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What’s Not New (Part 1)

No matter the cleaning challenge, rely on supplemental stain removal

CONCORD, N.C. — There is not that much that is really new to the garment care industry.

I returned to the cleaning industry in 1981, after seven years in the corporate environment. The plant was hydrocarbon, and I was considered foolish when I resisted the switch to perchloroethylene. I found that I could clean just as well, clean fragile items with a greater level of safety, just not as quickly.

As perc lost favor with operators due to increasing government scrutiny, improvements in chemistry gave cleaners the option of safely using water on many more items. Plants are now using hydrocarbon, hydrocarbon blends, and water, exclusively.

This is a throwback to the way plants were operating prior to World War II. The phrase, and movie title, Back to the Future has seen a great deal of use, but it describes the landscape of today’s cleaning industry. We are seeing continued refinement of old techniques and tools, and the introduction of immersion solutions that were previously cost-prohibitive.

The volume of available items has decreased. Casualwear has gained acceptance in the business environment, home garment care has seen improvement in chemistry and equipment, and customers are expecting more for their garment care dollar.

The technical side of garment care is more than going through the motions.

While it is true that today’s equipment can turn out a freshened-up garment, the same stains are requiring supplemental treatment. It is at this point that your competitor can gain an advantage. Your “Sorry” tag is an invitation to the consumer to try another cleaner. If that competitor removes that mustard stain, well, you can kiss that customer goodbye, and it costs a lot more to gain a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer.

It starts at check-in. The CSR must be trained to ask, “Are there any spots or stains we should be aware of?” Route customers should be supplied with a sheet of stain stickers to use on their garments.

The old-school objective of garment care was to return items in the best possible condition and it is still true today. It leads to stability, loyalty and, most importantly, prosperity.

By pre-spotting, that is, simply brushing noticeable stains with a general pre-spotter/leveling agent, you will notice a tremendous return on investment in your largest line item: labor expense in the cleaning department.

Your cleaner will quickly learn the difference between stains that come out in the cleaning machine (solvent-soluble) and stains like nail polish, which will require additional help for removal (chemically soluble). The drawback to dry cleaning is that some stains require water for proper and complete removal (water-soluble). Uncontrolled water is the enemy of a drycleaning system.

Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

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