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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Three Things To Look For

If you are like me, you get attached to your clothes. So when we moved, the thought of finding new everything, especially a new dry cleaner, did not please me. I found myself using these three categories as I searched for and tested new service providers. I thought they were applicable when looking for a new dry cleaner too.

1. Reputation - Ask folks you trust, and it's important to get more than one opinion. One person with one bad experience could sway you, and that one bad experience could be an isolated incident.
2. Service - Not just ready when you are told but does the staff take the time to know you? Do they listen and take notes when you have a specific concern? Is the overall experience pleasant?
3. Professional Standards - Is the staff trained and knowledgeable? Are the technicians certified? Is the business a member of a professional association?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Child Is Hard On Clothes

According to my mom, I wasn't terribly hard on clothes while growing up though I did tend to chew the lace off my dresses when I was a baby. My mom is incredibly meticulous about keeping things looking nice, so whatever issues that arose related to clothing were resolved quickly. That trait has carried on to me. I still like my stuff to be pristine, so I also take really good care of my clothes. But I have a 4 year old boy, and I'm trying to figure out how to keep his clothing looking nice as well as lasting longer. He's all boy. Translation--he's really rough on clothes. I can't tell you how many pairs of jeans he has with holes in the knees. I never put a white shirt on him--he's a messy eater and has now begun wiping his face on his sleeve. I try to catch problems quickly, but my salvage success rate isn't great.

So I'm trying to compile a list of ideas on how to combat my problem. Here are 2 things I've started doing:
1. Putting patches on the inside of his jeans before he starts wearing them.
2. Treating stains immediately.

Does anyone else have some good ideas they want to share?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thoughtful Office Staff

I share this story just so you get a sense for the kind of folks that work at A Cleaner World. While this happened a number of years ago, most of those folks still work at the A Cleaner World corporate office. Eight years ago today my sister was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. To make a long story short, the course of treatment was radical chemo followed by a bone marrow transplant. I had the honor of being the donor. One of the requirements was that I had to stay within a certain mile radius of the hospital starting the day before chemo was to begin. My sister's treatment was in Nashville, so I lived in an apartment with my dad across the street from Vanderbilt University Medical Center for two weeks.

The day before my departure the office staff assembled a lovely send off featuring a cake from Ganache Bakery and a box of wrapped gifts. In the box was a set of instructions. The gifts were numbered, and I was instructed to only open the appropriate package on the appropriate day.

We quickly developed a routine -- I'd get up early and run, then my dad and I would walk to Starbucks, then we'd walk over to my sister's hospital room where we spent the entire day. Each day I'd take the appropriate package and we'd open it. The items ranged from games to uplifting notes to M&M's and so on. It became a fun game - a crazy little highlight to an otherwise stressful and crummy situation.

Memories like these remind me of what a special place A Cleaner World is - a place filled with thoughtful and creative folks that care about each other and take great pride in what they do.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Three Favorite

For fourteen years, I had the privilege of managing the Give A Kid A Coat program for A Cleaner World. During that time there were a lot of unforgettable moments, but in David Letterman style here are my top 3 favorite:

Number 3 - In 2005, a woman called to thank us for doing Give A Kid A Coat. Her family had for several years donated to Give A Kid A Coat but this year instead of being donors, they needed to be recipients. Her husband had lost his job. They had 3 kids, and after the 3rd one was born she decided to stay home. They were living off some savings but it wasn't going to last too much longer. I so vividly remember the gratitude in her voice. And I appreciated her call very much. We, just simply because of the way the program is set up, don't often get to talk to those that receive coats.

Number 2 - Let me preface this by saying that I'm not at all diminishing coat donations. Every coat is important. But it only takes a few minutes to check your closet and then drop off unused coats at A Cleaner World. Just a few weeks ago, someone dropped off 56 hand knit scarves at a Greensboro location for Give A Kid A Coat. She said she'd spent the last year working on them. Think about the time commitment involved in knitting 56 scarves. All I can say is wow.

Number 1 - I know I've shared this story before but I think it spells out perfectly why we do Give A Kid A Coat. Several campaigns ago a Salvation Army representative was helping a family find coats when one of the kids squealed in delight when she found a coat with pockets. She now had a place to put her hands so they wouldn't get cold.

This year Give A Kid A Coat collected 27,817 coats. Thank you for supporting this important program. Lots of folks will be warm this winter because of your generosity.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I'm Done Christmas Shopping

Don't be irritated with me, but I am done Christmas shopping. I think I've mentioned that I'm an obsessive organized freak, and I don't like things hanging over my head.

I've been doing this for years so I have it down to a science. Here's the method to my madness:
  • I make notes throughout the year of things I hear others saying they want or need. I also make notes of things I think they might enjoy based on their interests.
  • If I'm out purchasing a birthday gift and already have a Christmas gift in mind for that person, I buy it and store it in a safe place until Christmas.
  • In September I set a budget and make a more firm gift list by person.
  • I start deliberate buying by the beginning of October with the goal of being done by Thanksgiving.
  • I use the Internet - a lot. You can do some great comparison shopping online plus many sites offer free shipping.
  • I give gift cards. I don't think there's anything impersonal about it. Especially if I know someone really loves a particular store. Then they can shop on me and get something they really want.
  • I do my shopping in small batches. I love to shop but a day of marathon shopping is exhausting and unrealistic with a 4 year old.
  • I also do these things in small doses, starting early - make gifts, bake, and wrap gifts. The making gifts is a relatively new addition. I really want my son to experience giving his own gifts, so we made ornaments in October. When it comes to baking, I've found that cookies and candies freeze really well.
I hope some of these ideas will make your Christmas a bit less stressful. I've just found that doing a little bit along the way makes the doing enjoyable and the Christmas Season a time of celebrating.

On a funny note - my mom is great at early shopping. She usually starts for the following year right after Christmas. But there is one flaw in her plan - she sometimes forgets she has a gift and we get a bonus gift mid-year. I guess that works out well for us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving at A Cleaner World

Given that I am a huge foodie, it should be no surprise that Thanksgiving Day is one of my favorite days. It should also be no surprise that one of my favorite memories from A Cleaner World is that we always looked for an excuse to have food. So when one year someone suggested that everyone bring in a dish so that we could have our own little Thanksgiving celebration, it wasn't a hard sell, and it became an office tradition.

The office staff is all female with the exception of Chris (Edwards, President) so we cooked and he bought a cake. We all liked that arrangement, except for the year the cake arrived late.

Over the years I enjoyed some terrific dishes but the one I remember specifically is sweet potato pie. I had never had it before, and LaMonica's grandmother made it for us -- every year. There's just something extra special about a dish that a grandmother makes.

Whatever your traditions - I hope you have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Care Labels - There For A Reason

According to an article on eHow.com, 4 out of 5 consumers read care labels before they buy clothing and follow the instructions when cleaning their garments. I clearly don't fall into that group of 4. If I see something I like, I buy it and worry about how to clean it later. When I share my laundry mishap, you will also see that many times I don't read the label before washing or finishing the garment either.

I share this information with hesitation as my mom purchased this sweater set for me, and I never told her this: that I failed to look at the care label that said "cool iron". After washing the set in cold water on gentle using woolite then laying it flat to dry, I proceeded to press it with a very hot iron. One touch to the fabric, and it melted onto my iron. When I lifted the iron, there was a rather large hole and iron print on the front of the cardigan. Note to self: read the care label BEFORE cleaning.

Many times the labels have all these crazy hard to follow symbols. Here's a link to a helpful chart that you can print off and put in your laundry room to help you avoid a laundry mishap.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pieces of Give A Kid A Coat

When the A Cleaner World family started Give A Kid A Coat in 1987, they had no idea how important the program would become to the community. But not only is it important, over the years it has become special - almost like a Triad institution. I think the thing that makes it special is the way it brings all of us together to work toward a specific goal - to make sure that every child that needs a coat has a coat.

