Professional testing and examination procedures

The professional drycleaner who knows how to test fabrics in drycleaning and wetcleaning procedures will avoid problems and damages from ruined fabrics. Although there are tests that require laboratory analysis, many tests can be performed by the knowledgeable drycleaner. These tests are used to ensure drycleaning, spotting and wetcleaning procedures are done correctly. It is also used to test fabrics for serviceability, drycleaning, spotting and wetcleaning.


The visual condition of your solvent is important but it is also important to see the results of fabrics after drycleaning.

  • swatch test – cut a white fabric and attach it to a garment in a light load that is drycleaned.
  • testing colors – saturate a cloth with solvent and rub an unexposed area of fabric with suspected color problems.  You may encounter these problems on black and white garments blended with spandex.
  • trimming problems – test plastic coated trimming with amyl acetate. You must always test with a solvent stronger than the one you are using. To test color of trimming and sequins saturate a Q-tip with solvent and rub trimming.


Place a white cloth under fabric to be tested. Test dye transfer to cloth when spotting with steam gun and neutral lubricant. Test stronger chemicals on an unexposed seam.


  • Test the suspected fabrics for dye serviceability by using a steam gun and neutral lubricant on unexposed area.
  • Test for dye crocking by rubbing a white cloth with neutral lubricant on an unexposed area of garment.


Use pool testing strips to check bleaching.

  • When bleaching with sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate test water solution with pool strips. It should show an alkaline concentration.
  • Test effectiveness of hydrogen peroxide by saturating a Q-tip with titanium sulphate and then contacting the peroxide. The Q-tip should turn orange if the peroxide is effective.


Burn test – It is very easy to identify fabrics using the burn test. This is used when there is no labeling or identification that lists the fiber content. Take a small sample of fabric from an unexposed area and apply a lite match.

  • Silk – fries and sizzles and ceases to burn after match is removed. It smells like burning feathers or hair and leaves a black bead that can be crushed between your fingers.
  • Polyester – is difficult to burn and shrinks from a flame while melting. It has a pungent odor and the bead it leaves cannot be easily crushed between your fingers.
  • Wool – fries and sizzles and does not support a flame. It smells like burning hair or feathers and leaves a bead that can be easily crushed.
  • Acrylic – burns readily with a yellow, purple and orange flame. It leaves a bead that cannot be easily crushed.
    Caution: To avoid burns, do not attempt to crush a fiber immediately after burning until it has time to sufficiently cool.
  • Polyurethane and leather – To tell the difference between these two fabrics saturate a Q-tip with paint remover. Rub sample and check if dye transfers to Q-tip. Dye on leather will transfer to Q-tip while dye on polyurethane will not.
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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