Acid Damage On Shirts

Q: Lately, during final inspection after laundering, I have seen several white shirts with random damaged areas, but only some yarns are gone in the “holes” while other yarns remain undamaged. What in the world could cause this type of damage?

A: Most likely, these are cotton/polyester blend shirts. The areas have been damaged by contact with an acid substance. Usually, this is accidental contact during use, transportation, or storage of a strong mineral acid, such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. These acids are capable of easily weakening cellulose (cotton) fibers, but synthetics (polyester) are much more resistant. Consequently, after the shirt comes into contact with the acid, the cotton in the shirt begins to degrade and weaken. The fibers will be flushed away during the agitation of laundering. The polyester remains, creating what appears to be thin areas. Acids capable of causing this type of damage are not used in laundering, but are found in laboratories, batteries, and many types of building or industrial cleaning agents. Since the damage originates outside the laundry plant, the launderer can neither predict nor prevent this type of damage.