Out for Blood, with a Digester Bath

Martin L. Young Jr. |

The white-linen designer dress was a gift from her grandfather after she became junior-class president. It has great sentimental value. It’s the dress she’s wearing when she’s in a car accident and breaks her nose. She’s fine, but she lost a lot of blood — onto the dress. The family wants you to restore it. Can you meet or exceed their expectations?
If the garment’s fibers, construction and dyes will tolerate water, soaking it in an enzyme-digester bath may be the most efficient way to treat the bloodstain, particularly if it covers a relatively large area.
However, if the stain is on a “Dryclean-only” item, explain the procedure and have the customer sign a release. The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) rule says that going against the care label makes you responsible for any distortion or damage that occurs.
An effective way to use an enzyme-digester bath is to get an insulated plastic cooler big enough to ensure free movement of the garment. The insulation will maintain the warmth necessary to keep the enzymes active as they digest the bloodstain. Fill the cooler to about two-thirds full with warm water (120°F) and add 1/2 ounce of powdered enzyme digester per gallon of water.
Dissolve the digester in the water fully by agitating the mixture with your hand. If the water is too hot to mix with your hand, it may be too hot for the enzymes, making the bath useless. Submerge the garment and agitate the bath slightly to ensure saturation. If the garment floats up, cover it with a clean towel to keep the garment submerged.
Put the top back on the cooler to conserve heat. You can let items with “water-based” care labels soak for long periods, but check “Dryclean only” garments often for dye bleeds, distortion and shrinkage. An enzyme-digester bath requires knowledge and time to remove stains, not physical effort.
If it isn’t prudent to immerse a garment in water, use an enzyme digester at the spotting board. This is also a good way to treat small bloodstains that have aged to the point of blackening.
Flush the stain with steam over the vacuum nose of the board, pull the stain over the solid portion, and apply neutral synthetic detergent (NSD). Give the stain mild mechanical action, return it to the vacuum nose and flush it with steam. This moistens the area, spreads the fibers, breaks the surface tension of the stain and provides the heat necessary to activate the digestive enzymes.
Always use the vacuum at the same time you flush an area with steam or air. Step on the space between the pedals to apply equal pressure to both.
Now, apply the enzyme digester — powder or liquid — to the stain. Moisten a small cloth with wet steam and place it on top of the stain to keep the area warm and moist, and set the garment aside. After about 30 minutes, flush the area with steam to remove any remaining blood.
Now, any additional stain-removal efforts needed will be safer and more effective. Apply protein formula over the solid portion of the board and apply mild mechanical action. Let your chemical tools do the work; don’t dig at the stain. Pull the stain over the vacuum nose and flush with steam. Repeat the procedure until the stain is gone.
If stain removal stalls, you can spot-bleach to remove the last traces of blood. You must respect bleaches, not fear them — they are simply another chemical tool in the arsenal of a professional cleaner.
Test the bleach on an unexposed seam. If the test is satisfactory, flush the remaining stain with steam and place a few drops of 3% hydrogen peroxide on it. This bleach works slowly, giving users maximum control over the process. Allow about 10 minutes for the bleach to work and inspect the stain. Repeat until the stain has vanished.
Your objective is to remove stains and restore garments. Whether your business performs low-cost/high-volume processing or value-added pampering, quality stain removal is essential to your prosperity.

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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