Spotting Tips: Tannin Removal Ticket to Better Business

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(Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/TommL)

Martin L. Young Jr. |

CONCORD, N.C. — It seems to me that cleaners are looking for a remedy to tannin stains, but few are willing to make the commitment to gain the working knowledge and experience to solve the problem.

Stain removal requires a basic knowledge of fibers, fabrics and dyes. In an industry that is dominated by business models that proclaim “I can do it cheaper than you,” we fail to realize that we are stating to the consumer that there is little or no difference in service and quality.

Look around and you will see a difference in the marketplace. The “me too” cleaners that never bothered to set themselves apart are quietly fading away.

With the perception of a flat economy, the consumer is becoming more demanding about the quality of products and services. Start setting yourself apart from the competitors left in your area. This is the way to “steal” 5-10% from each competitor by acquiring the knowledge and techniques to remove the stains those competitors won’t or can’t get out of the customers’ garments.

Tannin stains are characterized by mustard and wine. These wet-side stains come from a plant rather than an animal. The standard stain-removal technique is the same on both. Only slight variations are used if the standard protocol fails to completely remove the tannin stain.

Brush or carefully scrape away any dried surface crust from a mustard stain as a first step. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the spotting board and flush it with wet steam. Pull the stain over the solid portion of the spotting board and apply NSD (neutral synthetic detergent) and light mechanical action. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the spotting board and flush with steam. This will remove a major portion of the mustard stain.

Place the stain over the solid portion of the board again and apply a mild tannin formula followed by mechanical action. Place over the vacuum nose and flush with steam to remove the stain. If traces remain, place it over the solid portion of the spotting board and apply general formula (after testing the dye) followed by light mechanical action. Place the stain over the vacuum nose and flush it with steam. If the stain remains, place it over the solid portion of the board and apply oxalic acid and mechanical action.

Stubborn mustard stains may require a few additional steps to complete the removal process, including the use of spot bleaching. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the spotting board and flush out the remaining tannin formula. Wet an inside seam and apply sodium perborate. If there is no color change, place the stain over the solid portion of the spotting board and apply sodium perborate to the remaining stain. Lightly place pressure on the steam pedal to produce a light flow. Heat and melt the sodium perborate. The stain will turn a light blue before disappearing. Neutralize the area and the sodium perborate with acetic acid.

In the case of a red wine stain in a white garment, it may be necessary to use sodium hydrosulfate to complete stain removal. Dissolve the sodium hydrosulfate in a small amount of water. With a cotton swab, apply the solution to the remaining wine stain and allow time for the bleach to dissolve the stain. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the spotting board and flush with steam.

Effective stain removal is the best way to set you apart in the marketplace. Your competitors will find it difficult to match.

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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