Understanding Fabric Care in the World of Technology


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker


November 21, 2023


Emily Lane  00:04

So are we dealing in an era where this information is a little outdated because of the fact that technology has come into play, people do have better ways to care for their garments? Or are we kind of working in an age old system?

Bret Schnitker  00:21

In the fine print, it could be outdated. But remember, when brands today sell globally, they don't have insight into what customers machines look like and how they treat the garments. And then there's the guy factor I like to call because most guys completely ignore all care content instructions, and we throw it in machine wash hot, tumble dry, because we need it tomorrow.

Emily Lane  00:48

Welcome to Clothing Coulture of fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily Lane.

Bret Schnitker  00:57

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward and discuss solutions to real industry challenges.

Emily Lane  01:05

Clothing Coulture is produced by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. 

Emily Lane  01:13

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, we are joined together once again, at our tabletop because we have more questions from you. And thank you so much for sending those in. We've had some conversations recently from both customers and listeners about fabric, you know, we see these tags inside our garments, and they tell us what to do. And sometimes we get them dry clean, because that's what we're told to do. And we hate to do it because that, you know, adds to our little weekly bill. 

Bret Schnitker  01:44

And sometimes they completely ignore it and the shirt comes out this big.

Emily Lane  01:48

Exactly right. And there's so many so many things. And sometimes that print is so small dry clean only, hand wash, delicate wash, reqular watch, make sure to, lay it flat and dry it like and it's just not always right. So let's just talk a little bit about fabric, its care and why certain choices are made during the development cycle of garments. Are there some rules of thumb are there? Like what's the default decision on fabric care?

Bret Schnitker  02:19

It varies by fabric. And I think that the default is safety. You know, when a when a brand goes to launch a particular product, they will do their research, whether internally or utilizing a testing organization. They'll send the fabric to testing organization, the testing organization will know the fabric content, they'll know the dye stuff that's being used, and they will recommend the the most safest care instructions for a particular garment. Okay. And that's the that's default.

Emily Lane  02:50

the default. Okay, are there some general rules of thumb like, you know, I'll set this one up. I recently picked up a garment from a dry cleaner that was made 100% cotton, and I was devastated by the results from that dry cleaner because that that item is just scorched, it's the fabric is trashed, and I didn't drop it off that way. Yeah,

Bret Schnitker  03:15

I think that's probably more of a notation on near dry cleaner than than the actual dry cleaning process. But certainly, dry cleaning itself uses a solvent, Perko chloral ethylene and it is a solvent that removes stains and then they put it into chamber and that all evaporates away and it's you know, it's more of a careful way to to clean a garment in general

Emily Lane  03:45

and it's truly dry.

Bret Schnitker  03:47

Now, that solvent itself doesn't start dry, but it dries very, very quickly evaporates. It's a petroleum based product cleans this type of item. And it's been used for a long, long time. Today in the world of performance fabrics or synthetics, fat synthetic fabrics, or cotton. Most of those don't really require the need for dry cleaning today. Your delicate things like that certainly should be dry cleaned, you will you will minimize shrinkage, you'll keep color longer, etc. Traditional avenues silks and, you know, nicer gowns and laces, laces and things that are, you know, fragile or delicate. I think dry cleaning is definitely a safe default. Today. There's been so many evolutions and different dye stops that there are natural dyes that are occurring today that you have to be a little sensitive to with PERC. That's the abbreviation for that stuff. Because not all of those dye stops are solvent resistant. So while you're attempting to preserve color

Emily Lane  04:57

Solvent resistant wait what?

Bret Schnitker  04:59

well, we're using a solvent in dry cleaning to clean a garment, which is. And so that perk chloral ethylene is a solvent petroleum based solvent, the dye stuff being a natural dye stuff is not solvent resistant. So what happens is when you potentially if you take that to a dry cleaner, your color will fade, because while it can resist to sunlight and normal laundering, you put it with a solvent, this petroleum based solvent, it's going to reduce the color. So you have to, you know, with all the evolutions of, of dye dye stuffs and things like that today, you have to really explore, you know, what's the best method and I would tell you that today, everyone loves to throw things in the laundry. And more than ever, we're mainly a synthetic society, polyesters, nylons, things like that. All of those, for the most part can all be washed in your laundry. And

Bret Schnitker  04:59

Really, I can't tell you the number of garments that I have dryclean that are 100% polyester,

Bret Schnitker  05:56

Of course, because that the companies are defaulting to safety Exactly. But the reality is, is that it that as laundry machines have evolved, I mean, we have some pretty tech forward laundry machines. Now, you can create certain settings, you can put a delicate setting in there, you can control the temperature, you control how many rinses, you can control the speed cycle. So today, there's a lot of things that you can really honestly, put in your washing machine today. And easily clean your garment. Even detergents have evolved so much today. But a garment company is not necessarily going to put that on their character label, because they want to default to the safest setting for you, okay for your apparel.

Emily Lane  06:56

So for a consumer, let's just break down some fundamentals. You mentioned it, polys, some of these other cotton, what are other fabrics that are generally safe to put in your washing machine, you know, with some of these new technologies that exist,

Bret Schnitker  07:13

yeah, all the synthetics basically are safe to put in your in your washing machine. And most of your natural fibers like cotton, linen, things like that. The things that are the downside to putting those things in your washing machine if you're not controlling, especially the natural fibers, because natural fibers are hydrophilic, meaning they

Emily Lane  07:33

absorb water, I remember that from an earlier episode.

Bret Schnitker  07:37

Hydrophobic doesn't, and those are synthetics is that through the washing process, depending on the temperature setting in the drying process, you will get compaction of fabric and natural fibers to different degrees. So you will see some shrinkage, dry cleaning the right dry cleaner and the right conditions will make sure that you're not losing any shrink or you're not having any shrinkage on garments. Like you could potentially have in laundry machines for sure.

Emily Lane  08:07

So are we dealing in an era where this information is a little outdated because of the fact that technology has come into play? People do have better ways to care for their garments? Or are we kind of working in an age old system

Bret Schnitker  08:25

in the fine print, it could be outdated. But remember, when brands today sell globally, they don't have insight into what customers machines look like and how they treat the garments. And then there's the guy factor I like to call because most guys completely ignore all care content instructions, and we throw it in machine wash hot, tumble dry. Yeah, because we need it tomorrow. And those care content labels in there those defaults were like, look, this thing shrunk a million sizes, the guy is all upset and you're like how did you watch this and you can really tell they beat the shit out of it. Pardon my French in the washer and dryer. So you got to you know, those things are there for standards to provide some of some of maybe, you know, the individuals that don't take quite the care they should on gamrents. And so I think there's a reason for that. I don't think it's really quote outdated. And

Emily Lane  09:23

I think it's also a little bit of a an advocacy for making sure that your fabric is tested. You know, knowing what dye stuffs and how that can impact the long term life of the garment versus in one chain versus another for washing it or dry cleaning it. Those kinds of things are very important.

Bret Schnitker  09:44

Yeah. And you hope that all all garments go through this either internal testing or outside testing process to determine the right care content or the care portion with that content. Taking a look at but that That's not always the case, either a lot of people will just default to whatever the standardized wash care instructions are for a particular fabrication. So you just got to be careful there too. So

Emily Lane  10:09

just a quick question for you, for the people who are newer to in the industry and fabric testing, is there. Is there a question they should ask or a, give me these battery of tests? Is it? What should what should somebody communicate to make sure that their fabric is getting tested

Bret Schnitker  10:30

there are number of testing labs throughout the world and the best thing to do is get an actual garment, or fabric that is production finished, get as much information on that fabric as you can. And you send it to the lab and you say what are the recommended care instructions for this particular garment and or fabric, and they'll go through the test and provide you what their recommendation is. That's

Emily Lane  10:53

great. Okay, any little other pieces of wisdom before we wrap this care content episode up.

Bret Schnitker  11:01

There's some amazing new technologies and some that had been around a long time that help add to the performance nature of fabrics, you know, the new eco Teflon, a lot of these different areas that help resist stains to begin with. There's a lot there's a big school of thought where today, washing in cold water with just a little bit of detergent will clean most garments, we don't have to beat the crap out of them anymore. So you know, modifying understanding that technology is coming in a lot of different areas to help your clothes last longer. In a lot of cases, and I would say moderate to better world dyestuffs are better than they've ever been. So understanding you don't you don't have to really go through heavy heavy washing unless you're in an industry that gets things pretty soiled.

Emily Lane  11:50

Did you ever hear about that theory about throwing your jeans in the freezer?

Bret Schnitker  11:54

Everyone talks about that in the industry? It's been there forever. I've never done that. I have ice in my freezer, not jeans, but that was an interesting,

Emily Lane  12:04

that's not something you're gonna put on a carrier label anytime soon. 

Bret Schnitker  12:07

No. Freeze your gene. Interesting.

Emily Lane  12:12

Well, thank you so much Bret for this conversation and keep those questions coming in. Make sure to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture.

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Understanding Fabric Care in the World of Technology