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Frequently Asked Questions

Hairspray and Ink Stains

Q: I tried using hairspray and water to get an ink stain out of my dress shirt. It removed the ink, but left a discolored mark where the ink used to be. What happened?

 A: As you have discovered, using hairspray can remove ink stains, but it can also lead to other problems. The hairspray can contain alcohol and oils such as resins and lanolin. The alcohol in the hairspray can cause color damage, especially on silk; likewise, oils and other ingredients could lead to additional stains. A more appropriate solution would be to apply drycleaning solvent to the stain (there are many over-the-counter solvent-based products that consumers can purchase). Be sure to test for colorfastness in an inconspicuous area before using any stain removal product. Blot the stain with a towel until all the bleeding stops, moving the stained area as the towel absorbs the ink. If the stain remains, treat it with a mild synthetic detergent and household ammonia.

Removing Deodorant Residue

Q. How do you remove deodorant and antiperspirant residue?


A. Many people do not realize that prolonged contact with deodorants and antiperspirants may cause permanent damage to clothing. Combined with the effects of perspiration, the damage can be extensive. The most frequent damage is caused by overuse of these products or infrequent cleanings. This leads to the buildup of a stiff, caked-up residue or to fabric damage.


To prevent chemical damage, do not overuse the product and allow it to dry before dressing. Wear a dress shield with silk garments.


To remove the residue on washable garments, wash them as soon as possible after wear in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Soaking in a detergent containing enzymes or an enzyme presoak may be necessary. If the stain remains, try using three percent hydrogen peroxide or chlorine bleach, according to fiber type or care label instructions. Before using, test for colorfastness.

Removing Chewing Gum

Q. How do you remove chewing gum?


A. Chewing gum can be removed from many garments by simply drycleaning the item. Chewing gum is soluble in drycleaning solvent, and little or no pretreatment is required. However, if the item is machine washable, drycleaning may not be the best option.


Chewing gum can usually be removed by blotting the stain with an ice cube. This hardens the gum and makes it stiff and brittle for easy removal. Once the gum has hardened, gently lift the gum from the fabric. This procedure may cause some of the surface fibers to pull or snag but usually not enough to create noticeable damage.


If any gum remains, sponge with a solvent-based spot remover, which is available at most grocery stores. Before using these products, test for colorfastness by applying the product in an unexposed area. Let set for five minutes. If the color is affected, don’t use the product.


Place the stained area face down over several layers of white paper towels. Apply a small amount of the fluid to the stain. Using another paper towel, blot the stain from the reverse side of the fabric, and lift off the remainder of the gum. Continue to apply and blot until the gum is removed. Rinse thoroughly. Allow the garment to dry, then launder in the hottest water that is safe for the garment.



Splatter-type Spots on Shoulders After Cleaning

Q. When I picked up my clothes from the cleaner I noticed that one of my blouses had dark, splatter-type spots on it near the shoulder area. I don’t remember spilling anything on it, but the cleaner says the spots were probably from something I got on the blouse. Is he right?

A. These mysterious spots were probably caused by  contact with solutions that contain moisture during use such as hair preparations, hair sprays, and/or other water-based  solutions, even rain.  Stains may not be visible at first but time, exposure to atmospheric conditions, and/or the heat of drying may cause the moisture to evaporate and any remaining residue such as dye, oil, etc. to oxidize and become visible.


In some fabrics, these stains are very difficult or impossible to remove. When the stains do not respond to normal stain removal treatment, careful bleaching on whites and other fabrics that are safe to bleach may lighten the stains enough to return the garment to a wearable state.

Removing Salt Rings

Q. How do I remove salt rings?


A. With the snow season comes the inevitable use of road salt, both on roads and sidewalks, and that results in salt stains on coats and other garments. Salt can cause many dyes on wool fabrics to temporarily change color (usually pink, orange, or brown). The color change appears in a splatter formation, and usually occurs on areas that are close to the ground.


Salt is not soluble in drycleaning, and can only be removed by water. To remove salt rings, your drycleaner can flush the affected areas with steam or water. It is best to leave this procedure to your drycleaner since certain precautions, such as testing for colorfastness, must be taken. Once the salt has been removed from the fabric the original color will return.

