It is beyond the control of the consumer, drycleaner, or launderer. Puckering or bubbling can result when relaxation shrinkage occurs unevenly in a fabric. This condition may not respond to restorative measures.

Residual Shrinkage – Some fibers swell in diameter when exposes to water or moisture, resulting in the length of the fiber decreasing. Such shrinkage can be recovered with hand ironing, or the garment may stretch back to size during wearing. Commercial laundry equipment is not designed to restore this type of shrinkage, so allowances are usually made in the manufacture of the fabric or the finished article to prevent loss of fit. Fiber swelling does not occur in drycleaning as it does in laundering.Temporary dimensional changes can occur with changes in relative humidity in fabrics made of hygroscopic fibers such as rayon and cotton. This can be seen in draperies, which may undergo daily variations in length depending on atmospheric conditions.

Chemical Damage – Holes and tears caused by chemical damage, including prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, are characterized by fiber weakness in the area of damage. This damage may appear only after the agitation of drycleaning or laundering washes out the weakened fibers. Holes and tears can sometimes be easily extended, demonstrating fabric damage. Laboratory techniques can frequently detect chemical residues in drycleaned garments in the areas of damage. Most corrosive chemicals are water-soluble and are completely removed in laundering.

Shrinkage Control – Terms such as “preshrunk” and “shrinkage controlled” relate to special processing of fabrics for reduction of dimensional loss. The degree of control is usually expressed in residual percentage.

Fading – Heat – Permanent fading caused by the heat of drying, steam finishing, or ironing at temperatures appropriate to the fiber content of the fabric or care label instruction is considered a fault of the fabric.
Fading – Light Exposure – Light fading occurs in some articles from exposure to sunlight, fluorescent light, or any light with a high ultraviolet content, and is characterized by nonuniformity. Protected areas of the faded article, such as under the collar or lapel and inside seams and hems, will appear unfaded by contrast. Fading is not always uniform in the exposed areas, as light exposure may be more concentrated in some areas than others.

Fading – Chemicals – Chemical residues in fabric can cause fading. Household cleaning chemicals containing bleaches; cosmetics containing alcohol; medications, particularly acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide; and laboratory spills are the major sources of chemicals that cause fading. The effect may take time to develop, but is accelerated by heat. Spot fading caused by chemical residues is usually considered consumer caused.

Fading – Cleaning or Laundering – Loss of color by a cleaning process is characterized by a uniform color change because the action of solvent or water is uniformly distributed. An exception may be an article in which fabric from two different bolts was used and demonstrated different degrees of color fastness. Color loss or failure when the prescribed cleaning method was used is considered a fabric failure.

Stretching – A knitted or woven fabric may become distorted in one or both directions due to inherent characteristics of the yarn or to manufacturing influences. The condition is a fault of the fabric unless the method of prevention is specified by the care label or unless it can be corrected by a normally applicable method.

Fading – Atmospheric Gases – The two main atmospheric contaminants that affect colors are ozone and nitrous oxide. Fading from nitrous oxide is commonly referred to as fume fading. Acetate fabrics, especially blues and purples, are particularly susceptible to fume fading, usually turning a reddish color. Careful choice of dyes as well as application of chemical inhibitors can prevent this problem. All color types are susceptible to the effects of ozone. Fading from atmospheric contaminants is considered a fabric failure unless it can be corrected by a normally applicable method.

Fading – Perspiration – Fading caused by perspiration is characterized by location on the garment, such as under the arms, across the shoulders, around the neck over the thighs, and around the waistline. Colors should be resistant to perspiration. Perspiration normally has a wide pH range of from 3.5 to 8.0. Fresh perspiration is normally acidic. Bacterial action over a period of time makes it alkaline. Excessive acidity or alkalinity is an individual condition against which there can be no assurance of colorfastness. Acceptable resistance is specified in ASTM Standard Performance Specifications for Textile Fabrics published by American Society for Testing and Materials.

Holes, Tears, Cuts, and Abrasions – Holes, tears, cuts, and abrasion on fabrics are usually caused during use, though occasionally they can occur in the process of laundering or drycleaning. Holes caused by insects occur during storage. These can be identified by microscopic examination from the appearance of the ends of the yarn, as can holes caused by abrasion.Sharp tears and cuts are not easily identifiable as to agency of damage. Items should not be accepted by the launderer or drycleaner without inspection for preexisting damage. When sharp tears or cuts are discovered after processing and become an issue of responsibility, the servicing agency (launderer or drycleaner) must assume responsibility unless it can be proved that the damage occurred in use. Insect damage may not be apparent before laundering or drycleaning, but because of the long incubation period of larvae, is assumed to have occurred during periods of storage, by the consumer, not during short periods of servicing.

Redeposition – Soil, dyes, and cleaning aids may be transferred to fabrics during laundering or drycleaning, causing white or light colored fabrics to become gray, yellow, or off-white. Laboratory tests for redeposition include localized stain removal and microscopic examination. If redeposition is uniformly distributed or if it is confined to an area where stain removal was carried out prior to cleaning, the fault is with the cleaner. If only specific panels or sections of the article are affected, involving fabric from two different bolts, redeposition is the result of a soil-attracting characteristic of the fabric in the affected part, and is considered a manufacturing problem.

Stains – Discolorations resulting from accidental contact with a foreign substance are usually the responsibility of the wearer or user. This also applies to colorless substances such as sugar-containing spills (e.g., soft drinks and alcoholic beverages), that become discolored on aging or exposure to heat and are usually indelible. Questions of drycleaner or launderer responsibility arise only when the fabric, color, or appearance of the product has been damaged by methods of removal or attempted removal of the stains. Self-staining due to dye migration is a product failure, assuming the prescribed care method was used.

Trims and Decoration – The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that items attached to or made an integral part of a textile product, such as beads, sequins, sewn-on belts, linings, collars, ribbons, shoulder pads, and fasteners are expected to have the same qualities of colorfastness, dimensional stability, and appearance retention as the major component materials. Any failure of these parts in prescribed cleaning and finishing is considered a failure of the whole product and is the responsibility of the manufacturer.

Reprinted with permission from “Fair Claims Guide for Consumer Textile Products” by American National Standards Institute, American Association of textile Chemists and Colorists Technical Manual (AATCC).