I approached this research as a novice would. In other words, unscientifically. I relied on my previous industry education up to this point with no initial contact with manufacturers or vendors. I prepared three samples of each adhesive: one for washing, one for traditional dry-cleaning and one for the dry method of cleaning offered by the On-Site Corp. (It should be noted that my dry cleaner uses Varsol and most dry cleaners prefer the Perck method, which is a stronger solution.)
If a product failed to react according to its guarantee, then I contacted the vendor or manufacturer for additional instructions and retested.
Industry products as well as those purchased through fabric stores and the Internet were included in my testing. I didn't always follow directions—some of the home-sewer glues required washing fabrics first, and some iron-on products required a boiler iron. The biggest drawback to non-industry products is that they probably are not ultraviolet (UV) resistant. Even some vendors couldn't answer that question.
For my testing, I used a Naomoto gravity feed iron for iron-on products and the Rowley hot glue gun. I selected five fabrics: dobby sateen, printed sateen, moiré, antique satin, and printed chintz that was not highly polished. While I used the same fabrics for all the tests, I used a wide variety of trims, fringes and ribbons. Of these, the only relatively heavy fringe was used with the Rowley hot glue gun.
I only experimented with applying trims to the face of fabrics, because the predominant use of adhesives seems to be for that purpose. The face of fabric, in many cases, has special finishes on it, and this probably is what caused the failure of some adhesives. I did not test the adhesives on the wrong side of the fabric.
Another factor that could have caused failure is the length of time between the application of the adhesive and the cleaning processes. Sometimes it was a few days and sometimes it was a few weeks before I had the samples cleaned. This may not have been adequate time for the curing process. The Millennium tape in particular has a reputation for getting stronger with a firmer adhesion over time, but I've still heard from other sources that it cannot be dry-cleaned. I know of only one person who had two experiences of this tape coming loose shortly after installation. However, there are a vast number of users that have raved about the results using the Millennium tape.
Whenever you use adhesives, be sure they are secured tight. In cases where I had to retest, I used a higher heat and steamed longer, and in most cases the results were successful. After you have used iron-on adhesives, let them cool completely. Then check to be sure that all areas are secure. In some cases, I would find a loose spot that I would have to re-steam.
PEACE OF MIND
As you look over my testing results on the chart, remember that my test represents only a small selection of the types of fabrics coming through a workroom. There are many new fabrics with different fibers, weaves and finishes appearing regularly. The results of my testing must be viewed, at best, as a guideline and, at worst, as a warning.
My suggestion is for you to do your own samples with the kind of adhesives you prefer or would like to use. Sew together a wide variety of fabric pieces and apply the adhesives to the face side or the wrong side of the fabric depending upon your needs. The reason I say sew the fabrics together is because then the dry-cleaners will treat your sample as one piece, and only charge for one piece! Also, give the samples as much time as you can before the cleaning process and even hang the samples in a sunny window.
There are so many variables that could affect the success of adhesives: fabric, iron, humidity and who knows what else. If you have problems with an adhesive, call the vendor or manufacturer to ask their advice. They should know their products' capabilities and limitations better than anyone.
The best insurance is to always say that any product done with adhesives can not be cleaned. To avoid any misunderstanding with your customer, have this statement in writing, verbally explain it, and then have them sign the disclaimer.
Adhesives can be labor saving or labor consuming as I discovered in my experiments. Next month, I'll share what I learned and offer some tips for efficiency when dealing with adhesives. In the meantime, start collecting some fabric scraps and do your own testing. Instead of always wondering if your adhesives will hold, testing them on the fabrics you commonly use will give you peace of mind, which in itself is priceless!
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.