CONCORD, N.C. — Surviving these last several months can be viewed as a badge of pride, because the piece count disappeared overnight. But what does the future hold?

If the consumer has been doing garments at home and income is now diverted to obligations, we are going to have to give customers a strong reason to use our service.

As you re-establish your identity in the marketplace, consider an attitude of being a destination, rather than one of the many.

High-quality cleaning is the product of effort, based upon superior knowledge of garment characteristics. Your working knowledge of textiles must exceed that of the customer. That is what makes you a professional.

Your equipment are the tools of the industry, and how you use those tools is what sets you apart. Many times, the stain can be removed by having knowledge and putting forth the effort that your competitor is unable, or unwilling, to give the customer.

Start by assessing the cleaner/spotter’s work area. Often, it’s in an out-of-the-way corner. Lighting in the area should, at minimum, approximate “daylight.” The fixture over the board should be parallel to, and about 4 feet above, the working surface. Using anti-fatigue matting will pay dividends in added stamina and comfort in the work area.

As the number of immersion choices has increased, the definition of “solvent-soluble” has differed from plant to plant. There is a variation in chemical content, leading to a trade-off of stain aggressiveness and textile friendliness in the machine.

Typically, solvent-soluble stains will be light oils and food grease that contacted the item at room temperature. Chemically soluble stains—paint, nail polish, makeup—will require some pre-treatment before immersion to ensure adequate removal in the machine. Water-soluble stains require some form of water for removal.

Some water-soluble stains can be removed with just neutral synthetic detergent and steam. If the staining material came from a plant, it is more effective to use an acid-based “tannin” product. If the staining material came from an animal, it is more effective to use an alkaline-based “protein” product.

The most effective way to deal with an insoluble stain like carbon and graphite is to use a dry-side, oily type paint remover that will lubricate the material while applying mechanical action with the brush or bone.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.