Cleaning a costume is a complicated process because of the many diverse components. They head may have artificial fiber fur glued to fiberglass or rubber, foam or paper-mache. The body may have several different fibers sewn together and fastened with zippers, velcro, or snap fasteners. The paws and feet may be composed of several elements as fur, leather pads, plastic claws which are sewn or glued together. The tail may be foam filled fiber or a complicated articulated system. There may be wings that are fixed or articulated and have plastic or metal parts. There may be electronic or electrical devices for vision, voice, or articulation.
It is best to take care of any spots as soon as possible. The spotter or escort should have a small container of water and a towell ready to quickly wipe off any food spills or mud or dirt that may adhere. This may be difficult or impossible in some instances, as in the middle of a parade or in the middle of a stadium. In any event, the stains should be taken care of as soon as is practicable.
For major cleaning, a specific process should be followed. The costume should be disassembled prior to cleaning. All electronic or electrical devices as well as any metal, wood, or plastic devices should be removed. Any accessories as character clothing, jewelry, simulated armor or weapons, staffs should be set aside. The head should be set aside and cleaned specially. The body can usually be cleaned with little problem, as there usually are no special components or devices. The feet and paws are more difficult as they are usually composed of many different substances sewn or glued together. Tails are much more difficult, as the foam or other filling does not usually respond well to laundering.
After being cleaned, the costume must be allowed to air dry for several hours. Access to the interiour of the head, body, feet, paws should be allowed so it can dry more thoroughly. Care must be taken to preserve the shape of the costume and prevent wrinkles. Also, wet fur will he heavy, so care must be taken so that the costume does not tear or change shape from being hung up or laid down.
There are two fundamental ways of cleaning fibers, wet cleaning using water as a solvent and dry cleaning using a petroleum derivative as the solvent. Proper selection of the solvent and the cleaning agents is critical to the long term life and use of the costume.
Detergents and wetting agents are substances that, when dissolved in a liquid, give it cleansing and penetrating properties. Detergents include traditional soap and newer nonsoapy synthetic materials and range from simple tablets and flakes to complex powders and liquids, formulated for various washing systems.
Soap is the best known detergent agent but it has disadvantages in many applications. For example, soap used with hard water reacts with calcium and magnesium in the water and leaves a sticky residue of lime soaps. The detergent and wetting properties of soap are physical rather than chemical in that they depend onto on specific chemical reactions with dirt or with surfaces by on physical effects such as adsorption and surface tension.
A large number of different substances possess the characteristics that enable them to act as substitutes for soap in water. The prime property required of such agents is that they be surface-active, that is, they concentrate at surfaces and interfaces. To have this property the molecule of the agent must contain a polar or hydrophilic (soluble in water) portion combined with an oily or lipophilic (soluble in lipids) portion; the hydrophilic part confers affinity for water or polar surfaces and the lipophilic part confers affinity for hydrocarbons or nonpolar surfaces. The balance between these parts of the molecule can be controlled by the organic chemist, who is thus able to produce compounds particularly suited for specific detergent or wetting applications. There are hundreds of such preparations on the market.
The chemist designs synthetic detergents to be soluble in certain solvents, for example water or dry cleaning agents. Then the molecule is made so that it will encapsulate the dirt molecules, stains, grease, etc. and hold them in suspension in the solvents.
The major classification of detergents is based on the nature of the ionic dissociation of the molecule in aqueous solution. Four types are recognized: (1) anionic-active, in which the surface active part of the molecule is a negative ion; (2) cationic-active, in which the surface active part of the molecule is a positive ion; (3) noni0nic, in which the whole molecule is surface active; and (4) ampholytic, in which the surface active part of the molecule may be either positively or negatively charged, depending on the pH of the solution.
Soaps are the commonest examples of anionic-active agents. The usual soaps of daily use are the sodium or potassium salts of fatty acids, which are derived from vegetable oils or animal fats.
Soaps are gradually being replaced in industrially advanced countries by synthetic detergents, which are normally anionic-active agents. The most common synthetic detergent for use as a heavy-duty household detergent, is sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate. Next in importance are the alkyl sulfates. Synthetic detergents are superior to soap in many respects; for example they are more stable to chemical change and have superior detergent action.
These are strong electrolytes with the surface-active part being the positive ion, or cation. The cationic-active agents are not compatible with anionic-active agents, since the two large ions of opposite charge tend to combine to form a water-insoluble substance.
Since cationic-active agents are more costly and may be poisonous they are not used as household detergents. They are used in surgery as bactericidal agents and in dilute non-poisonous concentrations as detergents in bars and restaurants.
These do not dissociate in water but rather depend on structural features other than ions for their ability to be water soluble. They are complex chemical compounds. The nonionic agents are not affected by hard water, salts, acids and mild alkalies. They are also compatible with either anionic- or cationic-active agents. They are often used in combinations with anionic-active detergents, for example, in shampoos to stabilize the foam and enhance detergent action.
