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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Five General Stain Removal Guidelines

  1. Don’t wait --- We’ve said this so many times, but never let a stain sit for too long before
    addressing it.  The longer a stain sits on a garment untreated, the more difficult it becomes to remove.  That applies to both at home cleaning and even cleaning by a professional.
  2. Know when to say when --- Some stains don’t lend themselves to home methods.  Most medicine stains, fingernail polish, adhesives, and paint are difficult to remove and should be taken to a professional cleaner.  Don’t attempt home stain removal on leather, suede, fur, vinyl, fabrics that are heavily sized like taffeta and organdy, nets, satin, and those with fugitive colors.
  3. Watch for invisible stains --- Fruit juice and soda spills tend to disappear into the fabric and leave no visible stain once dried.  If you spill juice or soda on a fabric, flush it out immediately with water - even though the stain is invisible, and then spray with a pre-treating agent.  Follow the care label directions when laundering.  Washing or dry cleaning without treating the stain first may cause the stain to turn brown as the garment dries, making it even more difficult to remove.  
  4. Rust stains can be treated at home, but carefully – We’ve never discussed this stain before; approach it with caution.  Rust removers are sold at grocery stores but use them only on fabrics that can be laundered immediately after treating.  If the substance isn’t removed, it could burn the skin.  Never use a rust remover on a dry clean only item or on any fabric containing metallic threads.
  5. Use bleach as a last resort only --- If you’ve resigned yourself that you must use bleach, test it first on an unexposed seam or a sample of the material.  Be sure to wait five minutes for a reaction.  Keep in mind that many white fabrics contain optical brighteners that can turn white when bleached.  Some brightly-colored fabrics may also contain optical brightening agents that may become dull after being bleached.

With today's styles and fabrics, there are so many things to remember when it comes to stain removal and garment care.  If you are ever in doubt, feel free to call or stop by one of our locations.  As Certified Sanitone Master Drycleaners, we are happy to share our knowledge so that you can continue to look your best.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Spot Clean Only Garments

I have a terrible habit of just purchasing a garment without checking the care label first.  Most of the time it’s not an issue – hand wash only (don’t love doing it but I can handle it), machine wash (super easy), or dry clean or professionally wet clean (both are what A Cleaner World is for).  But have you ever purchased a garment and then discovered once you got it home that it was a spot clean only item?  That recently happened to me when I purchased a sequined top for a holiday party.
Spot clean only care labels are usually found on garments made of delicate or fragile fabrics; with special dyes; or things having lace, sequins, beading, or embellishments.  That label means you cannot hand wash, machine wash, wet clean, or dry clean the garment; the only possible way to clean it is by delicately addressing visible spots or stains by specialized spotting agents on those areas and then cleaning them by hand.  The problem with doing this is that spot removing stains from certain fabrics can be difficult without leaving circles or rings where the area was spotted.  In addition, it can also be difficult to remove underarm discolorations without causing the same result.  The bottom line is there is no safe way to clean the entire garment without risking permanent damage.

If I’d known that sequined top was spot clean only, would I have still bought it?  Likely.  I really did love it that much.  So here are a few things to consider when shopping:
  • Check the care label before purchasing a new garment.  If it says spot clean only, then you can decide if you really can’t live without it.
  • Use extra care when wearing spot clean only garments.  Get completely ready before dressing to avoid makeup spills or spraying beauty products around it.
  • If you get something on it, take it to a professional cleaner right away and be sure to inform the staff that it is a spot only garment and let them know what you spilled on it.
If you do drop off a spot clean only item, we will likely share with you the care limitations and get your approval to proceed.  Please know, we’re not trying to talk you out of purchasing a spot clean only garment, especially if it is something you simply love – believe me, I know that feeling.  We just want you to be informed.  As always, we are here if you have questions!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Are There Garments That Shouldn’t Be Dry Cleaned?

Several years ago, we did a blog post entitled “Smarter Than the Label”, which talked about A Cleaner World’s philosophy of knowing when to follow the care label and knowing when to use a safer, alternative cleaning method.  Recently, I ran across the photos I used in the post, and I started thinking.  I don’t know if your brain works this way, but typically one thought leads to another which leads to another, and suddenly, I am half way to the South of France.  This time, however, I managed to stay on topic, and I started wondering if there were garments that shouldn’t ever be dry cleaned.  Seems the answer is ‘yes’, and that led me to more thoughts.

How can you tell if a garment shouldn’t be dry cleaned?  
  • Check the care label, and if it says, ‘do not dry clean’ then it likely shouldn’t be dry cleaned.  But keep in mind that garment manufactures are required to provide a reasonable basis for all care instructions and warnings.  The instructions are not hard and fast rules, and sometimes following them can lead to undesired outcomes.  
  • If the garment is heavily beaded or covered with sequins, it more than likely shouldn’t be dry cleaned.  Most beads or sequins are not resistant to the dry-cleaning process or solvents and could dissolve or come apart when cleaned.  But that does not mean that A Cleaner World cannot clean the item for you; we have alternative cleaning methods.  
  • Fabrics that are made up of plastic, PVC, or polyurethane can’t hold up to the solvents used during the dry-cleaning process; again, A Cleaner World can offer an alternative cleaning method. 
What are some reasons not to dry clean a garment?  

