Sanforized: Fabric’s Best Friend

One in a Series About Textile Inventors and Inventions. Most sewers and consumers today take for granted that shrinkage is not a washday problem. But there are those who remember the tragedies of no pre-shrunk fabrics, guessing how many times garments would continue to shrink after repeated washings and who during the 1930s-60s searched for labels or tags on garments and yardage stating pre-shrunk or Sanforized before purchasing. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Sanford L. Cluett, a man of remarkable curiosity and talents in various fields with more than 200 patents to his credit [see bio at end of column].

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Sanford Cluett in 1936 at a campsite.

– Courtesy Pamela Snevily Johnston Keating He changed the way America looked. He helped put an end to exposed wrists and ankles, constricted waistlines and bursting buttons. The invention which bears his name, Sanforized, made it possible to wash clothes over and over again without shrinkage.1 In 1919 when he was 45, Sanford joined Cluett, Peabody & Co., his uncles’ Arrow shirt collar company in Troy NY and which had been in business since 1851.

At that time Troy factories were producing three million detachable collars a week and shipping them all over the world. But by the late 1920s people were getting used to wearing soft collars attached to shirts and collar sales fell drastically. The company, which had a process called Clupeco-shrunk for its collars, tried to manufacture collar-attached shirts but had to deal with the defect of shrinkage when they were washed.

No one wanted to buy pre-washed shirts. Sanford’s clinical mind decided there was a need to find a way to shrink shirts before they were washed. This line of thought led him to develop a standardized process for pre-shrinking or what the textile industry refers to as Controlled Compressive Shrinking . Basically, he designed a machine on which cloth passed over a contracting elastic felt blanket where the pulling action during manufacturing was adjusted by a pushing action.2 This process was named Sanforized in his honor [the d was dropped], registered in 1930 and ultimately became a worldwide famous trademark.

Initially the process was so successful that Cluett Peabody dropped Arrow detachable collars and replaced them with Arrow shirts. In the 1940s the company introduced Arrow pre-shrunk underwear and began licensing the name and process to other manufactures. As a result, many brands appeared on the market advertising their own Sanforized underwear.

Other Cluett trademarks introduced following WWII were Sanforset which guaranteed rayon fabrics or garments would not shrink or stretch more than 2%; Sanforlan which signified that wool was treated to render it permanently non-felting and would not shrink out of fit; Sanforized Plus for wash and fabrics and garments for retaining smoothness, crease recovery and tensile and tear strength; and Sanford Plus 2™ for durable press garments made only from approved pre-cured or post-cured fabrics which met Cluett standards.

Modern technology has replaced all but Sanforized with Sanfor-Knit, invented by Herman J. Joy, head of Cluett’s creative development, for highest standards of shrinkage control and easy-care performance in 100% cotton and cotton-blend knit fabrics and garments, and Sanfor-Set for woven cotton or cotton-blend fabric which conform to precise standards of shrinkage control and easy-care performance.

When Sanford died in 1968, Sanforized was licensed for manufacture by 448 mills in 58 countries. Today the trademarks Sanfor [Europe], Sanforizado [Latin America] and Sanforized [rest of the world] are registered in more than 100 countries worldwide for cotton and cotton blend fabrics. The Sanforized Division of Cluett Peabody International owns sole rights to the process. Sanforizing process in a nutshell Sanforized means that fabrics which carry the famous Sanforized label are tested according to the severe test methods required by the Sanforized Company.

These tests conform to test standards specified by the U.S. government. The company’s test is a guarantee that these fabrics will not shrink more than 1% (Sanforized Standard) in either warp or weft. Sanford’s premise was that yarns and/or fabrics are not fixed materials. They consist of separate, stretchable fibers which submit to the continuous tension during spinning, weaving, bleaching, dyeing and the various finishing processes. In other words, fabrics do stretch in length and width. The tension within the yarns, which is caused by this stretching, can be eliminated when the friction within the fabric is reduced.

This reduction in friction occurs during laundering where both water and soap act as a lubricant. The lubricant, along with the mechanical action of the washer, helps the fibers relax and contract to their original length before the elongation takes place. A full-width sample is wash tested according to a prescribed test method. After the lengthwise and widthwise shrinkage has been determined, the compressive shrinkage machine can be adjusted accordingly.

This means that the fabric shrinks and recaptures its original equilibrium.3 For the curious and scientifically inclined, a simple but understandable diagram and explanation of this process can be viewed on two websites: Cluett Peabody http://www.sanforized.biz/e_who.htm and Atron Co. www.atron.cz/sanfordt.en.htm It should be noted that the preshrinking process is by no means exclusive to The Sanforized Company.

