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Cold Comfort for Your Customers

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CHICAGO — As cold weather creeps down from the north, customers will start to pull their bedspreads and comforters up to their chins in bed, never giving a thought to what they might transfer to the fabric. And as a professional cleaner, you should start to see dollar signs.
Many bedspreads and comforters are often large and cumbersome—too large for home washers and dryers, and too time-consuming for your customers to handle personally. They are ideal items for you to process, but they can require specialized stain removal.
Avoid the impulse to grab the comforter or spread and rush it to the shirt department for washing. A wide variety of ticking and filling materials demands attention. Follow care-label instructions provided by the manufacturer, unless there is a specific reason to deviate from them with little risk.
Stains on a spread or comforter cover the spectrum, and usually have some “age” on them. Nail polish and makeup are chemically soluble. Creams and ointments are usually solvent-soluble. Perspiration and albumin are usually water-soluble. You will often find pet stains that require special attention.
When cleaning an item with a pet stain, it is usually more effective to break down the circle on the wet side than to use spray spotter or a semi-wet treatment. Temporarily shift any filler inside the spread or comforter out of the way, in order to force the steam and air through the stain. Get the stain and the circle out with steam, allow the item to air-dry, apply a leveling agent and set the item aside for about 30 minutes. Then dryclean it as usual.
When faced with a solvent-soluble stain on an item that is going to be cleaned in water, test it at the board with a wet-side POG product. If the test is successful, you can proceed with stain removal using standard methods and the wet-side POG. After the stain is removed, the item can be immersed in water immediately for cleaning.
The two most common problems are spreads and comforters filled with down, and spreads and comforters made of polished cotton. Down feathers are the fine feathers found on the belly area of ducks and geese. Down offers excellent insulation by trapping air between layers of fabric. You must shift the feathers around in drying to ensure that the item dries evenly. Place tennis balls or small tennis shoes in with the comforter to pummel it in the drying cycle.
Use caution when the label indicates that the comforter also contains “waterfowl feathers.” These are coarser feathers from ducks and geese that contain significant amounts of lanolin. If the lanolin wasn’t sufficiently removed in construction, it can loosen in cleaning, producing streaks and swales on the surface fabric.
A common fabric in spreads and comforters, polished cotton looks like it has been waxed to a smooth, shiny appearance. The finish can break down easily in any cleaning process, and can be flushed away completely in drycleaning. To make matters worse, customers usually have matching items of the same material at home.
In many cases, items such as drapes, pillow shams and dust ruffles will no longer match a polished-cotton comforter once it is cleaned. The difference may not be obvious until the customer puts the spread or comforter on the bed. Train your CSRs to ask if there are any matching items at home when accepting an order made of polished cotton.
Occasionally, you’ll take in an afghan—a soft bed covering made of low-twist, crocheted or knitted wool, blocked to match the size of the top of the bed. These are extremely dimensionally unstable. Perform any stain removal on these without steam, and restrict the area spotted to the distance between your thumb and forefinger. When drying an area after flushing with cold water, move at least six inches away. When drycleaning an afghan, place it in a net bag that leaves room for movement.

About the author

Martin L. Young Jr.

Industry Consultant and Trainer

Martin L. Young Jr. has been an industry consultant and trainer for the last 18 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 mayoung@vnet.net.

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