New Year Brings Holiday Stains

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CONCORD, N.C. — A new year brings new opportunities for those prepared to take advantage. You’re no doubt heard the saying, “Foolishness is continuing to do what you have always done and expecting different results.” Make the adjustments in your business model now to capture and keep the customers that will be on the move in the coming year.

The best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago, to have apples today. The second best time to plant an apple tree is today, to have apples in the future. If you never get around to planting the apple tree, you will never have apples.

Drycleaning volume may not return to the levels of 10 years ago in the foreseeable future; cleaners are being forced to make do with the lower garment count. The industry is saturated with processing plants that are based on speed and/or price. The niche in the marketplace is reliable stain removal by a knowledgeable operator.

Stain removal is quickly becoming a valuable commodity. Not only does it contribute to the bottom line, it leads to increased customer loyalty.

The just-concluded gift-giving season may have brought your customers brand-new clothes. New clothes present a wide variety of potential problems during the first cleaning. The most common problems are surface dyes that will crack, and stains that are unique to the holiday season.


It has long appeared to fabricare professionals that garment manufacturers give a much greater emphasis to marketability and profitability than to garment serviceability. New garments are presented in the stores in the best possible manner. Unfortunately, those bright colors on display can be an invitation to a claim.

There are often excess dyes on the garment surface that are easily disturbed by steam and mechanical action, so take extra care to use extremely mild mechanical action on any garment that appears to be new and brightly colored.

If possible, try to stay with dry-side and semi-wet chemical tools when pre-spotting. Until you are certain of the dye stability, keep an extra margin of distance between the nose of the spotting gun and the surface of the garment when spotting wet side.

Decorative trim is making a strong comeback this year. Slow down when you encounter these trims, and be sure that you understand the consequences of your attempt at stain removal. Many times sequins are painted, which means that any use of POG while cleaning is risky and that immersion in any solvent should be kept to a minimum.

The “scales” that are popular this season are a larger version of the sequins we have been seeing for years. The larger size simply gives the garment a more dramatic appearance.

Anything that is glued to the garment is subject to damage by mechanical action or from solvent immersion. The first choice for any garment with glued-on trim is “textbook” wet cleaning. This is more than just using water; it is strictly controlling the detergent’s pH, using a low water temperature and drastically reduced mechanical action, and controlling the drying to eliminate shrinkage and felting.

If dry cleaning is absolutely necessary, you can further limit mechanical action by turning the garment inside-out; protect the buttons by folding the front buttons over onto the face of the garment and pinning them with safety pins. “Soft protein” sweaters can be turned inside out and dry cleaned in a loose net bag to protect decorative trim, as well as to reduce the chance of dimensional distortion.


Candle wax, evergreen sap, candy, and alcoholic drinks create stains that are unique to the holiday season.

Dry clean anything containing candle wax in a normal run. Post-spot any remaining pigment beginning with the tannin stain protocol. Spot bleaching with hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate can accomplish final pigment removal.

I suggest pre-spotting evergreen sap dry side with your POG, then dry cleaning as normal. Using a laundry POG is an option, but the sap will have dried by the time it reaches you. Dry cleaning will usually be your most efficient method of removing this stain.

Candy can usually be quickly removed on the wet side using the steam gun and NSD. Any pigment (usually from hard candy) can be removed by spot bleaching with hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate.

Approach stains from alcoholic drinks cautiously, because the alcohol can lead to a loosening of the dye that is not apparent until the garment is subjected to steam spotting or dry cleaning. Loosened dye can be flushed away, leaving a light area. The mixer is also important and should be taken into consideration; fruit juice only complicates the stain-removal process. I recommend placing this type of stain over the vacuum nose of the board and flushing with cold water while pressing the vacuum petal. The lack of heat will reduce the possibility of dye removal.

And I must remind you of the “little” landmine that pops up this time of the year. The little, red, acetate velvet dress that many mothers buy for their little girls is trouble looking for a place to happen. The red dye can be distorted, leaving light areas. The acetate usually contains a water-soluble sizing that will flatten to any moisture and any pressure. The child will most likely be given candy while wearing the dress, and you can bet it will be spread to the garment.

Stay on the dry side when spotting. Only move to the wet side as a last resort. If you do move to the wet side, take care to never touch an area of the dress that is moist.

The coming year is ripe with opportunity. Refine your business model to reflect the changing marketplace. Polish your technical skills to garner and maintain your market share.

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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