Lighten Up (Part 1)

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Martin L. Young Jr. |

Avoid streaks and swales on ‘lightweight’ apparel

CONCORD, N.C. — Summer is rolling past. It’s the time for light colors and lightweight fabrics.

There is a challenge we all face with summer wear: stains that were left untreated over the off-season. Any stain is more difficult to remove after the passage of time.

Most stains are more visible against a white or pastel background fabric. Lightweight fabrics such as silk and rayon are more likely to show streaks and swales when handled poorly. Let’s start with the classic, “It wasn’t like that when I put it away.”

It could be any number of stains. The simplest stain is a yellow/brown area that the customer insists was not there when the garment was put away many long months ago. It will appear to have a very definite outline.

If you are lucky and it is a caramelized sugar stain, then you will look like a hero. Sugar is easily dissolved by water. The sugar in an otherwise clear stain has turned brown with time and/or heat.

A caramelized sugar stain is easily removed with the first step in wet-side stain removal. Flush with steam over the vacuum nose of the board, add a drop of neutral synthetic detergent, then flush again with steam.

If it is not caramelized sugar, you have simply conditioned the stain for easier stain removal with the following stain-specific steps:

  • Always try your tannin formula before trying your protein. (Tannin formula has little adverse effect on a protein stain. In most cases, protein formula will tend to set a tannin stain.)

  • Inspect the stain closely. If the stain is dominated by what appear to be cross patterns along the edge, you may be facing one of the tougher stains to remove, an oxidized oil stain. (This is usually food oil/grease that contacted the garment while warm.)

  • It is best pre-treated with a good paint, oil and grease (POG) remover, dry-cleaned, then post-spotted or soaked in a safety bleach like sodium perborate. (Note: I am no fan of spot bleaching, as it is often used prematurely. Spot bleaching is meant to be the final attempt to remove traces of the stain, and only after all other appropriate chemical tools have been exhausted.)

​Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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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