Imitation Fur Coat Shrinkage

Q. I have an imitation shearling coat that is distorted and shows shrinkage after cleaning. What is the problem?

 A. When DLI receives these types of coats in its Garment Analysis Lab, we find the problem is usually due to shrinkage of the lining. The lining consists of a knit backing fabric and synthetic pile fibers. During manufacture, resins or coatings are applied to the knit backing to provide stability. If the coating is soluble in the cleaning solution, the tension applied to the fabric is removed and shrinkage of the lining occurs. This loss of coating may also contribute to limpness or a loss of body. In some cases, the overstretched knit backing will relax and shrink just from normal tumbling and agitation in the care process. The shrinkage in the lining cannot be restored since steam finishing typically used to stretch fabrics will damage the synthetic pile fibers.

Caring For Garments with Glued-on Glitter

Q. What is cracked ice and how do you care for it?


A. A popular type of decorative trim often used on garments is glued-on glitter—often called “cracked ice.” Cracked ice is often used in decorative designs or to give fabrics an added shine. Although they may be pretty to look at, cracked ice fabrics often present problems during both use and care. Typically, most garments with this type of decorative trim are “Dryclean Only.”


Because the glitter is only glued onto the surface of the fabric, it can come off from abrasion during normal wear. The adhesive used to apply the glitter is often soluble in drycleaning solvent and can soften during drycleaning, resulting in a loss of the decorative trim. Sometimes the glitter may be applied with an adhesive that will also soften in water, so hand washing may also result in a loss of the glitter pattern.


It is best to take garments with this type of decorative trim to your cleaner for professional cleaning. Cleaners have the ability to test the trim and adhesives to make sure that they will not be removed by recommended care procedures. However, some garments with this type of decorative trim may not be able to be cleaned by any method without damage.

Metallic Fabric Discoloration

Q. My metallic gold blouse turned silver when I got it back from cleaning. What happened, and what can I do?



A. Many high fashion garments or holiday outfits have gold or silver metallic  surface coatings. When these finishes are adversely affected by circumstances of wear and/or cleaning solutions, they are removed, exposing the dark, base fabric. Metallic finishes and designs are adhered to the base fabric, which can be affected by conditions of normal wear, and/or acceptable cleaning. Perspiration, food and beverage spills, or simple abrasion during wear can cause these delicate garments to lose the metallic finish and their color.


Washing Cashmere

Q. The care label on my new cashmere sweater says I should either dryclean or hand wash it. I am aware that cashmere sweaters are notorious for shrinking. What should I do?

A. Cashmere comes from the fleece of a goat.  It is often blended with wool or synthetic fibers. Pilling of the long, hair fibers and excessive shrinkage occur more easily in washing than drycleaning. Heat, moisture and mechanical action or agitation cause felting shrinkage so hand washing with a gentle soak and swish motion is safer than the delicate cycle in a home washer.  Use a detergent for wool fibers, rinse thoroughly, followed by fabric softener, if desired, and roll the sweater in a thick towel to remove excess water before laying flat to dry.


Drycleaning uses little to no moisture and minimizes the likelihood of felting shrinkage in a cashmere garment.



Cleaning Upholstry

Q. After cleaning my couch cushion cover it was too small, totally off color, and crumbly on the inside when I got it out of the laundry. What happened?

 A. The covers on the cushions usually have a zipper, giving rise to the myth that the cushions can be taken out and the cover can be cleaned, much like a pillow case.  This is not true–in fact, the zipper was put on for the convenience of the manufacturer. Most manufacturers do not expect the cover to be removed from the cushion during use or cleaning.


One should never remove cushion covers for separate drycleaning or washing. Any tumble cleaning method can destroy the back and shrink or otherwise damage the upholstery fabric. There are several different cleaning methods from spot cleaning to a light rub that can work on upholstery. Since each fabric is different and the correct method is not obviously apparent, the best thing to do is consult a professional.

Whites Turning Gray

Q: My white pants turned gray after washing. What happened?


A. The discoloration is usually attributed to one of two problems. Most whites are treated with fluorescent whiteners or optical brighteners during manufacturing to achieve a desired shade of white. Brighteners decompose with age, exposure to light, or, in some cases, the heat of cleaning. Washing the item in bleach will also destroy the brighteners. Decomposition causes the white fabric to appear dull and dingy, or have a slightly yellow or green color.


The other reason is improper washing. Overloading the washer or low water or detergent levels contributes to this problem since soils are not flushed out in rinsing but redeposit on the items in the load. It may be possible to remove impurities from laundered items by rewashing in a load with adequate water and detergent levels.


