The removal of stains often presents the cleaner with difficult decisions. Getting it wrong may mean the loss of a good customer or a compensation claim and while failure to remove a stain does not warrant compensation or even a refund, any damage to the textile or the colour immediately exposes the cleaner to the risk of a claim. In this article I hope to improve your knowledge and avoid some common mistakes.

First Steps

  1. Know your garments. Designer and high value items present a significantly greater risk of things going pear shaped. Charge more for them and establish the value before cleaning. Take time to inspect them properly, fully discuss any issues with the customer and if you are not at ease with cleaning an item don’t accept it.
  2. Bear in mind that a high proportion of stains that remain after drycleaning are water based and many can be safely removed with the water spray.
  3. If you are completely new to cleaning, stain plenty of old garments including delicate items and practice, practice, practice.

Using the steam gun

The steam gun can easily damage fabrics particularly when used at full power so reduce the volume of steam when dealing with delicate items. There is less risk of yarn slippage if the gun is held vertically in relation to the fabric. Be aware that the steam gun can put at risk textiles 

Using the spatula

Fabrics can be easily damaged by incorrect and heavy use of the spatula, avoid using it at an abrupt angle. It should be used almost horizontal to the fabric with the pressure applied being adjusted as appropriate for the textile. Never use the spatula on silk items and take great care if using it on any lightweight delicate material. Tamping lightly with a soft brush is by far the safest option. 

How to avoid rings and sweals

Rings and sweals are a very common problem after removing a stain and are mainly caused by water soluble residues that may remain after drycleaning, residues from kit spotters or dirt splashed up through the gauze when using the steam gun or high pressure water spray. In the vast majority of cases problems can be solved by, keeping the equipment spotlessly clean inside and out, working quickly and using as little reagent as possible consistent with the size of the stain. Applying reagents with a pipette rather than straight from the spotting bottle enables the cleaner to avoid wasting reagents and wetting out an unnecessarily large area, thus greatly reducing the time needed for flushing out and drying off.

In the case of large rings/weals don’t try to remove them in one go, you are far more likely to be successful if you work quickly with the steam/air gun and/or water spray and remove them in segments drying off as each segment is removed. Working as quickly as possible is the secret of success.

Spotting silk

Most cleaners are wary of spotting silk having experienced claims or problems due to localised colour loss. Along with cellulosic fibres the risk of colour loss is an ever present risk but one which can be almost eliminated by a step by step approach.

  • Check carefully for colour loss when accepting the item.
  • Pure chemical reagents are much easier to use and far safer than kit chemicals.
  • Check for loose colour with each chemical you use.
  • Never rub silk.
  • When mechanical action is needed tamp gently with a soft brush.

Finally, silk is extremely sensitive to abrasion. Abrasion damage looks like colour loss and is often the result of the customer or the cleaner rubbing a stain or cleaning the item in a normal load.