Research Alliance Improves Clothes Care


Five leading companies representing different facets of home clothing care have joined forces with two universities to improve clothing care in the home. The Clothes Care Research CenterT (CCRCT) is a cooperative effort among Cotton Incorporated, GE Consumer Products, Milliken & Co., Proctor & Gamble and VF Imagewear. The University of Kentucky's Textile Testing Laboratory and Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences provide oversight to design and conduct CCRC's scientific testing.

Dr. Elizabeth P. Easter, who provided textile consulting to the clothes care division of GE for more than 10 years, is director of the University of Kentucky Textile Testing Laboratory and runs the textile testing studies. "[CCRC's] mission is to help consumers save time and money by identifying the best in-home cleaning and maintenance techniques to extend the life and performance of various fabrics," Easter notes. CCRC is also committed to sharing its research findings with the textile industry through technical associations such as the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). The findings are not held as proprietary data among CCRC members.

The alliance's most recent study focused on care techniques for casual khaki pants sold pretreated with stain protection. CCRC designed experiments that included multiple wash loads of khakis to observe how different treatments affect color, smoothness, edge wear and stain removal. In addition to following the recommendations of the care label, Easter and her team tested laundry variables on the pants.

Early findings supported the brand's advertising that the pants' stain repellency, smoothness and appearance are maintained for 30 washes. However, the care label calls for no fabric softener to be used and suggests that the consumer iron the pants. Because many consumers are unlikely to follow these instructions, CCRC compared the difference in performance between following the care label and not. CCRC found that although using a fabric softener degrades the stain repellency, it improves the color fastness of the pants. It also found that using a dryer sheet instead of a liquid softener provides a compromise in that more color is maintained and stain repellency is only slightly reduced.

Future plans for the khaki study include adding a soil element. "We are interested in repeating some of our evaluations by adding a soil to the load representative of what a consumer might actually experience," Easter adds.

For the alliance's first collaborative project, Easter's team focused on the improvement of VF Imagewear's own care recommendations on the uniforms provided to BellSouth employees. Once the study was completed, VF Imagewear was able to expand its care instructions in significant detail, demonstrating the need to wash the uniforms with like fabrics and separate by color. Once VF learned most employees were not ironing their uniforms, the company added recommendations to remove clothes promptly from the dryer. For those who did iron, the company advised using permanent press iron settings.

In terms of the future of the alliance, there are no plans to expand the CCRC, "but the door is definitely open for that possibility," Easter notes. Members of the CCRC have agreed to continue through 2005 at a minimum. The group met in early January to decide on new studies. One project in the concept stage centers around how clothes care affects stretch fabrics, including performance, shrinking, pilling and color fastness.

TRACY HAISLEY is associate editor of Apparel and may be reached at [email protected].



Cotton Incorporated .

Milliken & Company .

Northwestern University's McCormick

School of Engineering & Applied Science

University of Kentucky's Textile Testing

Laboratory .

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds