Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Counter and mark-in pre-spotting

When stains are noticed at the counter, the normal procedure is to mark the stain with a stick on stain tag or pre-spotting flyer.
The problem with this is that the drycleaner often overlooks the tag or flyer and the garment is cleaned without being pre-spotted. When I do consultations for drycleaners, I always notice stain tags floating around the drycleaning machine.

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The advantages of pre-spotting are numerous, starting with time-saving by avoiding re-cleaning and avoiding set stains. The heat of the drycleaning machine starting with 140°F will set stains, making them more difficult to remove after cleaning.
Pre-spotting at the counter is not feasible using normal spotting agents. This starts with health and odor problems. Customers should not be subjected to any strong solvent odors, which are always interpreted as being harmful to health.
The other problem is fabric and dye safety. You would want to use agents that are safe to the fabric and dye and that rinse out easily when the garment is wetcleaned or drycleaned. It is important to note that many chemicals you may deem safe at the spotting board can not be used by counter people at the mark in station.
The following chemicals are used at the spotting board but not by the counter people or mark in station. It is also important to note that agents that you use for pre-spotting may not be rinsed out at the spotting board but have to be completely soluble in the solvent that you are using.
Chemicals not to be used at the counter
Tannin formulas. These agents consist of a wetside lubricant and a mild acid. If put on a fabric for a period of time it has the capability of affecting the dye. The other problem is that when the item is drycleaned there is the likelihood of rings and the acid content of the spotting agent will still remain on the fabric.
Protein formulas. They consist of a wetside lubricant and mild alkali. If left on a fabric for a period of time, it will affect the dye on most silks, wools and bright and vivid colors. The alkali still remains on the fabric after drycleaning. The alkali present will also turn white fabrics yellow. There will be rings that will not come out in drycleaning.
Oily-type paint remover. This agent contains ingredients that can not be used at the counter. The solvents present emit heavy odors and may not be legal according to EPA regulations.
The other problem is that oily-type paint removers will be hazardous when left on a fabric for a period of time. These agents contain alcohol that is activated by moisture in the air causing the fabric and dye to discolor as well as oxidizing into the fabric.
Amyl acetate. This solvent has a strong banana odor which makes it impossible to use at the counter. It also is a flammable agent and poses risks that must be avoided.
Pre-spotting leveling agents. It is wise to note that some pre-spotting agents you are using have perc in them and legally can not be used at the counter. The other problem is oxidation which occurs when the agent is left in the fabric for a period of time.
What can be used?
I have worked with many products in trying to find something that can be used at the counter or mark in station. Enzy-Spot developed by Cleaners Chemical Corp. possesses qualities that make it feasible to use at the counter.
This includes the following:
The odor is mild consisting of a slight fragrance.
The agent is completely neutral having no acid or alkaline content.
It contains enzymes which are effective on protein, albumin, some oils and greases.
It contains nonionic agents which are also effective on grease and oils.
It contains a small degree of water which combined with the lubricant breaks down and makes stains soluble such as sweet stains and non-oxidized tannin stains.
It contains leveling agents which means it can be put on a fabric and the agent, when drycleaned will completely rinse out. From testing I have done I have found that this product will rinse out in most common solvents such as perc, hydrocarbons and GreenEarth.
How to use
If a stain is noticed at the counter or mark in station, apply the agent to the fabric and either hang or put it into the basket to be drycleaned. The moisture, lubrication and enzyme will soften the stain, making it easier for the drycleaning machine to remove.

Get rid of those troublesome rings

A ring can be a bothersome occurrence for any cleaner and a customer. There are many reasons why rings occur and the solution depends upon what caused the rings and the nature of the fabric.
Rings can fall into three categories.

