Filed Under:Claims, Catastrophe & Restoration

Textile Restorers to the Rescue

Handling Losses Large and Small

"Where am I going to live tonight?” It is one of many questions racing through the mind of an insured who has just suffered a loss, whether there was a fire or flood in their home or damage resulting from a larger catastrophe.

What is not immediately top of mind is what they are going to wear tomorrow. Or the next day. Or even the next week.

There is no doubt that garments and other fabric items in a home have become a large and fast-growing part of a contents claim. Simply consider the value of what’s in your closet. If you are like most Americans, you have at least one closet filled with clothes, shoes, belts and other garments. A typical family can accumulate tens of thousands of dollars in clothing in just a few short years. In fact, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that Americans spent more than $338 billion on clothes and shoes in 2010—more than furnishings and durable household equipment ($258.5 billion), recreational goods and vehicles ($335.5 billion), and nearly as much as motor vehicles and parts ($345 billion). Also, consider the value of window treatments, bedding, towels, purses and sentimental items, whether a wedding gown or cherished heirloom.

Getting Back on Track

At the Opryland Hotel, which included a commercial laundry facility in the basement, a textile restoration specialist was called upon to gauge what could be done.  The restorer first was given a dozen items as a test to determine the restoration capability. The items were thoroughly restored and returned within 24 hours, providing a valuable proof of concept for hotel management and its insurer, which agreed to proceed with restoration of the remaining items. Even though nearly 10,000 items, including uniforms and linens, had been in a flooded and hot building for several days, the textile restorer was able to achieve a 99-percent success rate based on items that were deemed restorable on-site. The company then was called in to consult with the hotel for the rebuilding and installation of equipment for the newly renovated facility.

The restoration facility itself must be equipped to handle a large influx of items, which again requires trained personnel to check in each item into a computerized system. This step details the type of item and damage prior to any actual restoration and creates an electronic audit trail of the items. This electronic inventory can be cross-referenced with the on-site inventory as another layer of certification and accountability. Specialized cleaning equipment is necessary, including industrial-strength high-extraction washers, dry cleaning machines using specially-formulated cleaning agents, dryers, presses, steam tunnels and other equipment that enables restoration of more than just garments, such as window treatments, shoes, purses, hats, bedding, rugs, and sentimental items like wedding dresses and heirloom pieces.

Cleaning Agents and Approaches

The restoration process then relies on experts who specialize in spotting, wet cleaning, dry cleaning, ozoning, hand-washing, and finishing, using a full range of equipment, cleaning agents, and techniques to ensure the highest level of success. A scientific approach and customized treatment is based on four key components: time, temperature, mechanical action, and concentration of cleaning agents. Higher laundering temperature, achievable only with commercial-capacity water heaters, reduces the surface tension of water and accelerates most chemical reactions.

As a result, cleaning agents function more efficiently, and the amount of necessary cleaning agents can be reduced. Likewise, proper agitation creates uniform distribution of cleaning agents, leading to enhanced soil suspension and a higher effectiveness of cleaning. A professional textile restorer also will use multiple cleaning formulas specifically designed for restoration that are effective at relatively low temperatures and low pH (meaning more acidic than alkaline) to improve the restoration success rate.

A professional textile specialist also understands and follows accurate and proper pricing, particularly through the use of accepted third-party pricing specialists such as Xactware. Items that cannot be successfully restored to pre-loss condition are removed from the invoice, leading to a risk-free situation for the insurer. The more items that can be restored, the greater the reduction in severity.

Once restoration is completed, the textile expert must have secure storage facilities to warehouse the items while allowing convenient access for an insured who needs items before the entire order is returned.

Overall, a highly professional and systematic approach to a loss involving textiles protects all involved with the claim, reduces total cost and enhances customer satisfaction. For an insured dealing with the aftermath of a loss, a claims process that involves professional restoration goes far beyond where they are going to sleep that night and gives the insured a peace of mind that their most personal and oftentimes irreplaceable items are being treated with the highest level of care and expertise.

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