Jewelry Damaging Clothes

Q. Can jewelry damage garments during wear?


A. Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. Buttons, baubles, and timepieces can damage beautiful smooth satins, plush chenilles, or soft wools. The damage can usually be found along necklines or sleeve cuffs where a necklace or watch was worn. These accessories frequently have rough edges that rub and abrade the fabric. Damage may not become apparent until the item is subjected to the care process.


Smooth satins are very susceptible to this type of abrasion. Many yarns float on the surface of the fabric, and the jewelry constantly rubs a local area. This weakens the yarn fibers, allowing them to shift or break during cleaning, resulting in a fuzzy or pilled and snagged surface.


Items made with soft, plush chenille yarn are easily snagged by jewelry or contact with any rough surface, including purse straps, bracelets, backpacks, and desks or chair arms. The chenille yarns snag and pull out from the weave. In very severe cases, the short, fuzzy pile fibers fall out of the yarn, and only a sheer net of the base yarns remain.


Loosely-woven wool made from soft, low-twist yarns may show pilling along lower, front panels that may rub against a rough countertop. Pilling may also occur along the edge of the sleeve hem that has been abraded by a watchband.

Removing Crayon Stains

Q. How do you remove crayon stains?

A. Has this ever happened to you: You are taking your clothes out of the dryer when you notice that the load is covered with horrible colored stains. Upon closer inspection, you find leftover pieces of crayon in the dryer.


Crayon stains appear as built-up, shiny, and stiff stains in a variety of colors. Normally, drying— not washing— will cause these type of stains.


The heat from drying melts the crayon material, resulting in stains on the garment.


These stains can usually be completely removed by drycleaning. If any of the stains remain after cleaning, they can generally be removed by your drycleaner through traditional stain removal procedures.

Fraying Edges

Q. I noticed when I dropped off a dress with lace trim at the cleaners that the trim had begun to unravel and fray. Cleaning did not improve the situation much. Needless to say, the dress doesn’t look as good anymore. Is there any way to fix this?



A. This type of damage usually originates from rubbing and friction during use that is aggravated during the agitation of the cleaning processes. Normally, this damage will only occur on trims that are not adequately anchored or secured during their original construction.


A drycleaner will usually attempt to reduce or prevent such damage by shortening the cleaning cycle and net bagging the garment in order to reduce agitation. 


Fringe or lace trim that has become unraveled or frayed cannot normally be repaired satisfactorily. The only way to restore the garment is to replace the trim.


Pilling on Linen

Q. My linen tablecloth keeps pilling in the wash. I brush it down, but the problem keeps cropping up after each wash. Is there anything else I can do?



A. Pills, balls of entangled fibers attached to the surface of the fabric, develop because the yarns used in the fabric construction contain relatively short fibers.


Abrasion from use and the mechanical action from laundering cause some of the short fiber ends to break and lift to the fabric surface. The surface fibers then twist and form pills. Pills will remain on the surface of the fabric if they become entangled with longer fibers that are still securely anchored in the yarn. This is especially true on cotton/polyester blends.


This problem can be eliminated during manufacturing by combing the cotton yarns and producing tightly twisted yarns. Also, a tight weave can help anchor the fibers in the yarn and fabric more than a loose weave. In some cases, washing the linen item in a small load at a high water level with some fabric softener in the rinse may help.


Cleaning Rayon

Q. How should I clean my rayon garments?

A. Rayon is a manufactured fiber composed of regenerated cellulose. There are different forms of the fiber known as viscose, cuprammonium, high-wet modulus.  Lyocell is the generic name for a form of rayon recently recognized by the FTC; a trade name for lyocell is Tencel.


There are many unkowns in a rayon fabric and only the manufacturer will know if dyes and finshes are able to withstand drycleaning or washing.  For this reason, it is important to follow the care label.


If you want to try washing a rayon garment labeled as drycleanable, test the color with the washing solution to see if any dye is removed and feel the texture after the solution is applied.  Also, measure several areas of the garment so if there is any shrinkage you can try and stretch the garment back to size.  Hand wash or machine wash on delicate in cool water.  The longer the fabric is immersed in water the more likely it will be to notice loss of color or a change in texture.  Hang or lay flat to dry.  Expect to spend time ironing to remove wrinkles.


Stains Appearing After Cleaning

Q. I picked up my pants from the cleaners and I noticed a stain that was not there when I dropeed them off.  What happened?


