Sometimes mysterious stains appear on garments after a period of time in storage with no prior knowledge of how they got there in the first place. Also, faint stains may appear worse or invisible stains may show up only after the garment is cleaned.
In the top picture on the left column we have an unstained sweater. A beverage was then spilled on the sweater and when it dried there was no visible stain. The middle picture in the column shows this same sweater a couple of weeks later and still no stain is visible. The sweater was then taken to be cleaned and the heat of this process accelerated the oxidation of the invisible sugars and tannin residues that were in the staining substance. As seen in the bottom picture, the invisible stain is now quite visible after cleaning.
Many substances can react this way when they contact fabrics. Animal proteins such as milk, egg, perspiration, and many others found in food and beverages will eventually cause such stains. Also, oils from foods, skin lotions, and lubricants will oxidize and appear due to the heat of tumble drying or pressing. And of course,we can’t forget that the most common invisible stain is caused by oxidation of tannins and sugars found in fruits, soft drinks, juices, tea, coffee, beer, wine, candy, and many other beverages and foods. Again, many of these stains only show up after cleaning to everyone’s surprise.
Another invisible problem is when holes appear after cleaning when no damage was noted prior to the cleaning procedure. In some cases, this damage could be from contact with chemicals during use prior to cleaning and in other instances, the damage could be from insect attack.
The picture at the top of the middle column shows a relatively new pair of pants that have not come into contact with either damaging chemicals or insects. In the middle picture, the legs of the pants have been attacked by insects while at home in storage, but there are no visible signs yet. Some time later the pants were taken to the cleaners for cleaning and the mysterious holes appeared. While feeding on the fabric, the insect weakened the fibers. During the agitation of the cleaning process, the weakened fibers fell out, leaving holes, as seen in the bottom picture of the column. Moth larvae are the most common offenders of this type of damage, but cockroaches, silverfish, carpet beetles, and other insects can cause similar damage.
Other cases of surprise holes after cleaning are caused by contact with fabric-damaging chemicals such as acids or chlorides. On some fabrics only weak chemicals such as perspiration, antiperspirants, or acid beverages can eventually cause damage. In other instances, strong mineral acids such as laboratory, metal cleaning, or battery acids are the cause.
A very common invisible problem is when color loss shows up after cleaning. As can be seen in the first picture at the top of the right column, the blouse is in pristine condition with no stains or color loss.
In the second picture in the column the blouse has been stained with a beverage containing alcohol, which is invisible for a while but has oxidized over time and left a faint stain. In this case, the stain was removed in cleaning, but the last picture in column shows the loss of color that has resulted from the alcohol. Some other products that contain alcohol include perfume, skin freshener, after shave, cologne, hair spray, lotions, and some medicines.
Another common invisible color loss problem occurs from accidental contact with bleaching agents. Such agents are found in home bleaches, scouring products and other cleaning agents, hair care products, disinfectants, acne preparations, and other skin lotions and medicines.
All of the above solutions may be invisible until the heat of drying or pressing after cleaning accelerates the chemicals. Thus, the color loss spots will show up only after the care process.