Summer Stain Solutions (Part 1)


(Photo: ©Ingram Publishing)

Martin L. Young Jr. |

Take garment wet-side and spend the time to do it right

CONCORD, N.C. — Here we are back in the grasp of warm weather!

After being cooped up, the cookout, picnic and barbecue are all excuses to gather outside and eat some messy food. Hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, ribs, ice cream or even “frogmore stew” — it’s all good.

But somebody has to deal with the drips and dribbles. That person is the professional cleaner.

Each summer stain needs to be solved. It is up to you to provide that solution. These gatherings produce stains that cover the entire spectrum: solvent-soluble, water-soluble, chemically soluble and insoluble.

Solvent-soluble stains normally come out in the drycleaning process, chemically soluble stains are usually broken down with dry-side pre-spotting, and insoluble stains are removed with lubrication and mechanical action.

This column will focus on the stains that require wet-side supplemental stain removal. It can also be used as a broad overview, as I will be spotlighting a tannin stain and a combination stain here in Part 1, and a protein stain in my Conclusion.

Hot dogs are a staple of summer. They can include mustard, ketchup, slaw, onions and/or various forms of relish. It seems that once you get past two condiments, there are always leaks and drips. That is good for the cleaner.


Mustard on an aqua silk blouse is the classic tannin stain.

Now it is your job to restore that blouse to pre-stain condition. Mustard is not solvent-soluble. Far too many cleaners hit the mustard with a mild POG, dry-clean, hang a “Sorry” tag, and put the blouse on the conveyor. They are virtually giving away that customer.

First, lightly brush any solid stain away with a dry brush. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the board, then flush the area with steam. Pull the stain over the solid portion of the board and apply a few drops of Neutral Synthetic Detergent (NSD), followed by extremely light mechanical action.

Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the board and, again, flush the stain with steam. In most cases, this will remove that “glancing blow” from the mustard, and at worst leave you with no more than 25% of the original stain. Removing 75% of the stain without risking a pH-related color change is a safe and effective way to begin supplemental stain removal.

If there are still faint remnants, place the stain over the solid portion of the board and apply a few drops of your tannin formula, followed by mechanical action. I prefer to tamp the stain over the solid portion of the board followed by flushing the area over the vacuum nose.

There are several options if this application of your tannin stain removal does not completely remove the stain. Taking into consideration the dye and the construction of the garment, I will make the decision to proceed to a more aggressive chemical tool, but the operational protocol will remain the same.

More aggressive tannin removers include, but are not limited to, a pre-mixed tannin formula that is known to be chemically stronger; general formula; acetic acid; oxalic acid; hydrofluoric acid; and spot-bleaching.


If the chili “outruns” the mustard to the garment, it will require a different approach for removal.

Chili contains a large volume of oil and grease given off when the meat is cooked. This is a combination stain: a combination of dry-side oil and greases and wet-side condiments used to give the chili “body” and flavor.

Many cleaners and spotters will go directly to the drycleaning machine with this stain. A few will pre-spot the stain with a POG and then go to the drycleaning machine. In most of these cases, the cleaner will be dealing with the task of post-spotting an orange or brown area that has been exposed to the heat of drying.

There are good wet-side POGs that can be used at the spotting board. Once the oil and greases are solubilized by your wet-side POG, the water-soluble portion of the stain can be addressed with the proper chemical tool. The need to use wet-side stain removal (post-spotting) far exceeds the chance of the stain being removed by a one-shot process.

Take the garment wet-side and spend the minute or so to remove the stain. Place the stain over the vacuum nose of the board and flush with steam. Move the stain over the solid portion of the board and apply a few drops of NSD and tamp lightly. Return to the vacuum nose and flush with steam.

Apply a good laundry degreaser to the stain over the solid portion of the board, tamp lightly, then flush with steam over the vacuum nose of the board. Now apply tannin formula over the solid portion of the board and tamp lightly, then flush over the vacuum nose.

Dry the area thoroughly and apply a general pre-spotter/leveling agent. Let the garment stand for the next run in its classification.

Doing it right only requires a few extra seconds and prevents handling the garment twice in the cleaning department.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion!

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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