These contain both anionic and cationic groups, such as are found in amino acids hence some actions of ampholytic detergents are similar to those of amino acids. Ampholytic agents can be designed to combine useful features of both anionic- and cationic-active detergents, but their applications are for special and limited purposes.
Other surface active substances that can be used for special purposes are water soluble polymers. The surface activity of these polymers is conferred by the hydroiphilic-liphophilic balance of the final molecule. Some polymers can lower surface tension of water by about 2/3 making them extremely wetting. In fact fluorocarbon or silicone agents are surface-active not only in water but also in hydrocarbons and other organic liquids, making them suitable for dry cleaning.
The key to all detergent action is the surfactant which modifies the surface quality of the water by weakening the forces between water molecules and help wet the object being washed. There are two kinds of surfactant: soap which is made from fats and nonsoapy detergents (NSD) which are made mostly from petroleum byproducts. For washing machines a nonlathering NSD is used but to improve the lathering power of a general purpose NSD product a lather booster must be used.
When washing skin a dense lather is needed to trap and remove dirt so the soap must lather well without becoming mushy in use and must not interact adversely with the skin. A more complex product is needed for washing fabrics–hard water must be softened; dirt must be removed efficiently with a minimum of mechanical force and be kept in suspension so that it cannot become redeposited on the fabric; stains must be removed and off color caused by aging counteracted.
Most detergent products contain up to a dozen constituents. Washing powders will contain an anticorrosion agent to product the drums of washing machines. Tablets and flakes depend mainly on surfactant alone. In other products detergent action is shared by the surfactant and a builder which makes the surfactant into a more complete detergent. Broadly speaking the surfactant, soap or NSD handles fatty dirt, and the building handles particulate dirt. Stain removal is commonly handled by a chemical bleach. Antiredeposition agents keep fats and dirt in suspension. Off-color is corrected by an optical brightener which adheres to fabrics and emits a bluish white light. Enzymes which break down protein stains as blood may also be used.
Dry cleaning is the process of cleaning fabrics with liquids other than water. Although methods vary according to the composition of the fabric or article, the basic process removes dirt, stains and spots by immersion and agitation in organic solvents and detergents, in contrast with the laundering of fabrics in soap and water. Natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, etc. swell in water and shrink on drying altering the shape and size of the fabrics. Dry cleaning does not cause this shape distortion.
Dry cleaning was discovered by accident in 1825 by a French dyeworks owner, Jean-Baptiste Jolly. A maid in the Jolly household upset a kerosene lamp on a table cloth and it cleaned the surface it covered. Jolly offered this dry cleaning as an alternative to soap and water.
For many years the dry cleaning process was based on the use of highly flammable solvents as gasoline, kerosene, benzene and naphtha. However the obvious fire hazard caused a switch to other less volatile solvents. Trichloroethylene (TCE) is widely used because it is an efficient cleaner. Triacetate rayon can be damaged by TCE so now Perk or perchloroethylene is widely used. The dry cleaning solvent dissolves grease and releases trapped dirt. A small percentage of water carrying detergents is added to the solvent to remove water soluble dirt such as food and beverage stains.
The conventional dry cleaning operation begins by inspection of the garments for spots, stains, tears, etc. The garments are then tagged for identification by a person who also removes buttons, belts, shoulder pads, ornaments and other fragile accessories and next are sorted into classifications by fabric type and color. Each garment is accompanied through the operation by special handling instructions for the spotter, dry cleaner, seamstress, finisher, etc.
The spotter is one of the most skilled workers in a dry cleaning plant. He identifies and removes stains by the use of chemicals, steam, or tamping and dry brushing. The spotter identifies fibers and combinations of fibers, selects the correct solvent form among two dozen reagents for the specific fabric and stain, and knows when to stop the application before the color or fabric is damaged.
In the fundamental process, a load of soiled clothing is placed in the dry cleaning washer containing the petroleum or synthetic solvent. The solvent dissolves much oil and greasy soil. Insoluble soil, consisting largely of lint, earth, dust, ashes, and carbon particles, is loosened by agitation. The loosened dirt, as a result of the continuous flow of solvent and detergent that is maintained through the fabric, is flushed out, washed free of the fabric's surface and passed into suspension in the solvent, which is constantly force filtered.
After cleaning and solvent rinsing, garments are spun at high speed to extract excess solvent and then gently tumbled in a stream of warm air. Additives to provide water repellency, mothproofing, and so on can be included in the process, usually as part of a second stage of cleaning.
The finishing process applies only to the pressing of cleaned garments. After the garments are pressed on specialized steam-air machines, they go to seamstresses who replace the buttons, trimmings, etc., that were removed in marking, and do minor tailoring repairs. Certain fragile garments are ironed by hand.