• Michael Moon

Spot Clean Only

In the height of prom season, many consumers will be heading to the stores to buy formal gowns. Before you make that purchase, take the time to look at the care label if you wish to get it cleaned to be worn again at a later date. Many formal gowns that are heavily beaded or covered with sequins often contain care labels that state, "Do Not Dryclean; Do Not Wash; Spot Clean Only."

Cursory tests often show that the coating on the beads is not resistant to drycleaning processes or solvents. These beads may become burnt, discolored, melted, or otherwise fall off the dress. In other cases, the base fabric is not resistant to the washing processes - as in the case of finer fabrics such as silk. As a result, drycleaning or washing the article is not possible.

The final solution many garments such as these recommend is to spot clean. Such a label mandates that the garment be cleaned with localized stain removal only. This can be extremely difficult on some of these gowns because of the type of fabric used. For instance, removing stains from hard-finished taffeta and similar fabrics can be especially difficult without leaving circles or rings where the area was spotted.

Removing discolorations from the underarm areas can also be difficult without a change in texture of the fabric. This is due to the fact that perspiration stains are best treated with water and soap. Drycleaning alone will not remove these stains and the treatment of the isolated area may weaken fibers and damage the colors in the fabric.

On garments containing labels that state "spot clean only," we must inform the customer of the limitations of the procedures that can be used to care for these items. If the garment is heavily soiled or stained, localized stain removal may be impossible. Manufacturers are only required to include one method of care on the item's care label. As a result, some items may not necessarily be limited to that care method but we would still require your permission before proceeding with any other method not included on the label.