I was standing with my back to the hors d’oeuvre table at my 40th high school reunion. I was catching up with a guy I hadn’t seen since 1969 when I overheard a comment: “Oops, you’re going to have to take that to Martin.” I turned and saw a lady with cocktail sauce down the front of her silk blouse.
The endorsement made me burst with pride, but to many operators, prespotting garments borders on the criminal or the foolish. They limit themselves to a squirt of spray spotter or a dash of POG, run it, steam it and bag it. In an industry saturated with “me-too” operators, effective, reliable stain removal pays off.
As the New Year begins, you should evaluate your cleaning and stain-removal procedures. Ask yourself whether or not the competition can do a better job. Is your business sending the wrong signal to potential customers? Are you telling the marketplace that you’re no better than the competitor up the street?
As a professional, you should know more. You should be able to get out the vast majority of stains without garment damage. To that end, let’s review.
Stains fall into four categories. First is solvent-soluble—stains that break down in the cleaning machine. Because of the many immersion processes in use today, understanding these stains is a function of your experience with the solvent, its relative strength, the amount of relative humidity it carries, and detergent concentrations.
Second come water-soluble stains, which require moisture to break down. These are animal-based (protein) stains and plant-based (tannin) stains. Using water and spotting agents is the only way to consistently and effectively remove these “wet-side” stains, regardless of the solvent or immersion solution.
Third are chemical-soluble stains, which require a cosolvent to break down. These “dry-side” stains are usually the byproducts of modern chemistry, such as cosmetics. And the last category is insoluble stains such as carbon and graphite, which can only be flushed out with lubrication and mechanical action.
Whether to prespot or not is up to you, but there’s no reason not to prespot water- and chemical-soluble stains. And while it’s difficult to provide step-by-step stain-removal techniques due to the unlimited combinations of fibers, fabrics, dyes, trims and constructions available, here’s how I would handle a few common problem stains.
To prespot oil-based paint on the dry side, flush with VDS, apply POG and mild mechanical action, flush with VDS, and clean as usual. For nail polish, flush with VDS, apply POG and mild mechanical action, apply amyl acetate and mechanical action, flush with VDS, and clean.
To prespot beverage stains on the wet side, flush them with steam, apply neutral synthetic detergent (NSD), apply mild mechanical action, flush with steam, apply tannin formula, apply mild mechanical action, flush with steam, dry thoroughly, apply a leveling agent, and clean as usual.
To prespot wine stains, flush them with steam, apply NSD and mild mechanical action, flush with steam, apply tannin formula and mild mechanical action, flush with steam, apply general formula and mild mechanical action, flush with steam, dry thoroughly, apply a leveling agent, and clean. Use 3% hydrogen peroxide and heat from the steam gun on any remaining traces.
To prespot blood stains, flush them with steam, apply NSD and mild mechanical action, flush with steam, apply protein formula and mild mechanical action, flush with steam, dry thoroughly, apply leveling agent, and clean. If the blood is aged (dark brown/black), apply a digester after flush-NSD-flush and let the garment sit for a while before applying protein formula.
Set yourself apart from the competition in the New Year. You only have to be 10% better to make customers notice and secure a lucrative future in the industry.