There are so many pieces to the program - folks that donate coats, A Cleaner World employees that stick around late or come in on Sundays to clean coats, the guys at The Salvation Army that drive the trucks to pick up clean coats, Salvation Army volunteers and staff that help those in need find that perfect coat, our friends at Fox 8 and 1075KZL that communicate the message. Each piece is equally important - if one were missing, it wouldn't work.

So thank you everyone for your contribution. Your piece is vital to the success of Give A Kid A Coat.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Every Little Bit Helps

Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness month, and chances are pretty high that you've been impacted somehow by this disease. I know in my life I've seen it closely three times and from a distance several times more. That's why when I see something like this, I instantly get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.


Their small contribution will be added to other small contributions and before you know it, lives will be changed. One thing I admire and appreciate about A Cleaner World is the way they help important causes in a behind the scenes way. For example, for years they've donated safety pins to the Susan G. Komen Triad Race for the Cure. When the folks at Komen wanted to list them as a sponsor, A Cleaner World said that's OK, we're just glad to help. I could site countless instances like that.

That little bit of support helps and all of our little bits together make something grand. William James said, "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Servant's Heart

I just got back from a trip to Greensboro having been invited to the 2010 Give A Kid A Coat kick off. It was a terrific kick off filled with lots of coats, good food, and terrific fellowship. Being back in Greensboro reminded me how much I love and miss the city and my friends.

There were so many things and people I enjoyed seeing while back at what I consider to be home. But one thing really stands out in my mind - seeing the folks from The Salvation Army in action. What a fabulous group of people with a huge heart for service. Over the years I've had the privilege of working with some fantastic people. I've often asked this question when getting to know someone with The Salvation Army: "What made you decide to devote your life to working with The Salvation Army?" While the path was always different, the common theme was that they simply had a heart for service and this was their calling. My hat is off to them. They work hard and have an unbelievable passion that comes through in their words and deeds.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I am certain that my little boy has no idea how blessed he is. He has everything he needs and almost everything he wants. My husband and I often talk about how different his childhood is from ours. We both had what we needed but many times did without wants. Not because our parents didn't want to give in to those wants, it was because they didn't have the money for lots of extras.

Obviously needs are more important than wants, but many parents have to go so far as to choose which needs can fit into their budget. "Let's see, this month we can afford food or winter coats for the kids."

I've spent 14 years working on Give A Kid A Coat with The Salvation Army. I've heard so many heartbreaking stories over the years. I'll especially never forget the little girl several years ago that was thrilled to get a coat with pockets because her hands wouldn't be cold anymore. Hearing something like that has to be a motivator to check your closet to see if you have a coat or two to donate to Give A Kid A Coat beginning this Friday. I'll be there with my little boy's outgrown coat.

Monday, October 11, 2010


I love Tyler Perry movies. I never gave much thought as to why until I read an online article about Perry. According to the article, he is a man with a message; the overall theme in most of his movies is the importance of forgiveness.

Allow me to make a rough transition to this thought - businesses are run by people. People are not perfect - including us. If we make a mistake, please talk to the manager, let us make it right, and then forgive us. If we don't make it right, let me know. I'm listening.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sticker Shock

Since we've moved to a new area, I'm having to find new everything -- hairdresser, doctors, and so on. A few weeks ago, I made an appointment to have an annual eye exam. To make a long story short, it was $154 for the exam. And they discounted it $30 because I had to wait for so long. I was shocked as I was expecting close to $80. It turns out it was more expensive as they found a spot on my right eye and wanted to run extra tests. But shame on me for not asking beforehand how much those tests would cost. Have you ever done that?

Not too long ago, someone had the same experience at A Cleaner World. She had an alteration done, didn't ask at drop off how much it would cost, and was surprised at pick up. It was my good fortune that she made a comment on Twitter. I was able to track her down, and put her in touch with our operations guy who explained the alterations were actually more involved than what she thought they were. It's my hope that we kept our customer.

