Problems with Striped and Patterned Shirts

What is the problem?

The problem is the mysterious failure of the colored yarns in 100 percent cotton men's shirts. Pinpoint oxford shirts tear in one direction, through the smaller colored yarns, while the larger white yarns remain unaffected and strong. The colored yarn in plaid or pinstripe shirts is either removed after commercial laundering or prematurely tears.

What does it look like?

At first glance the damage looks like localized color loss. Closer examination, while holding the fabric taut near a strong light, reveals that only the colored yarns are missing leaving a skeletal framework of the white yarns.

What caused it?

The dyes used in these shirts are primarily fiber-reactive dyes. Some sulfur dyes are also used. The dyes do not withstand repeated commercial laundering, in particular the souring operation.

Traditionally, souring, the last operation of a commercial wash formula, is performed to a slightly acidic pH, 5.5. Tests showed that this acidity affects the dyed yarns and decomposition of the yarns occurs. The exact mechanism of this chemical reaction is still being investigated within the industry.

Can it be prevented?

Research shows that laundering in a commercial was formula where the pH of the sour is controlled above 6.5 prevents the damage from occurring. Souring to a neutral pH, 6.5-7.0 can be achieved by increasing rinsing and/or decreasing the amount of sour used. This is most easily achieved by using a buffered sour.

This measure is only effective on shirts which have not been previously laundered in a formula where the pH was below 6.5. Data is unavailable on whether previously laundered shirts (launderd in pH 5.5) will show visible degradation once continual laundering in neutral pH takes place.

Who is responsible?

Until this research information can be disseminated to the launderer and changes made to current laundering practices the manufacturer is responsible for a dye that requires modified laundry procedures. The manufacturer is also responsible for shirts which have been previously soured to a pH of 5.5 and now show damage even though they are being sourted to a neutral pH.

Once the launderer is aware of this information, he should modify his laundry preocess to accomodate these shirts. If he does not incorporate these modifications and damage occurs on a shirt which has not been previously laundered, then he is responsible.

Is there a remedy?

Once the damage occurs it cannot be retored. Changes to commercial laundering practices should prevent future occurrences.

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