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The (Spotting) World is Yours (Conclusion)

Sharpen your technical skill and be the go-to cleaner

CONCORD, N.C. — There is no chemical tool on the market today that can overcome a lack of technical knowledge on the part of the cleaner/spotter.

However, I continue to find plants where all the expertise remains with the supply representative. Unfortunately, this institutional memory is not readily available. In many cases, the sales calls are two to three weeks apart.

The cell phone is a great resource, but advice is often “hit or miss” when one is not able to actually see the problem.

Many owners lack the foundation of technical knowledge to assess the quality of the cleaning and supplemental stain removal in their operation.

The owner must take the word of the employee that the stain cannot be removed, forcing the owner to continue to order “Sorry” tags, instead of asking the employee to try again.

I know of few owners that allow finishers to inspect and pass-up their own work. This is never a reliable policy and almost always leads to a decline in quality. It should be no different with the cleaning department.

Someone in the plant must have realistic expectations of cleaning quality and how to achieve a quality end result.


Your customer enters your plant with some form of preconceived expectation of the results they should receive. Most customers expect to have their garment returned without any stain residue and without any type of odor.

If you have conditioned your regular customers that mediocrity is the standard at your plant, then that is what they expect.

But most customers are looking to have the red wine removed from their cream silk dress or the blood removed from a cashmere blazer. No amount of effort without the technical knowledge to apply that effort is going to meet the customer’s expectations.

Adhering to a routine set of steps to begin wet-side spotting will go a long way to successful supplemental stain removal.

Flush the stain with steam and over the vacuum nose of the spotting board. Move over the solid portion of the board and apply neutral synthetic detergent and light mechanical action. Move back over the vacuum nose of the spotting board and flush with steam.

This will break the surface tension on the garment. It will penetrate the stain, expand the fibers, and it will heat the area to enhance the action of any chemical tool needed afterward.

The next steps remain the same. The difference is, you use a tannin chemical tool on fruit and vegetable, or a protein chemical tool on stains that originated with an animal.

Everyone is looking for a way to leverage themselves in the marketplace. A diversified income flow is one way to fill in the gaps when the garment count is less than budgeted.

Unfortunately, most cleaners are basing the charges for their service on a phone call to the guy down the street.

This owner may well be the third owner in the last five years, but you see fit to empower him to make business decisions, as if he is on your board of directors. Time is money. That does not mean that your attitude should be to spend as little time as possible on each garment.

When extra time is required for supplemental stain removal, do it.

Make the commitment to educate yourself and your employees, set yourself apart in the marketplace, and moderate your overall pricing structure to reflect your new position on quality. No more “Me, too” business models.

Once you have sharpened your technical skill and established a new reputation for being the go-to cleaner, you may want to include the concept of time and materials for those items that require a much greater level of time and knowledge, due to the stain content or quantity.

Nothing that you ever learn can be taken away from you.

To read Part 1, go HERE.

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