With the eye doctor, I didn't say anything. I just decided not to go back. But is that really fair? I guess I'll give them a call.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All Sweaty

I run therefore I sweat. And my running clothes are very much like my wardrobe. That means I tend to stick to the same colors, so I have a lot of white tanks. After running in them a while, I start to notice discoloration under the arms. When I was working full-time, I'd just go purchase new ones. Now that I'm not working full-time, I'd like to salvage them. After all, good quality running clothes are pricey.

To try and figure out how to salvage them, I called my favorite A Cleaner World runner Mike Feudale (you know the guy with lots of enthusiasm). Mike had me do some research as apparently it's important to know what's in sweat in order to know how to treat it. Here's what I learned: sweat contains sodium chloride, phosphate, urea, ammonia, lactic acid, and oils. As the water evaporates, all that stuff is left behind. Over time it builds up and causes your whites to yellow or your colors to fade.

After I reported back to Mike, he provided the following advice:
  • Each person is slightly different so there may not be a single solution for discolored under arm problems.
  • For dress clothes, you can consider shields sold at better clothing stores, but these are not practical for sport use.
  • Soaking garments in cold water and dish soap immediately after use will help as dish soap contains de-greasers. After soaking, rinse and line dry. Then wash in the washing machine.
  • An ounce of white ammonia per wash load could help remove potential staining material.
  • Occasional soaking in mild color-safe bleach can also help. Strong applications of chlorine bleach will only result in breakdown of the optical brighteners in white clothes and will actually speed overall yellowing.
I promised I'd give it a try. Anyone out there have any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Color Matching

My husband has a fashion sense all his own. On a number of occasions I've tried purchasing him things and have even gone shopping with him to offer some gentle guidance. He rarely takes my advice although on our last trip I did convince him to purchase plain front khakis -- a big success in my mind. I say all of this to set the stage - one morning he was dressing for work and he put on a pair of olive colored pants with a navy plaid long sleeve dress shirt. Apparently the look on my face said it all. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing," he asked. "You don't match," I said. And so the debate began. Ultimately he wore it to work that day, and I felt like I'd sent him off in plaid pants and a polka dot shirt. But it also got me thinking about my own fashion sense and how I tend to migrate to black all the time.

In an effort to educate my husband and to liven up my own wardrobe, I began searching sites. There's a ton of stuff out there, mostly complicated things like color wheels and hues. Who has time to read all that? Then I stumbled on to an article from womensfashion.suite101.com. It had a wonderful little bulleted quick reference list. Since finding it, I've ventured out a bit. I hope you'll check it out too. Now if only I could get my husband to read this.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Routine Dryer Maintenance

Of course we all know to clean the lint trap after each load. But a dryer is like anything mechanical, it requires maintenance. For instance, you wouldn't just put gas in your car and then do nothing else to it. You need to put forth a little effort to maintain its health in order to get the most out of it. Here's why -- did you know that inefficient dryers run longer and cost more in electricity to operate? Below is a quick and easy list to do once a year to keep your dryer in top shape.

1. Check the balance on your dryer. If it's not level, not only does it make a lot of racket but it can cause the parts to wear out faster.

2. Wash the lint trap. Fabric softeners can clog the small holes in the trap.

3. Pull your dryer out from the wall and wipe the area clean. Remove the venting and clean it out as well.

4. Clean the vent mounted on the outside of your house. Lint can accumulate there and block air flow.

Thank you to my handy husband for keeping my dryer in top shape. Long live your current dryer.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Washing Machine Maintenance

I've never cleaned my washing machine. Are you grossed out? As obsessed with cleanliness as I am, it never occurred to me that I needed to clean my washing machine until a few months ago. While helping us move, my dad (a man that's not terribly observant) pointed out that I needed to wipe out the inside of my machine before washing any more clothes. He was right. After all, I do put dirty clothes into it. I guess I just figured that all the dirt flushes out during the spin cycle.

So I wiped it out but I started wondering how clean I really made my washer so I did some checking. There's actually a little process to follow that will clean the grime out of your machine.