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Wetside. This occurs when moisture contacts a fabric and shifts the impurities in the fabric and thus forms a ring upon drying.
Dryside. The same condition occurs with dryside agents as with wetside agents.
Fabric sizing. Some fabrics have a water-soluble sizing that dissolves upon contact with moisture, forming rings and discolored areas. Some fabrics are also impregnated with a dryside resin sizing that breaks down and forms a different ring with a different solution.
Removing wetside rings at the spotting board
Forced drying. This is a method of using the air gun and vacuum end of the spotting board at the same time to dry the fabric before it rings.
To effectively use this method it is advisable to keep the wet area localized. The best way to keep a wet area localized is to spot over a towel. When you start to dry, do the outside of the ring first and progress toward the inside. If the heavy outer ring is dried quickly enough this procedure will avoid rings.
Feathering. This is a method that cleaners do not often use and is probably the most effective and safest way of removing rings.
Hold the steam gun three to five inches above the fabric and use just enough steam to break up the ring yet not saturate the fabric. Then wipe the outer edge of the ring from the inside of the ring toward the outer edge.
You are attempting to gradually move the wet area into the dry area.
If you do a small portion of the ring at a time, the wet area can be hung to dry without ringing. In the forced drying method, the steam gun is held at such a close range when drying that there is a big chance of damaging the fabric from the force and pressure of the air.
Dryside rings
If dryside agents were used and you want to remove the rings, use the same feathering procedure but wipe with a towel damp with volatile dry solvent. You do not have to use forced drying since the volatile dry solvent dries quickly with a minimum of air usage.
Leveling agents
Leveling agents are products that mix with water and dry solvents. When applied to a wet area and brushed, the water spreads out and loses its ability to form a ring.
Many companies make different types of leveling agents and it is important to know whether the leveling agent has in it perchlorethylene solvent which is outlawed by EPA in many areas for use on a spotting board.
Some chemical companies such as Cleaners Chemical Corp. incorporate leveling agents in their protein and tannin formulas. This means that after spotting if a ring occurs the garment will have to be hung to dry and then recleaned.
Many spray spotters such as those made by R.R. Street are effective leveling agents to be used on the fabric and hung to dry.
If you are using a leveling agent that you must throw into the cleaning machine wet or damp, it is the wrong leveling agent.
You also should check with the chemical company to make sure the leveling agent you are using is compatible with the detergent you are using. For example, a cationic detergent is not compatible with an anionic leveling agent.
If dryside rings are present on a fabric, all that has to be done is recleaning the garment without the use of a leveling agent.
Removing sizing rings due to fabric
Water-soluble sizing. Many silks and rayons have a water-soluble sizing that breaks down, causing shiny areas and loss of luster.
Use a fogging method for the solution. Steam the affected area holding the steam gun five inches from the fabric and then dry quickly with the air gun.
You can also place the garment on the pressing machine, spray lightly with water and then dry it with a steam iron.
Note: If you are having problems with rings when pressers spray with a water gun, instruct them to aim the water mist upward and let it condense on the fabric. This method of spraying will avoid rings from the water gun.
Resin sizing. Many satins and taffetas may have a plastic resin sizing that can break down, forming difficult rings. This type of sizing is not removable using your normal dry or wetside spotting agents. The only way to remove this type of ring is to apply amyl acetate, brush lightly and then reclean.
Mustard stains
One of the most difficult stains to remove is mustard. The reason mustard is so difficult is that it has oils and dye content.
The proper way is to brush off the surface with a dry brush and then work it dryside followed by the tannin method.
One of the effective things that I have found on set mustard stains is to use a wet-dry spotting formulation. These are special spotting agents manufactured by various chemical companies that have wetside lubricants mixed with some dry solvents. This type of formulation and spotting may prove to be very successful on those set mustard stains that you cannot remove.

