What is Denim Wash?
Denim wash is a process which is used to enhance the appearance, texture, and durability of denim fabric. It involves treating denim garments with various techniques to achieve desired effects such as softening, distressing, fading, or giving them a worn-in look. The versatility, creativity, and uniqueness of denim are the virtues of denim washing. Denim washing has totally changed the market potential and demands of denim fashion around the world. From stone washing to the concepts of emerging enzyme washing and biopolishing, the effects and shades achieved are a great breakthrough in the denim clothing industry.
Denim Washing Faults / Defects with Causes and Remedies
The quality of the final garments plays an important role in buyers’ final decision of acceptance or rejection. Like other textile dyeing and finishing processes, denim washing associated a number of defects. Common defects that can occur during denim washing process are descried with causes and its remedies.
A. Washing marks:
Washing marks, also known as whiskers or creases, are intentional design elements that mimic natural wear patterns on denim. It is the most common among denim washing defects. There are various causes for occurring washing marks on denim during washing process.
- The amount of water used for washing is too much or too little.
- Insufficient hydroextraction before drying.
- The fabric has synthetic fibers. During washing, the fabric becomes stiff. As a result, the stiff fabric abrades the washing machine, leading to washing marks.
- The loose and long threads in the denim garments were not removed properly.
- The fabric was not wetted completely and the fabric was not evenly placed in the washing machine before starting the washing machine.
- After all, lack of quality control measures during the denim washing process.
- Before washing, fabric composition should be checked properly for synthetic fibers. In addition, existing crease marks should be found out.
- If possible, before washing, the garments should be completely wetted and placed evenly in the washing machine for washing.
- All loose and long threads must be removed before washing.
- The amount of water used for washing should be checked during washing.
- The denim garments should be properly hydroextracted and placed evenly in the dryer for drying.
B. Poor hand feel:
Poor hand feel means the undesirable texture or feel of the denim fabric after washing. In this case fabric may feel rough, stiff, or uncomfortable to the touch, rather than having a soft and pleasant texture.
- Insufficient washing time may cause insufficient abrasion between denim garments.
- If the washing process is not properly controlled, poor hand feel is the result.
- Less amount of softening agent used for washing.
- Softening treatment time and liquor to goods ratio affect the hand feel.
- The drying time affects the hand feel. Longer drying time which increases poor hand feel.
- Proper control of washing time and checking the hand feel of the garments, if possible, during the washing process.
- Proper selection of the suitable washing method before the actual washing.
- Suitable softening agents should be selected.
- Properly control the softening treatment parameters.
- The drying time should be carefully controlled.
C. Backstaining in the pocket:
Backstaining in the pocket is the phenomenon where the indigo dye from the denim fabric transfers onto the lighter-colored pocket lining during the washing process. It results in visible blue or discoloration marks on the inner side of the pocket fabric.
- No antistaining detergent was added during the washing process.
- The quality of washing chemicals is not good or the washing chemicals have lost functioning.
- Washing temperature is too high or too low in the case of enzyme washing, leading to deactivation or inactivation of enzyme.
- Hydroextraction was not properly conducted.
- Insufficient rinsing and no rotation of washing machine during rinsing may cause backstaining.
- During washing, add antistaining detergent or increase the number of rinses and rotations in the washing machine during rinsing.
- In case of enzyme washing, the quality of the enzyme should be checked, for example for shelf time. In addition, washing time and temperature should be properly controlled.
- The hydroextraction and drying process should be carefully controlled.
D. Loss of elasticity after washing:
Loss of elasticity means the reduction in the stretch or recovery properties of denim fabric after washing. Generally denim fabrics contain a certain amount of spandex fibers, which provide elasticity and stretchability to the fabric. However, various factors in the washing process can contribute to the loss of elasticity in denim.
- Spandex is a commonly used fiber in denim garments that increases the elasticity of the garment. At high temperatures, spandex decomposes, whereas with a strong alkali, it gets hydrolysed. Decomposition and hydrolysis damage the spandex, leading to loss of elasticity.
- Chlorine also damages spandex.
- In desizing process, use enzyme instead of alkali for desizing.