  • Run a full cycle empty with hot water and 2 cups of vinegar.
  • Once it is complete, your wash bucket should be nearly spotless. Rub any remaining spots with a paper towel that is dabbed with vinegar. It will be more effective if done while the machine is still warm.
  • Remove the fabric softener holder and wash it in warm soapy water.
  • Clean the bleach dispenser with a spray cleaner and paper towels.
  • Wipe down under the rim of the wash bucket as dirt can collect up under there and it can be difficult to detect.
We moved in May, and three months later I am forcing myself to do this. I am sure this is one of those tasks that you dread but are really glad you did it once you are done. So after I typed the first bullet point, I went and started the washer. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Few Facts On Persian Rugs

We've been in the carpet and rug cleaning business for a number of years. Not too long ago, I was at our processing facility and saw a beautiful, expensive, and elaborate rug. It got me thinking about my own (not so expensive) rugs and when did people start putting carpet and rugs in their homes. Then I asked myself this silly question (not being a rug connoisseur) "Do Persian rugs really come from Persia?" Turns out they do.

In trying to answer my question, I stumbled on to a number of sites outlining the history of the Persian rug. Interestingly, I never could exactly figure out when the art of rug making began, but I did see a number of sources that sited a rare finding in 1949. Two Russian archaeologists discovered the oldest knotted carpet frozen in the tomb of Scythian chiefs in the Pazyrk Valley. Using radiocarbon testing, they dated the rug back to 500 BC.

The Persian rug seems to rise and fall in popularity and production depending upon which dynasty was in power. It is believed that the industry peaked around 1500 - 1700. Sizable workshops were built for highly skilled workers who worked creating elaborate carpets using silk with silver or gold threading. Also during this time, rugs started being exported to European cities where they were appreciated for their artistic beauty. Most rugs found in museums today are from this period.

Today the Persian rug is still considered to be a timeless work of art. Iran exports 30% of the world's market, and there are an estimated 1.2 million weavers in Iran producing rugs for both domestic and international markets.

I started putting together a list of suggestions to help in the purchase of a Persian rug when I stumbled onto an article from 'This Old House'. Here's the link. http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,203414,00.html I hope you find it helpful should you be shopping for one. If you'd like to talk to someone locally, you can visit the folks at Abu Rugs & Home. http://www.abuorientalrugs.com/. And if you are curious about how they are cleaned, check out this YouTube video done by Greg, our resident rug expert. http://www.youtube.com/user/acleanerworldcarpet#p/u/5/0uV9TaFd9nQ

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Up Close: Chris Edwards by Stephanie Nickell

Reprinted with permission from The Business Journal

HIGH POINT - The transition from one generation to the next in a family business is often tricky. But that was not the case when Chris Edwards became president and CEO of A Cleaner World Dry Cleaners in 1996. The 28-year dry-cleaning veteran keeps things fresh by diversifying, a lesson he learned from his father.

Edwards and his High Point-based team have created several divisions in his tenure at the top, including: Tri State Laundry Equipment, A Cleaner World Smoke & Fire Restoration, A Cleaner World Carpet Cleaning and most recently, A Cleaner World Commercial Services, which is a uniform rental and dust control business.

When was A Cleaner World founded?

The company was started in 1969 with three partners. My dad came to work for them in 1981; I came in 1982. Later, he and I bought the business.

How did it get its name?

The name came before my dad and I got involved, but I suspect there was a practical motivation. Starting the name with the letter "A" put it first in the phone book listings. It's been a good name, but it really does present some challenges - like needing to be good environmental stewards for the planet.

Is the dry cleaning solvent you use safe?

The solution we use is perchloroethylene, or perc, and it is from the same family of cleaning agents used in many household cleaners. We continuously purify and recycle our solvent to ensure that no perc is released into the environment when we dispose of it. We also do a lot of air-quality testing and testing for leaks to make sure no vapors are escaping.

What's it take to work in dry cleaning?

