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Using Amyl Acetate

Ian P. Murphy |

Amyl acetate is a dry-side agent that is much more aggressive in certain respects than either VDS or POG. It’s important to have amyl acetate on the spotting board, since it helps dissolve stains that usually aren’t dissolved by other dry-side agents. Many spotters don’t use amyl acetate because they don’t understand its purpose.
Amyl acetate has an aroma similar to bananas and is often referred to as “banana oil.” Spotters also confuse amyl acetate with acetic acid and acetone.
or the record, amyl acetate is safe on most dyes, but not with prolonged contact on all prints and surface designs. Amyl acetate will not damage fibers. Amyl acetate is a dry-side agent, to be used only with other dry-side agents. Amyl acetate can be purchased from most distributors—ask for CP (chemically pure) amyl acetate.
On large and difficult stains, it may be necessary to use repeated applications of amyl acetate. Amyl acetate can be used prior to drycleaning and flushed from the fabric with solvent or VDS. Recleaning after flushing on the board is advisable when large amounts are used in spotting. And amyl acetate dissolves polystyrene plastic products.
Amyl acetate has many uses. It aids in the removal of many plastic-based stains, such as plastic glues and adhesives (construction adhesive, liquid nails); lacquers and polyurethane stains and finishes; some nail polishes; and paint and adhesive stains—especially in combination with POG.
Amyl acetate is also effective on correction fluids such as Liquid Paper; most candle waxes and gums; varnish; particles of imitation leather trim that have dissolved and transferred in solvent; and plastic beads that dissolve in perc—amyl acetate effectively removes any residues left on garments.Precautions. Operators need to observe several precautions when using amyl acetate: (1) Avoid prolonged exposure to, and breathing of, its vapors; (2) Remember that amyl acetate evaporates quickly and is flammable; (3) Test before using on metallic prints, pigment prints and surface designs such as a flocked print; (4) Test before allowing amyl acetate to come into contact with any plastic such as beads, buttons and sequins; (5) Test before using on bonded and fusible fabrics, and the backings of slipcovers and draperies.
Some materials will withstand contact with amyl acetate for a few seconds, but no longer. When testing, apply a few drops on an unexposed area of the item and sponge it lightly to determine the sensitivity of the coating or finish before proceeding with aggressive spotting.Using Amyl Acetate. Amyl acetate usually starts softening a stain on contact, but may require a longer period for best results. Apply a drop of POG on top of the amyl acetate to retard its evaporation. Once the stain has softened somewhat, flush the area with solvent and reapply amyl acetate for additional removal.
Break up the hard surface finish of the stain with a spatula. The agent will then penetrate deep inside the stain and dissolve its contents. A stain that takes on a shiny or glossy appearance on first contact with amyl acetate usually requires extra tamping to break up its surface. Tamping a stain saturated with amyl acetate on the solid portion of the board with a black dry-side brush can be beneficial.
Once the stain is removed, be sure to flush all stain and amyl acetate residues from the fabric; recleaning is probably the best idea. Do not use the steam gun, water or other wet-side agents with amyl acetate.Acetate vs. Acetone. Amyl acetate is not acetone. Acetone dissolves acetate fabrics—a very popular fiber, often combined with rayon for use in blouses and linings. Test and retest before using acetone; it should not be kept on the spotting board, but in a small, well-labeled bottle in the supply cabinet to prevent its accidental use. Acetone can help remove adhesives, nail polishes and glues that can’t be softened with amyl acetate.
Acetic acid (28%) is a wet-side tannin spotter, neither a relative of amyl acetate nor effective on the stains it normally removes. Do not use acetic acid in any spotting procedure in a concentration above 28%. Amyl acetate and 28% acetic acid do not mix if combined.Testing cleanability of plastics. Drycleaners using perc need to test plastic and plastic-like buttons and trims before drycleaning, since perc will dissolve some plastics. Some drycleaners test this using amyl acetate, but there are plastics that are safe in perc and dissolve in amyl acetate.
If you find that a set of buttons or trims is soluble in amyl acetate, remove all of the buttons or trims in question from the garment prior to cleaning, and reattach them afterward. But before you do, test them with perc, too—they may be cleanable. Apply perc and wait a few seconds to see if the plastic softens. If they don’t soften, the buttons are safe for a short cycle in perc, saving the labor needed to remove and resew the buttons or trims.
Amyl acetate reacts faster than perc on some plastics, leaving a window open to avoid errors. It’s always best to test before drycleaning than to find a garment has been stripped of its trims following the cycle.

About the author

Ian P. Murphy

American Drycleaner

Ian P. Murphy is a freelance writer based in Chicago, and was the editor of American Drycleaner from 1999 to 2011.

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