Common chemicals in YOUR home that can cause garment damage!

The NCA’s Center for Garment Analysis has seen an increasing number of garments with chemical damage due to use or storage. Many common household and personal care products can cause color loss or fabric damage. In many cases, the color loss may not reveal itself until cleaning. Often discoloration is not visible until the heat of drying or finishing the garment catalyzes or oxidizes the affected area. Often, when color loss or discoloration appears after cleaning, consumers blame the dry cleaner for the damage.


Many products that contain alcohol may discolor or completely remove the color from may fabrics. Alcohol can be found in perfume, colognes, hairspray, topical medications, as well as hard drinks and food-stuffs. Since many alcoholic substances may contain a coloring matter or oil, the discoloration caused by this type of stain may not be visible until the stain is removed.

Oxidizing Agents

Products such as laundry, detergents and bleaches, cleaning agents, disinfectants, hair care products, topical medication as well as some oral care products (toothpaste and tooth whitening formulas) contain oxidizing agents. Contact with oxidizing agents. Contact with oxidizing agents may result in the gradual discoloration of the fabric or in a complete color loss. All too often, the heat produced during the reclamation and drying cycles or during the finishing process may accelerate the oxidation, causing the affected area to discolor. This type of damage is often impossible to detect prior to the drycleaning, wetcleaning or laundering of the garment.

Damage from Acids

Contact with acidic substances can cause discolorations as well as fabric degeneration. Many substances such as fresh perspiration, deodorants, and hair care products, fruit juices and other foods and beverages may be acidic, or become acidic with age. Many household, masonry or automotive products contain acid (such as battery acid) that may degrade the fibers in fabrics. The affects of this type of staining agent may be immediate, or may reveal itself after processing.

Damage from Alkalis

The fibers and dyes used in many fabrics, especially those found in protein- based fibers such as wool and silk, will easily discolor from their contact with alkalis. Alkalis are found in many house-hold products such as detergents, bleaches, shampoos, soaps, hair care products, tooth paste and many topical medication. As with acid based staining substances, the damage may be immediately visible or may develop over time or when exposed to heat.

Fading From Light

Many dyes are affected from their exposure to natural or artificial light. This type of color loss may occur with normal use (draperies or slipcovers) or when garments are stored. In severe cases, a fabric will degenerate when exposed to direct or indirect sunlight for a period or time. If a fabric is damp, and exposed to light, the fading will be more intense in this area. Common soil may camouflage this type of damage until the soil is removed during cleaning. When the soil is removed, the damage becomes apparent. If the item is hanging for a period of time, discoloration often follows the contour.

Fume Fading

Fume fading is a color change or color loss caused by the action of airborne gases (pollutants). The action of these airborne gases combined with humidity, form an acid condition that deteriorates the dyestuffs in fabrics. The lack of sufficient air flow or air change promotes the build-up of these pollutants in closets and drawers. The discolorations caused by fume fading may appear after the drycleaning or wetcleaning processes, or after finishing, since heat often accelerates the chemical deterioration caused by the airborne pollutants. This type of damage is often seen in lengthwise streaks, and may be more apparent in the folds of the garment.

Damage From Chloride Salts

A variety of foods, beverages, topical medication, perfumes, colognes as well as perspiration and antiperspirants contain chloride salts. Chloride salts not only discolor fabrics, but have a degeneration affect on protein based fabrics such as silk. Contact with chloride salts often causes the weakening and eventual disintegration of the fibers within the fabric.

Damage From Plastic Bags

Long term storage in plastic bags should be avoided. The plastic bag can trap humidity and airborne pollutants, causing color loss, discolorations, fume fading as well as providing a breeding ground for mildew growth.

Damage From Perspiration

It is a well known fact that acids and chloride salts in perspiration may discolor dyes and eventually degenerate fabrics (see chloride salt damage). If a fabric is adversely affected by contact with perspiration, the extent of damage depends largely on the physical chemistry of the individual, the condition of wear, the type of antiperspirant used, as well as the characteristics of the fabric and dyestuffs. Silk garments will often discolor in the underarm areas. If the damage is severe, these areas will disintegrate. Garments that contain cotton (especially golf shirts) are often sulfur dyed. Sulfur dyed garments often develop orange discolorations form the affects of the acids contained in perspiration.


varun said...

nice range!!Shawls and Scarves

The Ablitt's said...

Thanks for the comment! I love your site! The Pashmina's are gorgeous.