- Generally, the loss of elasticity is caused by a high water temperature in the washing machine during the washing process.
- In the case of bleach washing, the amount of sodium hypochlorite used should be properly controlled.
E. Excess abrasion of background color:
Denim fabrics are dyed with indigo or other colored dye creating the desired appearance. However, certain washing techniques can lead to the abrasion or wearing away of this colored layer, resulting in a faded or distressed look.
- These situations are generally found in bleach washed, snow washed and enzyme-stone washed denim garments. In the washing process, if the washing time is not properly controlled, it causes excess abrasion of background color.
- To prevent excess abrasion, color should be checked with the standard regularly during washing.
- Before actual production, washing trial should be conducted to find the best condition.
F. Too light or dark final shade:
This occurs for the undesirable outcome of the color intensity of denim fabric after the washing process.
- Chemical variation occurs during the washing process or chemical variation occurs between each batch of washing.
- Washing time and temperature are not properly controlled.
- Variation in color of each lot of denim fabric.
- Check the concentration of chemical regularly to ensure that there is no loss of the function of chemical.
- Conduct trial washing to minimize the color variation between each lot of denim fabric and find the suitable washing condition.
G. Dimensional change after washing:
After washing, denim fabrics can undergo both shrinkage and stretching, leading to changes in their overall dimensions. Dimensional change can vary among denim fabrics, as different materials, weaves, and finishes can influence the response of the fabric to washing.
- If the denim fabrics do not have proper shrinkage prevention treatment before being made into denim garments and jeans, dimensional change may occur after washing.
- If the size of the garment increases after washing, it may be put in the washing machine and washed with water only for gentle washing. This helps achieve a slight shrinkage in the denim garments. But must not lead to color change.
- Compressive shrinkage treatment should be conducted on the denim fabric. If the size of denim garment decreases after washing, it can be steamed inside the washing machine (without adding water) to improve the shrinkage problem.
Yellowing in denim washing refers to the undesired appearance of a yellow or yellowish tint on denim fabric after the washing process. This yellowing can occur for various causes.
- Yellowing of denim garments after washing is generally caused by excessive usage of sodium hypochlorite in bleach washing.
- The unremoved impurities or metallic/mineral contents in pumice stones can possibly contribute to yellowing.
- Yellowing can also be caused from the softening agents.
- If the optical brightening process is not carried out properly, it causes yellowing.
- If the water used for washing contains a high amount of calcium or magnesium ion, it also causes yellowing.
- Neutralisation should be carried out thoroughly to remove residual chlorine after using sodium hypochlorite for washing.
- The operational parameters of optical brightening process should be properly controlled.
- The water used for washing should be free of hardness.
Odour is generally found in stone washing, bleach washing and enzyme washing.
- The main causes of odour are (1) insufficient rinsing; (2) incomplete neutralisation with residual chlorine; and (3) water quality used for rinsing is poor.
- After washing, denim garments should be properly neutralised and/or rinsed. Also, the water quality should be checked for washing.
J. Size marks:
Size marks are generally found in stone washing, stone bleaching and stone abrasion processes.
- The cause of size mark is improper desizing which leads to incomplete desizing, that is uneven desizing or low desizing rate. Meanwhile, uneven sizing may also be a cause of size marks.
- The desizing process should be properly conducted and, after desizing, the residual size in the denim fabrics should be checked.
- During washing, sharp parts in the washing machine may come in contact with the denim garments, causing damage. When using stones for washing, the stones may also get abraded along with the denim garment. Thus the quartz in the stone gets exposed and develops sharp points which may abrade on the garments leading to surface damage.
- When using stone, the hardness and size of the stone should be monitored to prevent excess abrasion which may cause surface damage.
Denim washing defects can significantly impact the quality and appearance of denim garments, leading to customer dissatisfaction and financial losses for manufacturers. I think this article will be helpful for denim professionals.
- Denim: Manufacture, Finishing and Applications Edited by Roshan Paul
- Sustainability in Denim Edited by Subramanian Senthilkannan Muthu
- Denim and Washing Technology by Professor Dr. Abdul Jalil
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.