Evaluate 2015, Anticipate Holiday Fashion Challenges

Martin L. Young Jr. |

Knowing what to do in special stain-removal cases can set you apart

CONCORD, N.C. — It is the holiday season, and the end of the year is in sight. Stand up straight and turn around to look back over 2015. You are still here, and the “bounce” has come back to the cleaning industry. It is time to perform a “wellness check” on your business.

Take an honest and critical inventory of your actions and decisions over the past year. What were your good choices? Were you able to control overhead or did you continue to “chase pieces” in an effort to keep the doors open? Were you able to re-invest in upgrades or did it take everything to keep your doors open? Is your business model still valid or does it need to be “tweaked” to reflect a new reality?

Supplemental stain removal is still an essential part of a cleaning operation. When you assume that the customer is more focused on getting the garments back fast, as opposed to getting them back stain-free, you are fooling yourself in an effort to validate the way you have always processed garments.

The red acetate velvet dress is still around, waiting for the cleaner/spotter who is unfamiliar with the problems it may present. Use minimal water, opting for multiple applications of dry-side general pre-spotter or a leveling agent. If you find the need to introduce moisture to the stain-removal process, never touch an area that has been exposed to moisture. Once the nap is flattened by moisture and pressure, it is nearly impossible to make the surface uniform once again.

When you see ornamental trim on a holiday sweater, check the care label for any reference to a water-based cleaning process. Such a process will allow you to use classic wetcleaning protocols to safely and effectively clean these fancy sweaters that your competitor is probably turning away.

You can pick up new customers easily by showing you are a cut above the “me, too” cleaner. Turn the sweater inside-out and place it in a net bag, using cold water, a pH-neutral (or slightly acidic) detergent and mild mechanical action. Follow the cleaning with a conditioner/fabric softener. Dry on a flat surface and, after reshaping, on a spare towel.

During the holiday season, there tends to be a larger volume of stains containing alcohol. Alcohol is a reasonably harsh alkali, which means that there is reason to assume that the dyes have been loosened to some extent. If you are told that an alcoholic drink has been spilled at a specific location on a garment, it is best to apply a leveling agent and moderate mechanical action at the spotting board. This procedure will give a strong indication of the garment’s tendency to bleed or release loosened dye, while you are still in a position to minimize the damage.

Beverage stains are routinely pre-spotted on the wet side before cleaning, but the combination of heat and water under pressure will only increase the damage if the alcohol has loosened the dye. When wet-side removal is required of stains containing alcohol, I recommend it be done as post-spotting.

While the customer will view wax and tree sap as major problems, these stains are, in fact, solvent-soluble. Pre-spot either stain with a good POG and dry-clean as normal. Any pigment that is left behind can be addressed in post-spotting with neutral synthetic detergent (NSD) or the use of sodium perborate at the spotting board.

When it comes to removing gravy and dips, “less is more.” Flush the stain over the vacuum nose of the spotting board, removing any solid material sticking to the fabric surface. Apply NSD and light mechanical action, then flush a second time over the vacuum nose. Dry the area to determine if any stain residue remains. Use a semi-wet or general pre-spotter on any residue, then allow the area to dry thoroughly. Dry-clean as normal.

Many of your customers wear sweatshirts with festive colors, messages, and designs this time of year. The vast majority of these garments will be painted on. These items are usually “worn hard” during the season, only to be packed away until next year. I recommend that you avoid dry-cleaning these painted (seasonal) items to prolong their wearable life.

Turn these shirts inside-out and wet-clean with an emphasis on gentle mechanical action. When the garment’s ornamental trim is excessive, place the item in a pillowcase before cleaning to further protect the trim and reduce mechanical action.

Thought and effort can take one a long way toward excellent garment restoration. Spend the few seconds needed to glance at each garment, taking notice of potential problems. When recognized, when you think there could be trouble, take action based on your knowledge and experience. Knowing what to do in special cases, and then following through by doing it, is what sets you apart as a true professional.

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 mayoung@vnet.net.

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