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Slam That Stain (Conclusion)

Diversify into stain removal

CONCORD, N.C. — On occasion, normal just don’t cut it.

What do you do when standard protocol — your “by the book” training — is not getting the results you need?

What can you do to impress your customer, or just to get yourself out of a trouble spot of your own creation? (This seemed to be the themes of questions I confronted at the Clean Show last summer.)

Most of the time, things go pretty much as expected. I grew up in a drycleaning plant and started working on the counter at age 12. In the 54 years since, I have handled more than my share of garments.

But what do you do when your efforts seem to make matters worse?


It is a bad sign when the customer has neglected a blood stain and, through the passing of time, that blood has changed from red to brown, then to black.

I have seen many garments chaffed by overly aggressive mechanical action in stain removal. The explanation is “blood is blood.” To which I reply: “Time always makes things tougher.”

When you see little or no red in the stain, you should always apply a digester, then set the garment aside for a while, with a warm, moist cloth covering the stain. It takes time, warmth, and moisture for the digester to work well.

Come back to the stain later. Apply neutral synthetic detergent, and flush the stain over the vacuum nose of the board. There is no need for mechanical action at this point.

Now, follow your normal protein stain protocol. If there is a trace of the stain left, after testing on an inside seam, you can apply a drop of dilute ammonia with light mechanical action, then flush over the vacuum nose of the board.

Your final option is to use spot-bleaching with either peroxide or perborate. I use a very fine form of “activated” perborate, as it melts more quickly and evenly, rather than the more course granules found in the bulk perborate used in the laundry operation.

I have four different concentrations of peroxide at the spotting board: 3%, 10%, 20%, and 30%. You can purchase small bottles of various concentrations of peroxide at a shop that sells supplies to hair salons.

After testing on an inside seam, use a salt shaker to apply the perborate powder to the moist stain, then apply a drop of protein formula to the dry perborate to keep it in place.

Get just a “wisp” of steam coming off the nose of the steam gun and melt the perborate through the stain, over the solid portion of the spotting board. Be sensitive to a color change in the area around the stain, otherwise this can be repeated until every trace of the stain is gone.

Peroxide is used by applying and waiting, sometimes repeatedly.

Peroxide is a bleach, although a mild one, so test first on an inside seam. This procedure can be repeated, as long as there is no color change in the garment and the stain removal shows progress.

Neutralize the area with a few drops of acetic acid when you are finished spot-bleaching.


We all have our weak points, mine is a tannin stain.

It seems that the customer believes that regardless of the amount of neglect and abuse they can inflict on the garment, the cleaner can fix the garment.

Well, year-old red wine or brown spicy mustard gives me a fit. When normal ain’t working, I have to move to a different strategy.

Each option mentioned must be tested on an inside-seam before proceeding with the stain removal process.

The first chemical tool I try is general formula (a pre-mixed strong tannin formula). I will allow it to sit for about 20 seconds before applying light mechanical action over the solid portion of the board. If there is only limited success, I move to oxalic acid and repeat the same process. If there is only limited success, I consider the same bleach protocol used above, on the protein stains.

As a last resort I will consider a reducing bleach. As I said, test first.

Again, when the trace of the stain is red/orange, try bisulfite or hydrosulfite, and when the trace of the stain is blue/green, try titanium sulfate.

The customer is going to seek out someone to restore their garment, someone with the knowledge and motivation to make the effort.

Why not diversify into stain removal? You already have a majority of the tools in your plant right now. Don’t give up on bold splashes — slam them back!

To read Part 1, go HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].