A. You could have an oil stain on your pants. Oil stains from edible vegetable or cooking oils are often colorless at first, but as they absorb oxygen from the air (oxidize) turn yellow.  After contact with a fabric, an oil stain usually forms small crosses as it spreads out in all directions along individual yarns.


Other food and beverages, such as champagne or white wine can cause stains that are invisible when they first contact fabrics.  As with oil stains they oxidize and darken with age and or heat.  Heat, such as that used in pressing clothing, causes a faster oxidation and a more apparent stain. 


If garments are cleaned regularly or soon after something is spilled, the stain can usually be removed.



Fabrics Making Me Itchy

Q. My cleaner returned my jacket to me and ever since my skin has been itchy. Why is this happening?

A. Some people are sensitive or allergic to certain fibers, dyes or finishes present on a fabric. Sensitivities can vary from the season of the year or with the health of the individual.  If the garment is new, there may be a finish on the item that is causing the unpleasant reaction.


A DLI member cleaner could send the jacket in question to the International Textile Analysis Lab for analysis. The fabric can be tested for the presence of acid or alkaline residues.  Indicators can also detect the presence of formaldehyde residues that sometimes remain on the fabric from manufacture and can be the cause of skin irritation.

Button Stains

Q. Why did stains appear next to the buttons on my dress after cleaning?


A. Button dye stains are caused when the dyes on a colored button bleed during cleaning or finishing, creating discolorations or stains on the adjacent fabric. Some dyes used on buttons are soluble in drycleaning and during cleaning, the dyes soften and stain the surrounding areas. In other cases, the dyes on the buttons hold up to drycleaning but bleed upon contact with moisture such as is found in steam finishing. Again, the fabric adjacent to the buttons becomes discolored or stained.

What Is Certification?

Certification is a process whereby an individual is recognized by an association for having met a predetermined set of criteria. Eligible individuals who pass a standard examination are granted the right to use the industry–endorsed title, Certified Professional Drycleaner (CPD), Certified Professional Wetcleaner (CPW), and Certified Environmental Cleaner (CED), and Certified Garment Care Professional (CGCP).

Who Is Eligible For Certification?

Any individual who owns or is employed in an operating drycleaning business is eligible to apply for certification.

What Is Required?

Depending on the exam, a successful candidate must achieve a satisfactory score on a multiple–choice examination pertaining to business management, customer service, fibers and fabrics, stain removal, environmental regulations, proper waste handling, safe operating procedures, the drycleaning and wetcleaning processes.

How Can I Prepare For The Examination?

It is recommended an individual have some practical drycleaning experience to draw from before taking the exam. Also, preparation can be made by reading specially designed self–study guides that will be automatically sent upon registration.

When Will The Examination Be Administered?

Certification exams are administered during an established two-week testing period on a daily basis, Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays. Candidates may schedule one or multiple exams at any point within the two-week testing period.

How Do I Register for a Certified Examination?

Click the “Register Now” link and complete the registration application. DLI members should log in with their member number to get DLI special pricing. Allow 3-5 business days to process the form. Once the application has been processed and your eligibility verified, DLI will email information on how to access the test website. There you will find study materials you may view or download as needed. The actual exam will not be available until the one-week testing period begins.

Should I Focus My Study Preparation On Any Particular Subjects?

DLI's  Professional Certification Examinations are composed of multiple choice questions covering all aspects of the cleaning process

For a detailed breakdown on the topics covered in each exam view the Certification Handbook.

How Much Time Do I Have to Take an Examination?

All DLI certification exams are timed. The exam and on-screen timer will not start until the “Begin Test” button is clicked. Once the timer has begun the exam cannot be paused, stopped or reset. At the end of the time limit, the exam will stop and the score will be calculated whether it is completed or not.

The time limits are:

  • Certified Professional Drycleaner 3 Hours
  • Certified Professional Wetcleaner 2 Hours
  • Certified Environmental Drycleaner 2 Hours

Are There Any Special Rules to Follow?

Anyone taking an exam should carefully read the directions that are provided by email and on the exam website before starting the exam. No questions concerning content of the examination may be asked once the exam has been started.

How Will I Know My Results?

Upon completion of the exam, a status screen will display the final exam score and pass or fail status. Written status notification will also be sent from DLI to all test candidates. Successful candidates will receive certificates from DLI.