The when and how of pre-spotting

Pre-spotting is any type of spotting performed before an item is cleaned; post-spotting is spotting done after cleaning.
The amount of pre-spotting that is done can be controversial depending upon who you speak to. The question concerns how much pre-spotting should be done and on what fabrics and garments it should be done on.
Some drycleaners advocate pre-spotting everything, some not to pre-spot anything and some to pre-spot a few select items.
The answer to the question depends on the condition of the garments received, the type of garments and the stains and soil we are looking to remove.
Although pre-spotting saves time after cleaning, I do not advocate that everything should be pre-spotted.
Dark garments should simply be drycleaned and most remaining stains can usually be blown off with the steam gun. Many stains on dark fabrics become more apparent after the garment is drycleaned.
There are other fabrics and garments that definitely need pre-spotting.
It is important not only to pre-spot these garments in order to save time but also to avoid having the heat of the drycleaning process set and oxidize the stain.
Silks, fragiles and wedding gowns always need pre-spotting since you only want to clean these garments one time and avoid recleaning.
Raincoats, cottons, denims and khakis are usually heavily soiled and need pre-spotting.
When customers bring in garments and point out a stain, the counter person should mark the stained area, hang up the garment and bring it to the spotter for pre-spotting.
When inspecting garments at the spotting board for pre-spotting, examine those areas of the garment most likely to be stained. For example, on men’s jackets I pay attention to lapels, cuffs, collar and underarm. I very briefly check the back of the garment where the chance of staining is less likely to occur.
On women’s garments always check the collar, underarms and front area.
Wetside pre-spotting
Tannin stains. These include vegetable-type stains such as coffee, tea, medicines, soft drinks and hard drinks. Tannin stains should always be pre-spotted since the heat of the drycleaning process tends to set or oxidize the stain.
The method for removing a tannin stain remains the same using tannin formulas. After pre-spotting it is important that all chemicals be rinsed from the fabric since the drycleaning process does not remove these agents. Leveling agents should be used instead of feathering to remove wetside rings.
Protein stains. These are typically body stains such as perspiration, egg, milk, blood and urine.
Use your regular protein method and also use a leveling agent as a time saver. After removing protein stains using alkali, the area should be flushed thoroughly and an acid should be used to neutralize any alkali used.
Dryside stains. All dryside stains such as paint, lipstick, grease, nail polish and ink should be pre-spotted. Oily type paint remover and amyl acetate are effective pre-spotting agents for these stains.
Do not flush any dryside agents with water and do not put these items in for routine wetcleaning since it violates EPA regulations.
Try to clean these garments immediately after pre-spotting to avoid moisture in the air activating the oily type paint remover causing color loss.
Soil. Do not use paint removers for soil since excessive use can contribute to odor problems in your solvent.
For soil removal, any spray spotter is effective and can be used as a leveling agent.
A spray spotter mixed with volatile dry solvents is effective on heavy soil but may affect dyes on some silk, rayon and acetate fabrics.
There are special silk pre-spotting agents that are effective for soil and can also be used as a leveling agent.
Drycleaning detergent
Drycleaning detergent can be used for soil removal as a leveling agent. They can not be mixed with perc, which is against the EPA regulations.
Do not make up pre-spotting agents using detergents that are not compatible with your drycleaning system.
For example, batch injection detergents are cationic in nature and can not be mixed with anionic charge detergents.
Garments that are classified for wetcleaning may also need pre-spotting. The emphasis is placed on dryside stains since more wetside staining is removed in wetcleaning. Do not use drycleaning paint removers and drycleaning pre-spotters for items to be wetcleaned.
Dryside stains. Use non-ionic wetcleaning detergents for grease, oil, lipstick and other dryside stains.
Protein and tannin stains. Use your normal process for removal, but leveling agents are not necessary.
Soil. For heavy soil, use your wetcleaning detergents mixed with water. The best soil removal mixture is wetcleaning detergent and lubricant mixed with water.
To make this mixture more aggressive it can also be mixed with an alkali such as ammonia.
The best wetcleaning detergents are either nonionic or anionic. This mixture may be too aggressive for silks and fabrics with bright and vivid colors.
When using wetcleaning detergents as pre-spotting agents, make sure it is compatible with the system you are using.
For example, anionic wetcleaning detergents can not be mixed with a cationic detergent which is generally used to wetclean silks. They will counteract each other producing rings and swales on the garments.

