Causes and solutions for rings

One of the most frustrating aspects of cleaning and spotting is the formation of rings. When a liquid contacts a fabric the probability of a ring is high. This occurs because the liquid moves impurities to the outer edges. Upon drying a ring emerges. Some rings are caused by the finish and sizing in a fabric which can vary from fabric to fabric. Some finishes are water soluble while other finishes may be resin based and not affected by the moisture. Sometimes rings occur due to the fabric construction and the composition of the inner fabric. The following is a list of the causes of rings and the methods used for removal.



When spotting involves wetside chemicals and impurities move to the outer areas, rings can form. After wetside spotting is done, it is advisable to flush using the steam or water gun into a towel to prevent spreading of the wet area.


  • Feathering-is a method of breaking up a ring and using a towel to blend the wet area gradually into the dry area. It can be accomplished very easily by holding the steam gun 3-4 inches from the fabric and breaking up the rings with dry steam. Then quickly take a dry towel and wipe the area from the inside of the wet area toward the outside so it blends in with the dry area. The secret for feathering is to make sure you work in small areas doing a portion of the ring each time. If you are near a seam, try to wipe and blend the wet area towards the seam. Dryside feathering can also be done using volatile dry solvent. Dampen the towel with volatile dry solvent and wipe in the same manner as outlined above.
  • Vacuum and Drying-If you spot an area of a fabric and it is still moist you can bring it over the screened area of the spotting board and quickly use the air from the spotting gun and vacuum at the same time. Try to dry the rings first to prevent ringing.
  • Leveling Agents-These agents have the ability to prevent rings because the leveling agent breaks up the water droplets into fine droplets. This process spreads out the wet area and prevents the moisture from producing rings. This occurs because when moisture droplets are broken up it loses its ability to form rings. There are many commercial leveling agents on the market ranging from spray spotters, leveling agents and drycleaning soap mixtures.



Many rayons and silks contain a water soluble sizing that dissolves upon contact with moisture in spotting or spillage of beverages. Sometimes the dissolved sizing leaves a ring and an area with loss of luster. This frequently occurs on matte jersey fabrics.


Fogging-This is a method of holding the steam gun away from the fabric so the steam slightly dampens the fabric but does not wet it. When this is done the area should be dried quickly with the air gun and vacuum.



Many satins and taffetas contain a resin finish that can break down in spotting or staining. This type of resin breakdown cannot be corrected by feathering or leveling.


Amyl acetate-Brush over the rings using amyl acetate and then immediately dryclean the garment.



Some quilted fabrics ring up in drycleaning due to the quilting construction. The outer fabric dries quickly but the quilting wets the outer fabric producing rings. The impurities in the solvent contribute to the ring problem.


The quilted fabric will ring up less if it is wetcleaned and dried in a dryer in a low temperature setting. Down filled coats and jackets may ring due to the oils and impurities left in the down during manufacture. The best way to correct this problem is also in wetcleaning. It is also advisable to wetclean using a nonionic detergent so the oils and impurities can be removed from the down filling. After wetcleaning dry in a dryer on a low heat setting.

Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen, former chief garment analyst for the National Cleaners Association, offers lecture, consultation and garment analysis service. He is the author of The Art of Spotting. He can be reached at (772) 340-0909, by email at or through his website at Dan Eisen, 274 NW Toscane Trail, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986.

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