Removal of difficult stains: Part 3

16 May 2023

Colour/dye mark offs, hair dye and red wine can all present difficulties for the cleaner but except for plastic mark off from designer swing tags and so on their removal can be approached in a similar way. The use of hydrogen peroxide bleach was discussed in detail in the first article (March issue). However, don’t forget to do a colour check before you start.

Understanding the problem

  • Mark offs and colour transfer: some printed patterns and paint type finishes on both garments and furnishings are not always completely fast to cleaning, this is particularly the case when drycleaning designer and high value items which should always be subjected to a very careful inspection and colour tests prior to processing. Fibre/fabric dyes are normally substantive chemicals that form strong bonds with specific fibres, However, loose or extraneous dye is not always completely flushed away during textile manufacture and may be released into the cleaning medium during the first or second clean. As cleaners will be aware some fibre types such as deep dyed shades on cotton are always suspect. If dye is released during cleaning, because of the substantive nature of fabric dye the colour may be attracted to any similar textiles in the load. For example, loose dye from a cotton item may be picked up by any linen or viscose fabrics in the load resulting in permanent discolouration. Good classification is the answer here.

          Some printed patterns and paint may start to partially dissolve during cleaning and then mark off in the load by                  direct transfer leaving localised stains. Once again rub tests using solvent or water + detergent should alert you to            a problem further down the line.

  • Hair dye: permanent hair dye ‘does what it says on the tin’, and it can also effectively stain animal hair fibres and unlike semi-permanent types can be impossible to remove; so downplay customer expectations during reception. All hair fibres have a scaly surface unless chemically treated during manufacture (machine washable wool), and when exposed to moisture or high humidity the scales expand above the fibre surface allowing dye or stains to penetrate underneath increasing the difficulty in removing any stain type.
  • Red wine: contains tannin which in many cases responds well to kit tannin removers. However, in the case of the cellulosic and animal hair fibres red wine can be difficult due to poor dye fastness on cotton/linen etc. and penetration of tannin below the scaler layer on animal hair fibres.

Removal methodologies

  • Print/colour mark off: most likely from drycleaning. Apply paint remover and some mechanical action then flush with solvent/re-clean. Any remaining stain flush through using bar soap and 5% ammonia. If necessary, bleach with 9% hydrogen peroxide.
  • Hair dye: bleach with 9% peroxide - several attempts may be needed. As a last resort on white items try sodium perborate as described in last month’s article. There are numerous ladies’ hair dye removal products available on the internet, my advice would be not to go there as the use of these products could result in unexpected fabric damage.
  • Red wine: start with a kit tannin remover, tamp, or work with the spatula and flush out. Deep seated stains that remain on cotton and hair fibres respond well to bleaching with 9% peroxide.
  • Plastic swing tags: recent requests for information from drycleaners makes it clear that major problems are still being experienced with plastic from designer swing tags marking off and leaving difficult stains. For heavy stains place absorbent fabric underneath the stain, apply paint remover and work with the spatula while padding off colour from the top - try alternative paint removers if available and also a kit colour remover as some may be more effective than others and coloured plastics may vary in their response to specific products. Flush through any deep seated residual mark’s with bar soap and ammonia followed by bleaching with 9% peroxide and then if necessary, sodium perborate.

HAIRY EXPERIENCE: Hair dyes and touch up colour may leave stains on animal hair ¬bres that cannot be removed
LOOK OUT: Overlook one of these and it can seriously spoil your day

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