Chemistry for effective wetcleaning

I travel around to different drycleaning and wetcleaning plants and find that most of them are not using the best wetcleaning chemicals for obtaining optimum results.
The cleaners usually say that their wetcleaning procedures are okay, but in reality are not as good as they could be. If your silks, wools and rayons are not coming out as soft as in drycleaning then you are not using your wetcleaning chemicals to their full potential.
Some cleaners operate their wetcleaning programs using the same formulation for cottons, silks, wools, polyesters and rayons. This does not give you the best feel possible or protection

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against shrinkage that you want. A cotton or linen requires a little body and feel while silks and wool require softness, sheen and luster.
The point of this article is to impress upon you that the wetcleaning programs you use can work better.
The most sophisticated wetcleaning equipment can be of no benefit to you if the proper chemistry is not used.
Wetcleaning detergents
I have done extensive tests for many years on detergents that are used for wetcleaning. I have worked with most of the major chemical companies and have used their products effectively.
Cationic. Chemically, these detergents have a positive ionic charge that does the cleaning.
These detergents have both good and bad properties. On shrinkage protection they are probably the best detergents to use. They tend to coat the fiber such as wool making the scale slippery and thus preventing the wool scale from tangling and matting.
These detergents tend to stay with the fabric even after rinsing.
This detergent is so good that I always have used it for wetcleaning angora sweaters rather than drycleaning. They also will add to the hand, feel and luster on silks and rayons. They are formulated either neutral or slightly acidic to prevent dye bleeding.
The negative side to using this detergent is that it is not a powerful cleaning agent, which is okay since its main use is for silks, wools and rayons.
It should not be used for glued-on trimmings since it tends to soften the adhesive
In pre-spotting, avoid using anionic detergents such as neutral lubricant. Many detergents are anionic in nature and will break down and form rings when in contact with the cationic nature of the detergent.
Anionic. These are better cleaning agents than cationic detergents. They have a negative ionic cleaning charge and are not compatible with cationic cleaning detergents.
Manufacturers have attempted to use this cleaning detergent as a universal one for cleaning all fabrics including silk, wool, rayon and cotton.
They have been formulated slightly acidic which stabilizes the dye on all fabrics.
They incorporate softening agents, which aid in its cleaning and feel for silks and wool.
I have no objection to the use of this detergent, but I feel that the use of cationic detergents tends to do a better job in softening wool and silk and preventing shrinkage on wool.
Nonionic. These detergents are incorporated with other detergents because they have a neutral ionic charge. They are also effective pre-spotting agents for removal of grease and oil.
The purpose of nonionic detergents is to aid in grease and oil removal, but is not effective for soil. It can be programmed to inject into the wetcleaning machine when needed for denims, cottons and other fabrics impregnated with oils and greases.
If the garments do not have oil and grease staining, they do not have to be used.
Sizing agents. This is an additional product added to the wetcleaning program to give fabrics feel, body and hand. These agents are not starch, which only gives stiffness. A fabric properly starched has feel and body which makes it easier to press and feels better to the customer.
This additive should only be used for cottons, linens and some rayons but not for silk and wool.
Softening agents. These are used to add to the softness and feel of wools, silks and some rayons.
They not only enhance the feel but give the fabric more sheen and luster. When used for wools and silks, the fabrics will come out as soft as if they had been drycleaned.
The chemical make-up of softening agents may be cationic or nonionic in nature. If you are using anionic cleaning agents, do not use cationic softening agents
 If you are using nonionic softening agents it can be added to any detergent. The softening agents are usually added in the rinse cycle of the wetcleaning program.
Fabric finish. Some manufacturers produce a finishing agent that gives a fabric additional luster and sheen. This too is used in the rinse cycle.
Detergent additives
Enzymes. These remove protein stains and some food grease and oil. They are compatible with most detergents even those that are slightly acid or alkaline based. They are effective in temperatures up to 140° F.
Oxygen bleach. This is either sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate. They remove oxidized stains and enhance the whiteness of a fabric. In low water temperatures, they are usually safe to the colors of cotton, linens and synthetics.
Acids. These are used to stabilize dyes and add to softness of fabric.
Alkali. These are used to enhance the cleaning action of any detergent.

