Curry: Understanding the problem

19 April 2023

Last month, in the ­first of four articles, we looked at the removal of heat set blood. Now we move on to curry and also to discuss the removal of oil which can be a real problem on polyester and some cotton fabrics

Curry: this is well known as a stain that can be very difficult to remove. Curry contains a number of spices one of which is turmeric and it is this that leaves that characteristic bright yellow through to orange stain. Curry contains the powdered root of the turmeric plant common throughout India. Turmeric is a powerful yellow dye which may cause deep seated stains on a number of surfaces including textiles. When textiles are contaminated with dye, it may be necessary to use a bleach to completely remove some stains and this is the case with turmeric. However, as with many stains the textile and fabric type will have a considerable influence on how difficult curry will be to remove with animal hair textiles and the cellulosics (cotton) likely to present the most difficulties.

Oil and grease: oils, greases, tars and waxes are generally easily removed during the process of drycleaning, but in the case of polyester they may persist often leaving an obvious stain. Polyester is what is known as an oleophillic fibre which means it has a strong affinity for oily substances which in some cases can literally dye the fibre. Stains from vegetable oils and compound stains from food often leave a pale dark stain after washing or wetcleaning. Black engine oil or say oil from a cycle chain are the worst and can leave deep seated difficult stains on cotton fabrics due to fine metal particulates bonding to the irregular fibre surfaces.

Curry removal methodologies

Because curry contains fat and tumeric, on robust fabrics I normally start by applying a few drops of 5% ammonia and then work in some bar soap; the combination of bar soap and ammonia is excellent for removing greasy materials from food and is also an ideal combination for removing some dye stains, then work with the spatula or tamp with say a medium brush followed by a good flush through with the steam gun.

Spot any remaining stain using a kit tannin remover and then, if necessary, use 9% hydrogen peroxide. This bleach is normally very safe on coloured items but it is always best to check.

Using the same steam gun technique described in last months first article on the removal of blood, place one or two drops of ammonia on the stain followed by several drops of 9% peroxide then heat gently with just a wisp of dry steam from the steam gun and repeat if necessary. As a last resort for white fabrics if any stain remains place a small quantity of sodium perborate on the stain followed by 5% ammonia then gently blend into the stain using the same technique.

Oil on polyester

Work on the main body of the spotting table and start by applying 1 or 2 drops of neat pre-spotting soap followed by paint remover. Using a medium to stiff spotting brush and/or a spatula then apply vigorous mechanical action, consistent with the type of material - do not use the spatula on smooth fabrics as this may cause glaze or shine. More care is needed with cotton fabrics to avoid the risk of mechanical damage. Strong mechanical action combined with the suspension and lubrication properties of the pre-spotting soap is the secret of success here.

Finally, always wear gloves and eye protection when using bleaches or when using chemicals with the steam gun. ­

CURRY FLURRY: There are many curries, some of which may turn pink/red when spotted with ammonia
SOAPY SOLUTION: Apply a few drops of 5% ammonia and work in some bar soap
EASY ACTION: Oil on cotton - be careful not to use excessive mechanical action

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