A lot of common sense, following directions and being persistent. If you get a stain on a garment, persistence is where a lot of people fall short. In most of our stores, we have nine basic stain removers and 10 to 12 stain removers for really specific things. For example, we may have three products that will remove ink. One will do well with ballpoint, another real well with felt tip, and another real well with red inks. Some of our competitors are all about turning it over quick. You can't spend 45 minutes on one garment when you are charging $2.50.

What would a busy dry cleaning store make in revenue in a year?

The national average is $362,000 and we are significantly higher than that.

You quit franchising in 1991. Why?

We had a lot of interest in franchising. There were a lot of magazine articles being written about dry cleaning being one of the fastest ways to become a millionaire, which was not entirely true. Franchising is in itself a business, you are either in franchising or you are in owning your own stores; it is hard to do both. We wanted to focus on owning our own stores and putting the proper management in place.

What's been the result?

Better control over the finished product. A franchise owner is like a child, and I mean that in a good way. When they are young, they believe everything you say, they ask a lot of questions and they love what they are doing. When they become a teenager they start questioning Mom and Dad saying, "I can do it better my way." So you get a franchisee who owns his own business and he should have input in how it is done. If you are going to be a successful franchisee, you have to put some of that aside and do it the proven way and do it over and over and over.

We had some franchisees who came in and wanted to be a millionaire in five or six years. That didn't happen, so they sold their stores and chased the next thing. A lot of the franchises we bought back. Today we have 39 stores (in North Carolina and Virginia) and nine of those are still franchises.

Will you try to acquire the last nine?

Yes. As owners retire, that's an option for us.

What changes in technology or culture have affected the dry cleaning business most?

Disco wreaked havoc on our industry. Polyester wash-and-wear was popular from 1972 to 1978 and disco people could wash their own clothes. By 1979, disco was dead and people were burning their leisure suits. The preppy look came back and we kind of had a resurgence back to the more professional look. But I think the move to casual business attire has affected us the most. If you wear khaki pants and a knit shirt and buy the wrinkle-free or wrinkle-resistant fabrics, you can wash and dry them at home.

How do you describe what you do to others?

Our core business is retail dry cleaning, but what we do is sell appearance. We sell textile care and care for those garments to make them last as long as they can. People spend a lot of time finding the right clothes. We see a lot of favorites. They get worn every week or every two weeks. I have never had someone come in and say, 'You lost a garment of mine, but I hated it so don't worry about it.'

What happens when something gets lost or ruined?

Fortunately, it doesn't happen very often, but sometimes we'll transpose a number or put an item in with someone else's order. Even then, when that one garment in 1,000 gets misplaced for a few days, the customer usually brings it back. If we lose it or damage it, we play claims.

How do you keep your work interesting?

New ventures. Besides the divisions of A Cleaner World, I have really gotten into real estate. I have developed our corporate headquarters building (2019 Eastchester Drive) and the office building next door (2017 Eastchester Drive) and have two more spaces on Eastchester Drive that I will develop some time.

What's the wackiest thing you've ever been asked to dry clean?

A Santa Claus suit. It was on a Saturday afternoon one December and all the employees had gone home. Santa came in with a big stain on his suit from a spill. He was going to go do a special event for children that evening, so I said, "Take it off and I'll have it ready for you in an hour."

What is the most terrifying food or beverage you could spill on your clothes?

Anything alcohol on silk is not good. It's bad.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Don't Mistreat Your Wedding Gown

So I mentioned a bit ago that I had a lovely wedding, but I didn't say anything about my wedding dress. That's pretty unusual - don't you think? After all, that's the first thing a woman looks for when planning the big day. I didn't mention it because I treated it so poorly after the wedding. I am ashamed to say, but I let it hang in my closet in a plastic bag without cleaning it for 11 years. Packing to move forced me to treat it properly.

