Getting the perfect finish on garments and flatwork


Richard Neale of LTC Worldwide reviews common problems – and the solutions – for producing perfect finishing of flatwork and garments


No matter how keen your prices are, the quality of the finish which you can achieve consistently will trip you up if it doesn’t match your customers’ expectations. This month we look at some of the most common faults surrounding fabric creases which are still causing complaints and loss of contracts. The most surprising observation is that obtaining a step improvement in quality of finish, with respect to creasing, need not involve much, if any, expense – it generally needs just a little attention to key details in the purchasing of textile items, the acceptance of deliveries and in their laundry processing, all of which can be readily implemented. Let’s see how….

Common creasing problems with flatwork

¦ Cracked ice creasing reveals itself as a pattern of short, very sharp creases which cannot be pressed out in the ironer. This is usually caused by failure on the part of the textile finisher to wash off the sizing applied to the warp yarns during weaving. Most leading operators now insist as a condition of purchase that all fabric has been correctly de sized in finishing (before it is heat-set), which should not increase the cost because the cloth supplier should be doing it anyway. One quick check on the adequacy of de sizing in manufacture is to place one droplet of water on an item from a new batch and see how quickly it is absorbed into the cloth. If it takes much more than three seconds, then you may have a problem.

¦ Longitudinal pleats in sheets, duvet-covers and pillowcases occur in the ironer if the fabric is excessively elastic. Experienced renters should check every incoming batch of textiles and quickly recognise any that feel too stretchy. Affected fabric will elongate as it goes through the ironer, forming furrows which then get creased as they go over the last roll, to form random longitudinal pleats.

¦ Concertina creasing which consist of areas of very tight, closely packed creases, at right angles to the direction of travel through the ironer, is usually created by too low a roll-to-roll speed differential and can be made worse by poor vacuum or over sized rolls. A careful engineering check of the affected ironer will usually enable the cause to be found and quickly rectified.

¦ Scallop-shaped creases at the edges and corners are caused by excessive elasticity in the textile, poor making- up practices in manufacture (such as failure to align the seams with the lines of the warp and weft) and use of excessively bowed or excessively skewed fabric. It is easy to check the quality of make-up of a batch of new items (by tearing one item in the width and length and comparing the tear lines with the adjacent seams). These checks are now second nature to the top-quality operators.

¦ Patches of rough-dried finish, with wrinkles and random creasing, are indicative of either under-sized ironer rolls or an area of damaged springing (caused for example by accidentally leaving a screwed-up pillowcase inside a duvet cover as it enters the ironer).

Typical causes of garment creasing Problems

¦ Long sharp roping creases, which might curve around the legs of overalls, can arise during washing, either in a tunnel washer or a washer extractor. They are caused by the textiles which are being washed rolling into a ball, rather than getting a proper ‘lift and drop’ action. They can be cured in a washer extractor process by adjusting the rotational speed (normally increasing it slightly) and viewing the improved action through the window in the cage door. In a tunnel washer process it might need adjustment to the rock angle or the load factor.

¦ Cracked ice creasing, where large areas or entire garments come out covered with a fine pattern of very short, tight creases, is usually caused by inadequate de sizing in textile finishing just as for flatwork fabric. If the fabric is correctly de-sized as the last stage in the wet-finishing process (before heat setting), the sizing applied to the warp yarns (to speed the weaving process) comes away very easily (often in warm water alone). It is very difficult to remove in laundering, because the manufacturer’s heat setting process tends to set any residual sizing onto the fabric very firmly.

¦ Short, sharp pressure creases are usually the result of one of two factors. They will occur during normal wear in characteristic areas. They can be removed by the correct wash process. More serious are the sharp pressure creases put in during washing. These are set during the hot wash, when those polyester/polycotton garments which happen to be at the bottom of the cage during the reversals are squashed and creased by the pressure of the garments above them. They can be a major problem on polycotton or polyester garments, if the launderer is relying on a tunnel finisher (because this is unlikely to remove pressure creases of this type). They need to be prevented by adjusting the load factor in line and in consultation with the machine manufacturer. If this is not sufficient, it is worth trying an increase in dip level after taking advice from your detergent supplier.

This type of creasing is less common in a tunnel washer, but the same principles apply. Check carefully the recommended load factor for the machine and be prepared to increase the weir height slightly if necessary.

¦ Thermal shock creasing mainly affects polycotton garments processed in a washer extractor. It consists of areas of very tight, ‘crow’s foot’ creases which cannot be pressed out and which certainly cannot be removed in a tunnel finisher. The secret in preventing them is to incorporate a ‘cooldown’ stage at the end of the hot wash to prevent the cold fill on the first rinse shocking the hot wet fabric and creating the characteristic fault. Thermal shock is not usually a problem in a tunnel washer, because the design of the counterflow systems prevents it at source. Temperature changes are much more gradual.

The cooldown stage should reduce the wash temperature down to 52C at a rate of no more than 4C per minute. A maximum rate of only 2C per minute might be needed for very sensitive fabrics.

Conclusions

Wow! Whoever said that laundering was easy? For every laundry to eliminate every cause of residual creasing might seem a daunting task, but in practice, most laundries only suffer from one or two of the types described here. All it should take to achieve the competitive edge which perfect crease-free quality represents is the correct identification of your own opportunity and shrewd application of the remedy. We hope this month’s LCN helps with this.

  • If you have problem that you think LTC Worldwide can help with, or that you feel would make a good subject for Material Solutions, please call T: 00 44 (0) 816545 www.ltcworldwide.com




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GONE WEFT: This pillowcase was made with the weft in the length. The resulting increase in elasticity in the length led to unsightly longitudinal pleating alongside the Oxford stitch lines




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ROUGH STUFF: This batch of tablecloths came out of the ironer with random patches of rough-dried finish




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WOUND UP: Roping creases result from the fabric being wound up, usually caused by incorrect rotational speed or overloading, so no ‘lift-and-drop’ action




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HOT SET: Hard pressure creases are usually set in the hot wash, caused by overloading of incorrect dips.


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