Deterioration of Coatings on Outerwear

Manufacturers will often add coatings to the reverse side or surface of fabrics to make them more water repellent, wind resistant, and insulated. These coatings, as well as adhesives that are used to apply the coatings, may be adversely affected by drycleaning solvent. Outerwear fabrics containing polyurethane coatings are especially susceptible to damage.

After the item has been drycleaned a few times, the coating may begin to separate from the shell fabric, resulting in a darker appearance in the separated area. The garment may also take on a cracked appearance.

The separation of the thin film from the shell fabric often causes it to become unstable and more susceptible to ripping or tearing. The coatings may also stick together and result in further damage when the fabric is pulled apart.

The dissolving of some solvent-soluble coatings may result in white staining of the surface fabric. The stains often give a streaked or spotted appearance. This is often seen on ski jackets, as well as other types of outerwear. Unfortunately, once this type of damage occurs, there is no method of restoration.

Some coated outerwear fabrics may feel stiff after they have been drycleaned. This may be a result of the removal of plasticizers from the coating during the drycleaning process.

Unfortunately, the cleaner has no way of knowing if the fabric contains this type of coating until after the garment has been processed.

When cleaning outerwear items that contain coatings, it is always recommended that you follow the method of care indicated on the care label. Damage to the coating usually will not occur in washing unless the garment is cleaned in an overloaded machine. This may cause the coatings to stick together.

Suggested Reading
DLI's Encyclopedia of Drycleaning Online features thousands of garments about all things drycleaning and is included as part of Standard, Gold, Premier or International memberships. Here are some bulletins to help further your understanding of this issue:

  • Technical Analysis Bulletin Service (TABS) No. 392: Heat Sensitive Outerwear Jackets
  • Technical Analysis Bulletin Service (TABS) No. 488: Disturbance of Fabric Coatings
  • Fabrics & Fashions (FF) No. 489: Foam Coats
  • Fabrics & Fashions (FF) No. 514: Polyurethane