Learn from my mistakes - here are a few tips to ensure your gown is cared for properly:

  • Hang it by the loops inside the gown - not by the fragile shoulder seams.
  • Don't store it in a plastic bag because plastic emits fumes that can yellow the gown. Plastic also traps in moisture, which could cause your gown to mildew.
  • When having it cleaned and preserved, use a local specialist who will personally do the work for you - not one that will send it off.
  • Inspect your gown before having the specialist place it in the storage container.
  • Store your gown in a completely acid-free, museum-quality, archival wedding chest lined with fabric or acid-free tissue.
  • Don't store it in a place that experiences extreme temperature changes.

Have a wedding gown crisis? Call Alan Peatross at A Cleaner World 336-841-4188. He's our in-house expert.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Thanks Staff

It's hot. You know that. But if you think it's hot outside, walk inside any dry cleaning plant at about 11:00 a.m. on any workday in August and stand over a utility press. Now that's hot.

When I was hired by Chris, he had me spend a month in a store before coming to the office so that I could learn the business. Thank goodness it was in March not August. I wouldn't have made it. It was hard work. But I learned so much and quickly developed an appreciation for our plant employees. So thanks guys for all your hard work.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back to School Time

My little boy is growing up. I hate it. Tomorrow I will take him to his first day of preschool. Several weeks ago, I started preparing for the big day. His teacher provided a list of supplies he needed for the school year, so I took the list and purchased everything. Then I went through his closet to figure out what he would need in the way of clothing. After that, I called my mom. I wanted to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. Turns out I was on the right track, except for number 1.

1. Check the school's dress code policy. This never occurred to me. But it is a good idea to do this first to avoid the return line or having a closet full of things that can only be worn on the weekends.

2. Take inventory. Go through last year's clothing and weed out items that are either too small or too worn. If you don't have a child to pass them down to, you can always donate them to Donate Goods Do Good to help fill The Salvation Army family stores. Donations can be made at any A Cleaner World.

3. Write it down and make a checklist. That way when you hit the stores, you are prepared. Hopefully this too will help your pocketbook.

4. Hit the sales! This is where my mom is an expert and here are her tips - Check the Sunday newspaper ads to see where the best deals are and be sure to clip any coupons. Try and hit the first day of the sale for the best selection. Always head for the clearance rack first, and then move to the other sales racks. Finally if possible and there are great deals, purchase a size larger for the following year.

Monday, July 26, 2010


My parents (actually my mom) have a habit of buying my sister and me appliances for Christmas. Here's usually how it goes -- my mom discovers a new doohickey, decides we both need one, goes and buys two more, puts them back until Christmas, and then presents them to us as Christmas gifts. This past Christmas was no exception. The 2009 can't live without item -- a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

I didn't begin using it until the end of May as we were in the process of moving. When we finally moved into our hew house Memorial Day Weekend I (being the obsessively clean person that I am) had to give our new house the once over before I would move my stuff in. I took the opportunity to break out the new vacuum to use before and after the carpet was cleaned.

Low and behold, my mom hit a home run on this one. I cannot believe how much stuff that thing sucks out of my carpet. I was recently talking to Greg Henderson (Managing Partner of A Cleaner World Carpet Cleaning) as I was curious about the Dyson. He used terminology that was not in my conversation realm, but what I did understand was that the commercial vacuum cleaner that A Cleaner World Carpet Cleaning uses on a customer's carpet (he vacuums the carpet before cleaning it) has way more suction power than my little ole residential Dyson. That along with the Rotovac cleaner he uses explains why my carpets looked so good at my old house in North Carolina (without the Dyson).

Have you ever talked to Greg? If not, give him a call at 336-992-0700 or check him out on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/acleanerworldcarpet. He knows his stuff and is excited about it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mystery Stains Part 2

When my husband and I first got married, we lived in a 341 square foot garage apartment. We did have a washer and dryer, but they were installed in a utility room in the back of the pool house across the property. At first, I tried keeping our laundry caught up during the week. But after my prankster husband scared the life out of me by jumping out behind a tree late one night, I changed my habit to doing laundry on Saturdays only. So during the week, we placed our clothes in the appropriate place - either our A Cleaner World express bag or in the laundry basket. At the end of the week both would be stuffed.

