Textile Washing Treatment | Sequence of the Washing Steps | Types of Washing | Textile Washing Process

Washing in Textile
Rinsing and washing are the operations carried out most frequently during a complete textile finishing cycle. They are almost always connected to key treatments and aimed at removing from the fabric insoluble matters, matters already in solution or an emulsion of other impurities. During the fabric preparation process, for example, washing is carried out after desizing, boiling and other bleaching and mercerising processes; in dyeing, the washing stage is necessary to complete the dyeing process itself or to eliminate the dyestuff which has not been fixed; during the printing stage, washing performs a finishing action. When using vat dyes or disperse dyes, the washing process aims at removing insoluble pigment substances from the fibre surface by means of wetting or dissolving agents.

This could therefore be considered a crucial treatment in the whole textile process, because of the frequent use and strong economic impact. Manufacturers increasingly focus their attention on reducing water consumption, which leads to subsequent energy and hot water saving as well as a reduction in wastewater. Together with traditional washing systems with vats equipped with "vertical cylinders" the market offers horizontal washing units, which reduce the liquor ratio and the energy and water consumption for each kilogram of washed material.

Washing includes a chemical-physical process, which removes the dirt from the substrate, and a series of physical operations aiming at improving the "feedback action".

The sequence of the various washing steps is the following:
a. Formation of the detergent liquor (transfer of matter + energy by mixing);
b. Reaching of the process temperature and wetting (transfer of the liquor to the material);
c. Separation of impurities and emulsification (transfer of matter from one step to the other);
d. Removal of the liquor from the fibre (transfer of macroscopic matter);
e. Drying (interstage transfer of heat and matter).

Often these steps occur simultaneously. The use of surfactants (detergents) during the washing stage is extremely important to speed up the wetting of the textile material, to facilitate the removal of dirt from the substrate, thus keeping the emulsion inside the liquor and preventing the particles laying down again on the fibre.

Crucial factors are water (which must be quite soft to avoid precipitation of Ca and Mg salts which could give a rough and coarse hand to the textile) and chemical products to be used (emulsifying agents, softening agents and surfactants).

Types of Washing:
Washing can be performed on fabrics either in open-width or in rope form. Rope washing is more effective than open-width washing thanks to a stronger mechanic action, which favors the cleansing, and the relaxation of the fabric structure; for delicate fabrics an open-width washing must be preferred to avoid marks and creases. Open-width washing is also the best choice for processing huge lots.

Rope Washing
Substantially, batch piece washing machines are made up of a couple of squeezing cylinders, which make the fabric swell (the fabric is previously sewn on top and bottom and takes the shape of a continuous ring); these cylinders are assembled inside a vessel, whose lower part contains the detergent liquor. It is possible to wash a fabric inside this vessel, by feeding it into restricted area without laying it stretched out. 
Rope washing machine
The efficiency of this operation is enhanced by the mechanic action, which facilitates both detergency and tension relaxation. This operation is highly cost-efficient because open-width washing allows only one working position and therefore only limited loads can be processed (max. 180 kg) while a rope washing machine can include from one to eight ropes, with an overall weight exceeding 600 kg. Furthermore rope washing machines grant reduced operating times thanks to a more effective mechanic action.

Open-width Washing
An open-width washing machine is usually a system featuring a vertical path washing with driven cycle of multiple action baths, with a resulting 30/40% water and steam saving. This operating unit is manufactured in several versions (10-15-30 meters) and can be used for every kind of preparation and finishing treatment. Four different washing actions alternate inside this machine:

1) Washing on rising paths;

2) Washing on sloping-down paths, carried out by means of spray nozzles, which atomise on both face and back of fabrics, performing a strong penetration action;

3) "Vibraplus" effect washing, which removes from the fabric the threadlike elements (fibrils) that do not dissolve in water;

4) Extraction washing by means of vessel intermediate squeezing. The longitudinal tension of the fabric remains perfectly unchanged on the whole path; it can be adjusted between 5 and 20 kg by means of upper cylinders equipped with self-adjusting control system which generates a sliding motion crease-and-fold proof also on extremely delicate fabrics. Plush fibrils are removed from the vessel with no need for brushes or liquor dilutions. 
Open-width washing machine
Another type of machine divides the washing process into single steps, which are systematically repeated. In this way the whole process can be not only constantly monitored but also accurately calculated. 
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Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant and researcher on online business promotion. He is working with one European textile machinery company as a country agent. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

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