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  Value-Added Services: Washing
Heat Transfers | Screen Printing | Dyeing | Washing | Embroidery

Garment washing is not just for cleaning anymore. There are many reasons for garment washing today. The following explains the "whys and hows" relative to garment washing.

Why Garment Wash?
If you are garment dyeing your product and will also have "white" in your line, garment washing is an economical way to "shrink" the white product so that the sizing is consistent with the product you garment dye. If you're applying artwork to white garments, using garment washing to preshrink the product will benefit you in two ways:

First, the washing process removes most contaminants, making the application of artwork (screen print, batik, garment paints, etc.) easier. Second, there is less risk that your artwork will be negatively affected by shrinkage that would take place during home laundering. Many customers want product that is "pre-shrunk." Garment washing enables you to provide pre-shrunk product.

Getting Started
When considering garment washing there are some basics to consider:
  • Are the garments made of 100% cotton? Other fibers and/or blends may need to be processed differently.
  • Is the fabric compacted or pre-shrunk? Garment wash results will vary based on the way the fabric was finished.
  • Are there anti-shrink chemicals or starches on the fabric? These will inhibit shrinkage (and dyeability).
  • How much will the garments shrink and will they meet your specifications after shrinkage? Run shrinkage tests on all products you use.
  • Will you be dyeing the garments after washing? If so, make sure the garment washer does not apply any after-wash chemicals or softeners.
Garment washers measure production in pounds of dry garments. Each garment washer has different production minimums. Some washers charge a minimum poundage regardless of the actual poundage. Make sure that you understand the minimums and how many dozens they represent.

Whitening, Weathering, Distressing, Softening
Garment washing may affect the whiteness level of your garments—they can look dull or yellow after processing. Most garment washers can add whitener to the process to ensure a bright white finished product. Make sure to ascertain any costs involved and factor them into your product costing. There are many special effects, such as weathering, stone washing, acid washing, distressing, etc. that can be produced by garment washers. These effects, while very popular, each have their own drawbacks. They are costly, have higher fallout rates, and are generally rougher on the fabric. Talk to your garment washer about prices and what to expect of the process you choose.

Garment washing can affect the hand (feel) of the fabric. Garment washers can add fabric softener to the process. Some use softeners as part of their normal procedure. Check with your garment washer as to any extra costs associated with softening. Some softeners can affect garment dyeability. If you are planning on dyeing your garment-washed product, be sure that the softener your garment washer is using will not negatively impact your garment dye results. The best way to be sure is to insist on a "nonionic" softener and test, test, test samples for dyeability.

In cotton knits, shrinkage is the consolidation of the knit structure. Most shrinkage takes place in the dryer. Commercial Wash and Dry equipment can accelerate shrinkage in less time (rate of shrinkage) than home laundry equipment. Ultimately all processes will promote the same degree of shrinkage. It just takes longer at home. Make sure that the after-wash dimensions correspond with your requirements. Industry standard for variance from specified shrinkage is + or - 5%. As we said before, test, test, test. The garment wash process is sometimes blamed for results outside the washer's control. The most frequently encountered are torque or spirality, identified by the twisting or displacement of lengthwise seams. This usually occurs in long pants, skirts, and dresses. Torque is created in the yarn formation, knitting, and fabric finishing process. It is a condition that is considered "normal and accepted" in the industry. No one yet knows how to eliminate torque and, therefore, Style Source nor any other fabric manufacturer that we know of warrants against it in totality.

Surface Abrasion
The physical process of garment washing can cause "pilling" on the surface of some knit fabrics. This is a normal result. If pilling is unacceptable to you, request that your washer use a cellulase enzyme treatment (at extra cost). When properly applied, this enzyme can reduce and/or eliminate pilling caused by the garment dye process. Be careful not to use this treatment on fleece!

The term "fallout" refers to garments that are unacceptable after garment washing. They may be dirty, stained, discolored, and possibly torn. Many stains can be removed with rewashing. Most garment washers will track and accumulate these garments and rewash them when they have enough pounds to meet the requirements of their equipment. Ask your garment washer about their fallout and rewash policies. Do they charge for rewash and if so how much? Ask what their normal fallout percentage is. If it is over 2% you may want to consider alternative garment washers. Remember to cost fallout into your product's price.

Final inspection is another area that is handled differently by many garment washers. Some inspect for dirt and gross garment defects. Some will provide inspection services to meet your criteria. Be certain you understand how your production will be inspected, sorted, and packed, and as always, be aware of the costs involved. There are other services related to finishing that garment washers can provide. These include sorting (by size, color, etc.), special packaging, hand pressing, steam tunneling, hanging, and tagging.Your garment washer may provide other services that may be of value to you. Ask your garment washer for what you need and remember to settle on price prior to commencing production.

Final garment dimensions for garment-dyed or garment-washed products will be based upon predetermined "after process" standards. Due to the consequence of fabric shrinkage variability, combined with normal sewing tolerances, the range of variation will be significantly higher than garments sewn from piece-dyed fabrics. Industry standards of +/- 5% fabric shrinkage variability illustrate the process capabilities of most fabric mills. This variability can be reduced by pretesting fabric lots prior to cutting and adjusting patterns for fabrics exhibiting variance. It is reasonable to expect an overall process capability of +/- 3%, which still is enough variance to cause minor grades to overlap a certain percentage of the time. Arbitrary "standards" cannot be accepted if they fall outside the process capability.

For more information on Style Source, click here or call 910-399-2288.

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