Holiday Shoppers Warned of 20-25% Shorter Useful Life for No-Iron Shirts

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( — December 15, 2014) New York, New York – Holiday Shoppers Warned of 20-25% Shorter Useful Life for No-Iron ShirtsHoliday shoppers thinking about giving the gift of a cotton man tailored shirt this year, should be aware of a caveat about wrinkle free finishes that appeared in the November 2014 issue of Consumer Reports (go here). The esteemed consumer advocacy publication recently issued a warning that wrinkle free finishes on garments, [i.e. no-iron shirts], “reduce the life span of a cotton garment by 20 to 25%”.  


The Consumer Report warning echoes long term concerns from the NYC based National Cleaners Association (NCA).  According to Nora Nealis, the association’s Executive Director, “Our organization has sent out alerts on this problem for a number of years. We’ve advised consumers that the serviceability issues they are having with their shirts is largely a result of the no-iron finishes.  Today we are very pleased that this illustrious consumer advocacy group is bringing it to the public’s attention as well.”


The NCA’s Technical Director, Alan Spielvogel, says the problem lies with the formaldehyde resin finish used to create the wrinkle free feature; it stiffens (or locks in) the yarns.  Then when the fabric bends, flexes or is abraded during wear, it is weakened to a point that it cannot safely withstand the laundering process. This condition is known in the textile, dry cleaning and laundry industries as “resin friction”.


Additionally, Spielvogel, who is responsible for the Association’s garment analysis laboratory service, says he has also seen evidence of the resin trapping residual chlorinated bleaching agents and acids used on the fabric in the dyeing process.  When this occurs, the hot water in the laundry wash cycle and heat in finishing (ironing and pressing) activates and accelerates the harmful effects these residual chemicals have on textiles, resulting in a loss of tensile strength. He even reports seeing random holes and rips occurring after only a few launderings.


Though it has issued many warnings about the shortened life span of the no-iron cotton shirts, the association notes it has become increasingly difficult for savvy consumers to find untreated shirts on the shelves in stores.  “When I go shopping, I always check out the shirt department, and I’ve found that most stores stock very few untreated cotton dress shirts; I’ve learned to shop on line for them,” observes Nealis.  The experience makes her wonder if the proliferation of the no-iron shirt has more to do with a push by manufacturers and retailers rather than an actual consumer demand for the product.  “Some retailers even price their no-iron shirts a few dollars less than their traditional counter parts, which is a bit surprising considering the extra manufacturing steps involved.  The important point is that consumers should be aware of the long term ramifications of their choices, so they can make an informed decision,” Nealis says.


The National Cleaners Association is a trade association representing dry cleaners and launderers across the
United States and Canada

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National Cleaners Assocation

252 W 29th Street
New York, New York United States 10001