  • If you take it to a professional and after examination, they determine that following a dry clean only label could damage the garment, then you might want to consider an alternative cleaning method.  
  • Some garments and fabrics simply respond better to professional wet cleaning.  
  • Whites usually turn out whiter and brighter when professionally wet cleaned.
What if a garment cannot be dry cleaned, but you aren’t sure you can care for it at home?  
  • Take it to a professional.  Just because you drop off your clothes at the dry cleaner, doesn’t always mean they are dry cleaned.  For instance, most men’s dress shirts are laundered and then pressed, and of course, we’ve already mentioned professional wet cleaning as an alternative cleaning method.

With almost 50 years serving folks in North Carolina and Virginia, A Cleaner World can handle any of your garment care needs.  Feel free to call or stop by any of our locations with your unique clothing care issues. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Laundering a Men’s Dress Shirt

Have you ever wondered, even when no starch is used, how a man’s dress shirt comes back from A Cleaner World smooth and taut, but not stiff?  Here’s how it all works.

When a man’s dress shirt comes in, we examine it for stains, broken buttons, check the pocket, scrub the collar, and place it in the appropriate load for the requested starch level.  Then it is laundered.

Once the cycle is completed, the load is removed and then ‘shaken out’.

Here’s the most fascinating part – the shirts are pressed while still wet.  “That’s because we place them on a stainless-steel press,” said Steve Plantone, Manager of the A Cleaner World in Hickory.  “The heat and pressure from the press causes the shirt to dry and leaves the shirt with a smooth, satin-like finish, almost like there’s starch.”  Of course, if you like your shirts to stand on their own, like my husband, purchase a 100% heavyweight cotton shirt and ask for heavy starch.  The thickness and weight of the fabric determines how much starch the shirt will hold, and heavyweight 100% cotton shirts are the only shirts that can be heavily starched.  Either way, starch or no starch, your shirts will still come out incredibly smooth.
Laundering and finishing a man’s dress shirt this way leaves you with that smooth, taut finish we mentioned earlier, without any wrinkles or puckering at the sleeves or collar area, and with rounded or barreled sleeves – which is the industry standard.

Once the shirt is pressed to perfection, it heads to the inspection area where it is checked for pressing quality, broken or missing buttons, and collar stay and collar support insertion.  If all is well, it is bagged and sent to the line to wait for pick up.


On a side note I’m sure you are wondering ‘Why aren’t women’s dress shirts done this way?’  There are two reasons really.  First, it comes down to fabric.  Most men’s dress shirts are made of cotton or a cotton/polyester blend, while women’s blouses are made of less durable fabrics like silk or often have a small percentage of spandex in them.  Putting a garment with that type of fabric on such a hot press would damage the fabric.  Second, men’s dress shirts have varied little in style for many years.  This has allowed equipment manufacturers to design and build automated shirt presses that will fit most men’s dress shirts. Operating these automated shirt presses takes a whole lot less time and labor to properly finish a man’s dress shirt.  But if a man’s dress shirt comes in with silk or another more delicate fabric, we would clean and finish it as we do most women’s blouses.

With our almost 50 years in the business, state-of-the-art equipment, and attention to detail, A Cleaner World provides not only the best quality for men’s dress shirts but for all your garment care needs.  Stop by one of our locations to see what I’m talking about.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Common Office Clothing Stains and How to Solve Them

My brother-in-law is a welder and a mighty good one at that.  His ‘uniform’ is one of a few pair of grungy pants and long sleeve shirts that he peals off as soon as he walks into the back door.  They go in their own laundry basket and are washed separately.  He doesn’t worry if the grunge comes off because they are just going to get grungy again.  On the other hand, my sister is a school teacher, and like many of us, wants to look clean and crisp.  So, unless you are a welder, you’re likely to fall into that category with the rest of us – you don’t want to show up at work looking unkempt, but you’re going to have some mishaps, and it’s important to know how to handle them.

Let’s talk about General Guidelines first:
  • Never rub at a spill, doing so will push it further into the fabric.
  • Time is of the essence.  Act quickly because the longer the spill sits on your clothes, the harder it is to remove.
Now let’s address specific Common Office Stains:

  • Marker and Ink -  These are common stains, especially when you work in some sort of office-type environment.   Our first piece of advice is to wait and address it when you get home; many times, a mark or a smudge can be treated with a grocery store spotter and laundered according to the directions.  But if it’s a leak from an uncapped pen, it’s highly possible that the stain cannot be removed.  Instead of trying something at home first, leave it alone and drop if off at any one of our locations as soon as possible.
  • Coffee – Sometimes it’s a little dribble from missing your mouth; other times, you accidentally knock over an entire mug, and it ends up covering your lap.  Whichever it is, coffee can sometimes be a difficult stain to remove because coffee with cream and sugar is a combination stain because there are three components in the mug.  You might be able to spray the stain with a good-quality pre-treater and then launder according to the care label’s directions.  If that doesn’t work, then try soaking in warm water with color-safe bleach, then laundering according to the care label.  Always check the area to make sure the stain has been completely removed before placing the garment in the dryer.  The heat from the dryer will set the stain.
  • Chocolate -  The afternoon munchies always get me, and that’s usually when I head for something chocolate.  Inevitably, unless it’s M&M’s, I end up with little chocolate shards sprinkled on me somewhere.  The best way to handle chocolate mishaps is to take an item with a blunt edge to gently scrape off the excess once it’s dry.  Once you are at home, turn the garment inside out and place under running water to help remove additional pieces (that’s assuming the garment is machine washable).  Then apply a stain remover or some liquid detergent to the area, gently massage in, then let set for a few minutes.  Wash the garment according to the care label’s directions, making you sure to check to see if the chocolate has been removed before placing it in the dryer.
The list continues with things like dry erase marker, copy toner, highlighters, soda; it’s all in a day’s work.  Luckily, A Cleaner World is an expert at stain removal, so anything you are uncomfortable with or unsuccessful with addressing, we will gladly pick up where you left off.  Just be sure to point out the stain at drop off; the more we know, the more likely we can remove the stain successfully and easily.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tips for Choosing the Right Wedding Gown

I was one of those rare brides that didn’t have to try on hundreds of dresses before I found the right one; I saw the gown I wanted in a magazine.  Further, my husband worked for the magazine’s publisher, so they called the designer who sent me a sample.  We then sent her my measurements, and about a month later my gown arrived.  I was also lucky because it was a simple, sleeveless sheath dress, and we were getting married in a simple outdoor ceremony.

Sadly, not every bride falls into the perfect dress.  Sometimes it takes time to find ‘the one’, so we thought we’d offer a few tips that might help that process go a bit more smoothly.

Set your budget and stick to it.  If the overall budget for your wedding is $10,000, don’t spend $8,000 on your gown.  Figure out how much money you have to work with and then allocate the dollars realistically.

Think about your style and the venue.  In my case I knew I wanted something simple; I’m not an overly ornate or frilly kind of girl.  I also knew we were going to get married outside, so the last thing I wanted was a long train that would get grass stains on it or get stuck on the rocks on the cobblestone walkway.   

Start shopping – as early as possible.  There are so many variables here – Are you a picky shopper? Are you going to want a custom gown?  Will it be rather ornate?  We recommend at least 8 -10 months out from your wedding date.  This will take into account shopping time, if it’s a custom gown, and will allow for alterations.

Schedule appointments.  Don’t just show up at bridal salons, especially on Saturday afternoons.  Instead, call ahead, discuss your likes and dislikes in case they might want to bring in more samples, and then schedule an appointment.  Take any accessories you might want to wear on your wedding day, but avoid taking too many helpers.  Sometimes too many opinions make it difficult for the bride-to-be, but do take one or two friends, or your mom, to give you honest feedback.

Have an open mind.  Even though you might have your heart set on a certain style be open to trying on other things, especially if the salesperson recommends it.  It’s hard to get a good picture when the dress is hanging on a hanger.  Plus, it is possible to fall in love with something completely opposite of what you thought you wanted.

Have fun.  You’re preparing for your day; enjoy the attention and pampering.  When you find the right dress, you’ll know it. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Importance of Where You Store Your Clothes

There are many things that make me uniquely qualified to do this job, but I think the biggest thing is that my life (most of the time thanks to my husband) is the ultimate guide of what not to do.  Here’s the latest story.

A year ago, my husband’s company was sold, and he temporarily went to work for the new owners to help them make the transition.  After about 6 months, they no longer needed his services.  We knew this was coming and prepared for it, so Matt took some time off to tear down our old barn and to build a new one.

As he was preparing to tear down the old barn, he had to put all his stuff somewhere, so he borrowed his uncle’s horse trailer (shown in the photo just to the right of the new barn) and stored most of his things – tools he doesn’t use frequently, sports gear, hunting gear, and so on – in that trailer.  Now that he’s almost finished with the barn, he’s started unloading the trailer, and what he’s discovering is that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to store his hunting clothes in that trailer.  I know you know that horse trailers are not temperature controlled, air-tight (notice the tarp covering the openings for the horses), and critter proof.  To top it off, he put his stuff in boxes or wooden cabinets.

The interesting thing was that when I put them in the washer, they just looked dirty.  When I pulled them out of the washer, they looked like they do now.  That’s because holes due to insect damage don’t appear until after the garment has been cleaned because the fabric was likely weakened by insects, then the agitation the garment received during the cleaning process caused unbroken but weakened fibers to break.

The lesson we should learn from this?  In previous blog posts, we’ve shared that you should always store your clothes in a cool, dry, clean place; never store your clothes in a cold basement or hot attic.  We should add never store your garments in a horse trailer.  These places are not temperature controlled and are more likely to house critters and insects that like to munch on fabric that hasn’t been cleaned properly.  To learn more about how to properly store out-of-season clothes, click here.   To learn more about storing your clothes at any A Cleaner World location, click here.
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