Others guaranteeing less than 1% shrinkage for cottons with their patents were Nashua Mfg. Co. which stamped Pre-Shrunk in its Indian Head selvages as early as 1934; Springshrunk by Spring Mills, Rigmel by Bradford Dyeing Association, Pak-nit for cotton knits by Compax Corporation and Redmanized and Permasized by F.R. Redman Co., also for knits.

For wool there were Drisol, Harriset, Hypol, Kelpie, Kroy, Lanaset, McFee Method, Pacifixed, Protonizing, Resloom, Schollerizing, Stevens H2O and Wurlan.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Ad for boys’ Arrow collars which were Clupeco shrunk, available in ¼ sizes.
– Ladies Home Journal, Aug. 1906.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Stepping high in this swanky ad for Cluett dress shirts. Note they are not called Arrow shirts at this date. Munsey’s Magazine, Feb. 1908 – Courtesy Linda Learn

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Ad for Arrow collars. This is the Addison style, Clupeco shrunk , available in quarter sizes. Munsey’s Magazine, Feb. 1908
– Courtesy Linda Learn

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Cluett & Peabody trademarks 1930-46.
– Textile Brandnames Dictionary, 1947

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

The squeeze is on! Ad states that only fabrics which meet company’s rigid shrinkage requirements can use Sanforized trademark and will not shrink more than 1% by U.S. government’s standard test.
– McCall’s S/S Pattern Book, 1955.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Examples of Sanforized labels and tags used for garments which are consumer assurances for controlled shrinkage. Label, 1949; tag 1946.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Sanforized men’s pants were hot sellers in this 1933 Sears catalog.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Long wear guaranteed for this rugged work jacket. National Bella Hess catalog, 1946-47 Licensing in a nutshell Universally, the Sanforized label is recognized as dimensional stability for garments made up of Sanforized-labeled fabrics. The company claims that its license program is unique and without parallel in the textile and apparel industries.4 Manufacturers which meet special test requirements and conform to a precise standard of shrinkage established by The Sanforized Company may label their merchandise Sanforized.

This is uniformly true everywhere in the world wherever cotton and cotton-blend merchandise is produced and sold because the same processing, testing and inspection procedures are carried out with each and every licensee.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Label denoting fabric is an authentic Sanforized checked standard of shrinkage. Mills are required to identify each piece of their Sanforized fabrics with this label that states they are in compliance with Cluett’s standards.
– Cluett Peabody

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

One of the benefits of Rice Stix shirts is the Sanforized guarantee.
– Colliers, Aug. 27, 1949

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Top quality –Wilson Brothers shirts of Dan River broadcloth are Sanforized – Colliers, Aug. 27, 1949. To insure that a uniform standard is maintained, Sanforized technical service representatives perform constant inspection and check-testing at the plants of textile mills licensed to produce Sanforized fabrics. The end result is that retailers and consumers are assured that a garment so labeled will not shrink out of fit.

There are specific requirements for those using the Sanforized label: – Licensed textile mills are required to identify their Sanforized fabrics with a label which must be applied to end of each piece of fabric. Label is to state that Sanforized is a checked standard of shrinkage. Mills can also stamp Sanforized at intervals on cloth selvage.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Fruit of the Loom also used the Sanforizing process to denote additional quality of its cloth. Shown in Montgomery Ward catalog, 1957.

– Licensed manufacturers which make garments wholly of Sanforized fabric identify their garments as Sanforized.

The right to use this trademark is from the standard label which appears on each roll of fabric the garment is made from. In addition the invoice for the fabric must state Sanforized. There are many different ways in which manufacturers label their garments as Sanforized – for instance, inclusion of the trademark on the manufacturer’s own sew-in neck label or hang-tag, separate hang-tags, gummed tickets, gummed labels, etc.

– Retailers purchasing garments identified as Sanforized may use the trademark in advertisements, on counter cards, in bill stuffers and all other material employed to promote the sale of the garment. To protect themselves against receiving illegal use of trademark, retailers require Sanforized identification of their purchase orders.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best FriendSanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Marks of assurance from Cloth of Gold and Indian Head with Sanforized stamped in their fabrics’ selvages. Poplin [r], manufacturer unknown was featured in National Bella Hess catalog 1946-47.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

The Man Behind the Invention — Sanford Cluett 1874 -1968 Perhaps this observation made by Sanford helps to sum up the heart and mind of this inventive person: “If more people would get curious and open their eyes and ears and minds, they would be much happier and incidentally, more successful.” 5 He had a wide range of interests and successful careers in several fields.

