JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There are problems that require a great deal of time and resources to solve, and then there are problems that can be solved easily with a quick fix.
Enter Brian Johnson. He’s the director of education and analysis for the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute (DLI) and recently marked his 15th year with the organization. Before that, he spent 15 years working for a drycleaning and laundry company.
Johnson oversees DLI’s garment analysis lab and says he “talks to lots of cleaners all day, every day” about the garments that give them processing nightmares. On this day, he’s speaking to a group of cleaners attending a South Eastern Fabricare Association conference.
“It’s surprising how frequently we get the same questions from dry cleaners all across the world,” he says. “A lot of their questions can be easily answered.”
And so Johnson began ticking off work-related problems involving drycleaning, pressing and stain removal and what can be done to address them. “These (solutions) are all cheap—nearly free—and can be done in a matter of seconds.”
Johnson calls this a “huge, huge problem” because it’s one that is largely undetected until a customer returns the garment to complain. “Unless you’ve a clean version and an original version to compare it to, you can’t see any difference in color.”
This dinginess is sometimes blamed on optical brightener somehow being removed from the garment, or damaged, and this is a myth, he says. “It’s really hard to remove a brightener in dry cleaning.”
Dirty solvent or low solvent level can be causes of dinginess due to soil redeposition. Ideally, the rule of thumb is one gallon of clean solvent per pound—never less than three-quarters of a gallon. Another cause of dinginess is the cleaning cycle being too short, not allowing enough time to filter out released soils, so increase the cycle time to improve cleaning ability.
If you discover that sweaters you’re cleaning are shrinking, your cleaning cycle may be too long.
“You should not be cleaning these wools—especially soft wools, cashmeres, angoras, alpacas, whatever—in your regular cycle times. Way too long,” Johnson says.
Pre-spot woolen garments if dirty, let them dry completely and then put them on a five-minute cleaning cycle. Be sure to lower the heat when drying—about 120 F is sufficient, he says.
Also, if you run all sweaters in the same load, water will be distributed evenly among all the garments. If wool is mixed with other fabrics, then wool has to “pick up” the water that polyester and blends don’t and leads to greater shrinkage when drying.
POCKETS SEWN SHUT
When pressing a suit coat in which a pocket is sewn shut, this sometimes leaves unsightly pocket “impressions.”
“You don’t have to break the threads to straighten it out,” Johnson advises. “Use a chopstick or screwdriver, something long and thin, and slide it in between the threads, poke it around, straighten out that pocket,” then press the pocket again to remove the impressions left by bunched fabric.
Neckties sometimes get twisted due to the tumbling action of cleaning. It’s best to process them in a net bag to reduce mechanical action, Johnson says, and running a safety pin through the back of a tie (through every layer except the outside of the tie) also keeps the material tight when tumbling.
SPREADING INK STAINS
Ink dissolving in a spotting agent sometimes creates a bigger problem by spreading the stain over a larger area of a garment. Johnson suggests flushing the ink over the vacuum using a “volatile dry solvent” before continuing your pre-spotting procedure. Generally, you’re better off treating ink stains on the dry side first.
LIPSTICK/INK PEN LOADS
Fail to check every pocket, every lining, of the garments you’re processing and you could end up with what Johnson calls a “lipstick load,” one in which many of the garments are stained with lipstick left in a slacks pocket or with ink left behind by a pen that had fallen into a coat lining.
Pre-cleaning detection is the best solution here—with coats, lie them flat and pat-feel the lining with your hands. It’ll take a little time, yes, but a lot less than having to re-treat a load of ink-stained goods. When the unfortunate occurs, Johnson suggests running an “ink load cycle.”
Place all the contaminated pieces back into the drycleaning machine without pre-spotting them, fill the machine to a lower-than-normal solvent level, then add a half-gallon of oily-type paint remover (POG) compatible with your solvent for every 25 to 30 pounds of rated capacity. Run the cycle at 15 minutes if using perc, 25 minutes in other solvents; do not circulate this solvent through the filters.
Drain the dirty solvent to the still, rinse 10 minutes in clean solvent, drain that rinse to the still and tumble-dry the goods on low, Johnson advises.
“That’s doing the exact same thing you were going to do on the spotting board one by one,” he says, estimating that 85-90% of stains will be removed using the batch procedure.
Miss Part 1? Read it HERE.