Milt & Edie’s spotters get a boost

If you ever are in Burbank, CA,  I suggest you pay a visit to Milt & Edie’s Drycleaners. They operate day and night for 24 hours, seven days a week.

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When you enter the store you will be welcomed by a greeter and have access to a popcorn machine. On certain days you will be treated to snacks and hot dogs.
All the counter staff as well as everyone else is well groomed, wearing uniforms and happy to be at work.
The person who keeps this complex operation working smoothly is Robert Shapiro, the general manager.
Some of the customers they serve are high-profile people in the entertainment field, but all customers walk out smiling.
Milt and Edie Chortkoff, who are the owners, are happy to meet and talk to anyone who wants to do so.
Consultation at Milt & Edie’s drycleaners
Robert Shapiro called me to do a three-day training session to update and improve the skills of their spotters.
Methods used for consultation

Supplies. I provided the following chemicals which were necessary to expand the knowledge of the spotters. This was supplied to me by Cleaners Chemical Corp.: Enzy-Spot; Oxxy-Spot; Lube-Remove.
The following supplies were also obtained for the training session: Spray-on peroxide; coloring aids for restoration; Spectralight for fabric examination.
Safe spotting techniques
To reduce color loss in spotting, there are certain procedures that must be followed.
Towel. We taught how a white absorbent towel is a valuable aid for safe spotting. Flushing out onto a towel will indicate the dye fastness of a fabric. The towel will not only indicate the fastness of the dye but also prevent dye transfer.
The towel is also a valuable aid for feathering. Feathering is a method of removing rings without the risk of damage to a fabric by force-drying the wet area at close range. The feathering process works by wiping a wet, ringed area so it blends in with the dry area.
Brushes. A key to safe spotting is to make sure that the white and black brush are separate. The white brush is used for wetside spotting and the black brush for dryside spotting. If dryside agents contact water, it releases alcohol which can damage the fabric.
The tamping and brushing action that is used is also a key for fabric safety. The brushes are brushed in one direction only, not back and forth.
On very delicate fabrics, we angled the brush in such a manner that only the outside of the bristles contacted the fabric. This reduces friction when brushing across the fabric.
Steam gun. The steam gun for proper fabric safety and not setting stains is three to four inches away from the fabric.
Chemical safety
The following chemicals were introduced in order to make chemical applications safer.
Hydrogen peroxide (3%) is usually safe on colors provided it is not heated. This is the only bleach with a neutral PH. It works by releasing oxygen to the stain and thus camouflaging it.
RSR. This is a powdered enzyme and it is the safest enzyme available because it does not require high heat, mechanical action and is totally neutral. The spotter makes up digester in a pint bottle by adding one-half teaspoon digester to warm water at 100° to 120°F.
The digester is put on a stain and allows 20 minutes before flushing. This is very effective on poorly dyed fabrics with protein and some tannin stains.
Oxalic acid. We showed how oxalic acid can be used instead of hydrofluoric acid safely on beaded and metallic fabrics. Oxalic acid is also good for some tannin stains and some dyes. This agent still requires testing but does offer a degree of a safe alternative.
There are several products on the market that have hydrogen peroxide mixed with lubricating agents. The agent that I showed to the spotters was Oxxy-Spot. The pre-spotting agent was sprayed onto a very soiled area and given enough time to penetrate. The area was then tamped and brushed with highly successful results.