Learn Before You Earn

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CHICAGO — Whatever financial recovery may be underway probably has not reached your front door yet. What’s the best use of your downtime? To enhance your stain-removal capabilities. Knowledge is power in the marketplace—and the greater your power in the marketplace, the greater your potential profit.
Move beyond the intimidation of over-the-counter “home-drycleaning” kits. Move beyond the limitation of knowing only which button to push to make the wheel turn. Get the stains that others miss—heck, get the stains you used to miss.
All fabrics, dyes and stains have unique characteristics. And while not everyone cares enough to attempt stain removal, these variables are easy to learn and understand. Resources like American Drycleaner and its Spotting Guide can help explain these differences.
I once did an eight-hour refresher seminar in fibers, fabrics, dyes and stain removal for a small trade association. After about an hour, a young man commented that he only used one spotting agent, a common POG. No matter what the stain, he said, it came out with POG.
For the next two hours, we did hands-on training. The young man happened to get a coffee stain, with cream and sugar. No matter how he tried, POG wouldn’t remove it. Then a young woman who was being “promoted” to cleaner/spotter stepped up, grabbed the tannin formula, and removed the stain on her first attempt.
Begin with the basics: Know your fibers, dyes and stains. The fiber may come from a plant; it may come from an animal; it may be a product of modern chemistry. It may have started out as a natural substance, and been modified by chemistry. If you know the fiber’s characteristics, you’ll be able to anticipate what effect spotting chemicals will have on the garment.
If you understand dyes, it’s easy to avoid damaging a garment in spotting. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue; the secondary colors are orange (red/yellow), purple (red/blue) and green (blue/yellow). Each time you combine colors, the dyes lose stability. For example, aqua is two parts blue/one part green, and turquoise is two parts green/one part blue. Unless you test the dyes to prove otherwise, you should assume that the turquoise dye is less stable than the aqua dye, since it is composed with two parts of secondary color.
Primary colors are often overdyed to make them more appealing, and the excess dye can be affected quickly by spotting agents. Follow a protocol of flushing with steam, neutral synthetic detergent (NSD) and flushing with steam, and you can prevent dye losses easily by changing the procedure at the first sign of migration.
Stains come from many sources, but can usually be grouped into animal, plant and mineral. Most staining materials from animals and plants are best removed by using water in some form—prespotting with steam, prespotting with a semiwet or combination spotter, or by managing moisture in the drycleaning system.
Mineral stains such as grease, paint and ink are to some extent soluble in the drycleaning system, but may require a certain amount of help from an additional chemical tool. This makes them “chemically soluble.”
And of course, every good fabricare professional should understand the value of bleaches. Notice that this word is plural—you should be familiar with all strengths of hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate and sodium hypochlorite, the oxidizing bleaches. You should be familiar with titanium sulfate, sodium bisulfite, sodium hydrosulfite and potassium permanganate, the reducing bleaches or “dye strippers.” They can help you remove more stains and save on claims from dye bleeds.
Make the most of the opportunity a slowdown provides. Keep the customers you have and get new ones by exceeding expectations when sales improve.

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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