The scientific mind was evident in childhood when at 10 he surveyed and mapped Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains using a carpenter’s level, some metal screw eyes and a music stand. During his teens he lived in Florida due to ill health but didn’t let that dampen his investigative enthusiasm. He hunted swamps for alligators, befriended the Seminoles and learned their language, and became an expert marksman. Deciding not to pursue a career in medicine, he enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute [Troy] to study ballistics.

While a student, he invented a bubble sextant for celestial navigation. 6 He was inducted into the Institute’s Hall of Fame established in 1998. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the military for the Spanish-American War and was assigned to the engineering corps. Afterwards, he provided much of the key engineering design work for the Big Sandy River Dam project in Kentucky, where he reportedly was almost shot by suspicious mountain folk who thought he was a revenuer.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

A 32 x 29 silk scarf was presented to Sanford Cluett on his 80th birthday in 1954 by the Herberleins. Sanford’s picture is in the center, surrounded by some of his sketches and signatures. Border is a repetition of licensees’ labels which appear to be German , Austrian or Swiss as they bear the Sanfor trademark. See closeup.

Conjecture: It is thought that the Heberleins were the owners of the Herberlein Patent Co.

which developed Helenca and which licensed its Herbelein permanent crisp finish [aka Swiss finish] for organdies and fine fabrics to U.S. finishers.
-Courtesy Pamela Snevily Johnston Keating

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Closeup of photo of Sanford Cluett surrounded by his sketches and signatures. When only 27, he became chief engineer of a New York harvesting machine company, inventing new and improved designs. He also invented Clupak, a non-stretchable paper fabric difficult to tear, that was used for shopping bags and wrapping paper for magazines, tires, meat and furniture.

Sanforized: Fabric's Best Friend

Closeup of border showing one full repeat of foreign licensee labels — Kasy, Comet, Elki, Ring-Kläder, Eterna, Merit, Legler, Fristads, Galerie Lafayette are legible. Sanford was famous as a meticulous man who made written records of his every thought. According to one story, after a lunch meeting with businessmen talking about one of his inventions, he returned to retrieve the tablecloth on which he had sketched some ideas.He had the tablecloth notarized and kept it.

It was later used as evidence in a patent suit.8 One of Troy’s most famous citizens, Sanford’s life and achievements are chronicled in an exhibit which is on permanent display at the Rensselaer Historical Society. A note about the Herberlein Co. This company is another example of textile companies surviving by re-inventing themselves.

Founded in Wattwil, Switzerland in 1835 by Georg Philipp Heberlein, this well-known Swiss company was for decades first and foremost one of the leading printed fabrics specialists with its own bleachery and dye works. One of its early patents was the Swiss finish, also known as the Herberlein finish, which gave organdy a super smooth, somewhat crisp permanent finish. Later the company became involved in producing synthetic fibers (Helenca) and textile machinery.

When the Gummiwerke Richterswil foundation was formed, hence the name Gurit, it acquired Herberlein to become Gurit-Heberlein. At that time the company began to build a second market in the field of synthetic materials which triggered new developments in European car manufacturing by introducing the direct glazing technique and innovative sealing applications. New ventures include heath care and industrial applications.

Sources: Special thanks to Alice DeSantis, Cluett International, for trademark and corporate history; Adrian Steinmann of Herberlein -USA for Herberlein archival information, and to Pamela Snevily Johnston Keating for personal effects and bringing Sanford Cluett to light.

General Cluett bio, process and corporate information – Cluett Peabody website www.sanforized.biz/e_who.htm Early Cluett trademark information — Missouri Extension Service Gurit-Heberlein company history – www.gurit.com Fabrics, Grace Denny, 1947, 53 and 62 editions Modern Textile and Apparel Dictionary, George Linton, 1973 Textiles: Fiber to Fabrics, Potter Corbman, 1967 Footnote 1 Cluett Peabody website Footnote 2 Textile World Selects Industry’s 50 Most Influential http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/collarscluett.htm Footnote 3 Cluett Peabody website Footnote 4 Cluett Peabody website Footnote 5 Cluett Peabody website Footnote 6 Rensselaer Historical Society http://scte.mgmt.rpi.edu/entrepreneurs/cluett.html Footnote 7 Cluett Peabody website Footnote 8 Cluett Peabody website The arbitrary cut-off date for this Vintage Fabric column is 1960.

To stay within the scope of this timeframe, reference materials published up to that date are the prime source of information to more accurately capture actual thoughts of the time.

Joan Kiplinger is an antique doll costumer and vintage fabric addict who learned to sew on her grandmother’s treadle and has been peddling fabrications ever since.

One Response to “Sanforized: Fabric’s Best Friend”

  1. carolyn smith says:

    I have a pair of men boxers that have a pantent #2154751 that is sanforized and I want to know is that brand is it old and what year was they made in