Q: Sometimes my customers return white
garments and say they are now yellow or not as white as they were before
cleaning. I do not believe it is redeposition, since I maintain my solvent
carefully. So, what else could be dulling the brightness of these white
the discoloration is not redeposition, the most likely cause of yellowing is a
breakdown of a fabric finish used to make it whiter and brighter. Bright white
is not really a natural shade of fibers, yarns, and fabrics. Many times,
manufacturers brighten and whiten fabrics by the use of special fluorescent
whitening agents or optical brighteners. Some of these brightening finishes
have a somewhat limited durability to conditions of consumer use and storage.
These finishes can yellow when exposed to light and atmospheric gases. The
areas of a garment that receive more light exposure may show a more pronounced
discoloration. In some cases, an entire garment may turn yellow or off-white.
Drycleaning can sometimes accelerate this process. This change may not be due
to any improper drycleaning procedure. It should be pointed out that almost all
white fabrics will eventually yellow to some degree from oxidation of the
original finish, storage, and care.
DLI Silver, Gold, and Premier members may
access more information on this topic in the following bulletins
available in DLI's Encyclopedia of Drycleaning Online:
- Technical Operating Information (TOI) 661: Yellowing In Storage
- TABS No. 406: White Fabric Turns Yellow
- TABS No. 394: Yellow Streaks in Drapes