Spot On! Advice From An Expert

Posted by: Bill Rothrock, III
Posted: May 05, 2015

Stain, stain, go away; yet another stain, some other day. We've all had that feeling . . . you’re about ready to meet someone you want to impress, and then, BAM it happens. You get a stain that stares right back at you without flinching.

What should you do?

Everyone has heard of what to do, but what SHOULD you really do? Here are some basic tips to help, from a lifelong dry cleaner.

1. Blot don't rub! Rubbing causes chaffing, which in turn, leaves a white hue around the stain. The hue is left because the color has been removed from the garment’s surface. 

2. Only use water. Bathroom soap is made for your hands, not your clothes. Simply blotting the area with a wet towel works best.

3. Clean garments promptly.  Don't leave the stained garment in your dirty clothes pile for weeks on end. Stains like ink and gum don't care about time.  However, stains like tea and juice will oxidize with time, becoming more difficult to remove.

4. Trust a professional.  Take the stained garment to a professional drycleaner.  It’s important to identify what has stained the garment, and the stain’s location.  If the person spotting the garment knows what they are trying to remove, it will greatly increase their odds of success.  (If you are a Yale Cleaners customer, you can flag stained garments using the Special Care feature in our iPhone and Android Apps.  Click here to learn more about Special Care.)

Urban Stain Removing Myths
Have you ever heard, “use hairspray to remove ink”?

I'm here to tell you, that it simply will NOT work!  Foolish ideas like this drive me crazy, and have cost some of my customers a lot of money.  Let’s debunk this myth.

Before the Clean Air Act of 1988, hairspray used hydrofluorocarbons or “CFC” as a propellant. At that time, some drycleaners used ValClean as their dry cleaning solvent.  ValClean was made out of the same “CFC” chemical and could in fact remove certain kinds of ink.  Using hairspray with CFC will indeed remove some ink.  However, the hairspray left behind leaves a permanent grey circle. In my opinion, trading one type of stain for another isn't a very good solution to the problem.  Moreover, today's hairsprays don’t contain CFC's and thus won’t remove ink.

Home Remedies
Before I give you some safe home remedies that work, you need to understand the three basic types of stains. Oil, protein, and tannin. Oil stains are just that, stains from something containing oil; greasy food, lipstick, nail polish, or ink. Protein stains come from things that breathe; blood, urine, vomit, or milk. Tannin stains come from the earth; coffee, tea, wine, or beer. Unfortunately, there isn't a good home remedy for oil based stains.  These stains are best left to a professional.

There are some safe do-it-yourself options for protein and tannin stains. As crazy as it sounds I use Windex at home to remove protein based stains.  I simply spray it directly on the stain before washing.  Windex works because it is high in Ammonia, which is the main ingredient used in professional protein spotting agents. For tannin stains, I simply add 1 cup of vinegar to the wash. (Caution: don't pour vinegar directly on your garment).

There are always exceptions to these basic spotting techniques, and I could go on forever. Whether cleaning clothes at home or having them professionally dry cleaned, remember 92% of all stains come out in good quality cleaning. A trained dry cleaner can remove another 6% of stains using professional spotting agents and techniques. The last 2% of stains can only be removed using a pair of scissors. 

Do you have a stain question?  Submit it here. Until then, may that stain catch a burst of wind and miss your shirt completely.

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