Cuddly toy catches infection

Fault: This favourite toy was condemned by the medical team after its owner’s infectious illness. The cleaner removed and discarded the electro-mechanical parts and then disassembled the fabric parts and hand-washed them to remove saliva, skin sebum, and the smell, which was probably vomit. However the child’s mother wanted assurance on disinfection.

Cause: Hand-washing will remove soiling and staining but it does not guarantee bug-kill. The Department of Health approves disinfection by high temperature laundering or treatment with sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach). Neither is suitable here.

Responsibility: The cleaner has acted correctly and responsibly here and has got the item as clean as possible, but guaranteeing disinfection is beyond the cleaner’s normal responsibility, so he should not be blamed.

Rectification: Cleaners specialising in restoration work use ozone treatments for chemical disinfection. This would be suitable here as there are no metal parts to damage and it is unlikely to harm the fabric.

The toy should be placed in the ozone atmosphere in the treatment room following the standard health and safety precautions. Disinfection is assured. Ozone will even kill spore formers such as Clostridium difficile.

Tie-back fails to match

Fault: After this curtain set had been cleaned, one of tie-backs no longer matched the rest.

Cause: Tie-backs are often made from off-cuts, which are not always from the same part of the roll or even the same one. Rolls which match perfectly can change shade in different ways during drycleaning with the result seen here.

Responsibility: Unless the cleaner forgot to clean the item, (which can be checked and corrected)

it is extremely unlikely that the mismatch results from negligence or incorrect processes. The curtain maker is responsible here.

Rectification: None is possible.

Milk spill leaves sour smell

Fault: The owner of this expensive good quality leather, designer handbag spilt a carton of milk inside it. The cleaner drycleaned the bag in perc (with leather oil) on a delicate cycle but the milk’s sour odour still lingered.

Cause: Perc does not dissolve milk so the drycleaning had little effect but the soiling hardened during the drying stage.

Responsibility: The owner is clearly responsible for spilling the milk, but the cleaner is responsible for treating the staining incorrectly.

Rectification: The best way of cleaning this bag, and of correcting the problem now, is to hand-wash it carefully in a little luke-warm soapy water. This should then be followed by three cold rinses.

The alkali in the soap and the water will soften and dissolve the milk and the chances of removing the staining and smell are quite good. However, there is a risk that the water and soap will damage the lining and might also affect the leather finish, so the cleaner should get the owner’s written authorisation for these risks before starting treatment.