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Slam That Stain (Part 1)

Get tough on old stains, get creative with 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?


You recognized the paint the moment you picked up the garment. You made the decision to pre-spot the stain. You pull the skirt over the solid portion of the board, apply you favorite POG, rub the stain with your bone scraper — nothing.

You add a few more drops of POG and try again — still nothing. Apparently, the paint has been in the garment for a while.

Before you grab that “Sorry” tag, give this a try: cover the stain with petroleum jelly and let it sit for at least four hours, or even overnight. Now apply your POG, with mechanical action, as before.

Put a few drops of POG on the remaining stain and then add a drop or two of amyl acetate, followed by mechanical action. Once the stain begins to break down, it will go in a hurry. If you are left with a trace of pigment after pre-spotting on the dry-side, go to the wet side with a reducing bleach (dye stripper).

When the trace of pigment is in the red/orange category, I use bisulfite or hydrosulfite, and when the trace of pigment is in the blue/green category, I use titanium sulfate.


Some stains, by their makeup alone, will not break down. An example is the black specks left by car exhaust. These black specks are “insoluble” pieces of carbon.

An insoluble stain is removed by lubrication and mechanical action. In many cases, the application of an oily-type paint remover, brisk tamping, and dry cleaning will get the job done.

However, there will come a time when this normal course of action will require a little help. An option is to apply mineral oil (found in the “Laxative” section at the drug store), and heavy tamping. Your immersion solution will easily remove the mineral oil and the heavy lubrication will do wonders for removal of the solid particles imbedded in the fabric.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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