Achieving Excellence in Stain Removal

Martin L. Young Jr. |

I just finished the last stain-removal test necessary to requalify for the Award of Excellence (AOE), a voluntary certification that helps cleaners distinguish themselves while demonstrating a commitment to the industry, the community and continuing education.
This year, the swatches — on white silk with a plain weave — were stained with nail polish, coffee with cream, ink, egg, spaghetti sauce, and red wine. These are stains every cleaner should be able to remove.
Nail polish is primarily a dry-side stain. It is formulated to have a hard, shiny surface and resist cracking. Nail polish will eventually respond to a normal dry-side protocol, and any remaining pigment will respond to spot-bleaching.
Place the nail-polish stain over the solid portion of the spotting board and apply volatile dry solvent (VDS) followed by paint, oil and grease remover (POG) and light mechanical action. Maintain a “puddle” of POG and watch for the pigment to “cast off” as you work. As the stain breaks down, blot the puddle with a towel and re-apply POG.
If traces of the stain remain and the puddle of POG shows no evidence of pigment, add a drop or two of amyl acetate and heat the area with the steam gun over the solid portion of the board. Apply light mechanical action, flush the stain with VDS and clean as usual. Remaining traces can be spot-bleached using a reducing bleach such as titanium stripper or sodium hydrosulfite.
Coffee with cream contains a tannin (coffee) component and a protein (cream) component. In such a combination, always work on the tannin first — while a tannin remover probably will not set a protein stain, a protein remover probably will set a tannin stain.
Much of a coffee stain can be removed using a simple wet-side protocol: Flush with steam over the vacuum nose of the board; apply NSD and mechanical action over the solid portion of the board; flush with steam over the vacuum nose of the board.
If traces of the stain remain (particularly if the stain is old), pull the stain over the solid portion of the board and apply tannin formula and light mechanical action. Place the stain over the vacuum nose and flush it with steam. Repeat this step if traces of the stain remain.
Once the coffee is removed, any last traces of the cream stain can be removed easily by placing the stain over the solid part of the board, applying protein formula and light mechanical action. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the board and flush with steam; some cream will be removed each time you steam. If traces remain, use an oxygen bleach such as 3% hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate to spot-bleach.
Ink should be treated on the dry side. Begin by placing the ink stain on the solid part of the spotting board. Apply VDS and POG, followed by light mechanical action. The ink should “rise” with the application of these two chemical tools, making the appearance of the stain darker and/or brighter and indicating that the stain is breaking down.
Continue alternating between applications of POG and light mechanical action. After the ink is removed, flush the area with VDS and dryclean as usual. If the initial application of VDS and POG results in only minimal stain removal, flush the area again with VDS and apply a semi-wet stain-removal solution. Water-soluble inks will bleed to the moisture in a semi-wet solution.
Apply light mechanical action and flush with VDS to remove the stain. The last traces of pigment can be removed by careful spot-bleaching (after testing on an inside seam) using 3% hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate.
Next month, I’ll take on the other three stains (egg, red wine and spaghetti sauce), the last two of which are among the most difficult to remove successfully. Nobody ever said stain removal was easy, but it can be profitable!

About the author

Martin L. Young Jr.

Industry Consultant and Trainer

Martin L. Young Jr. has been an industry consultant and trainer for 20 years, and a member of various stakeholder groups on environmental issues. He is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Launderers & Cleaners (NCALC). He grew up in his parents’ plant in Concord, N.C., Young Cleaners, which he operates to this day. Contact him by phone at 704-786-3011, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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