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Getting Wrinkles Out of Your Cotton Backdrop

A customer recently called in for support about an excessively wrinkled cyc. Even properly hung and stretched, the surface was still very uneven. They tried to steam the wrinkles out but found this to be ineffective and impractical, given the size of the cyc.  

Here is a tried and true theatre trick that can have great results, courtesy of our on-staff engineer, Tom Sullivan, and product expert, Joshua Alemany. For cotton fabrics, you can apply a light misting of warm water, via Hudson sprayer or similar.  Apply to the back and do not over saturate the goods, just lightly wet enough to encourage the cotton fibers to shrink as the water evaporates. In the case of an unpainted muslin cyc, you can also apply to the front if necessary. For the customer in question, the results were fantastic. See the photos up top.

As a side note, this can be done on painted backdrops as well, provided there is sufficient unpainted fiber on the back side to absorb the water. In dire circumstances, this can even be used as a technique for wrinkled cotton velours.  ONLY apply from the back side and treat in light passes to minimize the risk of wetting the nap on the front.

In situations with particularly tough wrinkles, you can add 1-2 tablespoons per gallon of water of potassium alum, which can be found in the baking section of many markets, or from online resellers. This "salt" increases the amount of shrinkage.

One cautionary note regarding fire retardant cotton fabrics.  A possible side effect of over wetting the backdrop is that the fire retardant chemicals present in the fabric could migrate to the surface of the fabric, causing stains or white build up. This can be more noticeable in colored or painted soft goods. Lastly, this technique only works with cotton or natural fiber fabrics. It is ineffective on synthetic goods.

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