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Cleaners Courageous! (Conclusion)

Emotion and patriotism in restoring a family heirloom

CONCORD, N.C. — There has been much discussion about patriotism over the years. But that term has a special meaning to most of those that have worn a uniform for a branch of the armed services.

It can mean much more to family members who discover a uniform after the owner has passed away.

There is much emotion attached, therefore great care should be taken when that uniform is presented for restoration. Fortunately, uniforms from the armed services are of high-quality materials and durable construction.

Unfortunately, the best of intentions by a consumer can present a problem for the professional cleaner.

Garments can be packed away in tightly sealed bags that contain moisture and stored in an area that is not temperature controlled. This results in a wide range of heating and cooling with the seasonal changes, which leads to condensation inside the storage bag. This leads to water (tan/brown) streaks and circles.

Many times, these streaks can be minimalized in darker protein garments, by spotting with a good neutral synthetic detergent followed by a tannin formula.

However, on whites, you will most likely have to resort to bleaching. These water marks are more difficult to treat than light streaks, but sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate are the place to start your treatment.

If the results from these two oxygen bleaches are unsatisfactory, I recommend that you switch to a reducing bleach, sodium hydrosulfite. I say this out of experience.

I have found that sodium hypochlorite, chlorine bleach, appears to gradually reduce the tensile strength of cellulose fibers. When age has already reduced the tensile strength of the cellulose fiber, even short exposure to the chlorine can cause holes and rips with little or no mechanical action.

Use a non-metallic container large enough to allow free movement of the garment. Use water that is at or slightly above body temperature (95-100 F). Dissolve the sodium hydrosulfite in the water.

Be sure you have rinsed and/or neutralized any previous bleach, then immerse the garment in the container. Move the garment around to evenly saturate. You should see some immediate change.

Inspect the garment after about two minutes of movement in the container.

Sodium hydrosulfite has the unique characteristic of imparting “whiteness” to a garment, which is of benefit when working with older garments that were originally bright white.

Word of mouth is great advertising. Restoring a family heirloom, in the form of a military uniform, is a great way to get people talking and enhance your image.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].