It turns out that there was a flaw in that system. Did you know that stains can transfer from one garment to another? It's called redeposition, and there are a number of ways it can happen. For instance, you spill marinara on your shirt. That night you don't think twice and throw it into the hamper. Throughout the week more items get stuffed into the hamper and before you know it the marinara shirt has rubbed up against several things and you now have marinara on three pieces instead of one. Or you get a new workout shirt and it's red. You wear it to the gym and get it all sweaty. Then you throw it in the laundry with everything else and suddenly your husband's white t-shirts are marbled with pink. You get the idea.

So how do you solve the problem? Just take a few minutes to separate your clothes, even if you're not ready to do laundry. In our house, we've designated the top of the dryer as the place for special attention items. If I see something there, I know it needs special care. I've also made the habit of draping wet items, like for instance my sweaty running shirts and shorts or washcloths, over the side of the basket to dry if I'm not going to wash them right away. I know this takes a bit more time, but it's time well spent so that you don't have to wash those marinara shirts again or make your husband wear pink.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mystery Stains Part 1

I have a 3 1/2 year old. Translation - I examine every piece of clothing before putting it in the washing machine. I cannot tell you what percentage of items I have to pre-treat but I'm guessing it's pretty high.

Because I examine everything, I find myself being surprised when I see a stain I KNOW wasn't there before I put it in the washer. You know what I'm talking about - those mystery stains. Turns out there are a number of things it could be, and I will discuss others next week. For me, this particular one typically shows up on my tops, usually around the upper stomach area, is relatively small in size, and makes the color of the shirt look a bit darker. After picking the brain of Mike Smith, VP - Operations for A Cleaner World, I learned what it is - an oil based stain. When Mike started explaining it to me, it totally made sense. I cook a lot, and as I thought back about some recent stains, most of them came after I cooked a meal using olive oil. Here's also what I learned - the stain can be removed but not with merely a regular washing machine and regular detergent. The stain needs to be treated to be broken down.

My solution - I wear an apron when cooking. But keep in mind I'm getting stuff on mere t-shirts. It's good for you to know that if you spill something oil-based on your suit, dress shirt, blouse, or whatever -- A Cleaner World can get it out for you no problem!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Contagious Enthusiasm

Of all the things I miss about A Cleaner World, I think I miss the people most. There are some terrific folks working for A Cleaner World, and I had the blessing of developing many wonderful professional and personal relationships during my 14+ years there. I mention this particular employee because of some recent shopping and service experiences.

I don't remember my first meeting with Mike Feudale, District Manager over ten Triad stores, but I do remember my initial thoughts. "Who is this crazy guy that comes in the office like a whirlwind and that can't sit still in staff meetings?" It didn't take me long to figure out that he didn't have an eye for financial analysis or accounting rules -- something he readily admitted and poked fun at. Quickly I figured out that that didn't matter -- that was what I along with the rest of the office staff was there for. He was there to make sure his stores produced quality work and delivered excellent service, both of which he does have an eye for.

Of his many wonderful qualities (now I do need to interject here that he's not perfect), I found his enthusiasm and energy to be refreshing and contagious. I always loved it when he came into the office -- typically with hurricane force -- calling us by the nicknames he'd picked out and making sure he spoke to everyone. And when observing him with customers, I found him to be the same way. He knows most all of his customers by name, and if he happens to not know someone, he's not afraid to ask for the next time. Plus when thanking folks for their business, he absolutely means it, and they can tell. It is all truly genuine - a person with zeal, a passion for serving others well, and it comes out in his actions. As a result, his customers drive away feeling special. Now if only all of our shopping and service experiences were like that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Quality Garments

As I put these tips together, it occurred to me that the only truly expensive piece of clothing in our closet is a custom made tux by Jhane Barnes that my husband purchased for our wedding. The good news (especially for people like me that thrive on quantity -- i.e. 12 pairs of khakis) is that quality garments don't have to be incredibly expensive.

Here are some things to look for to ensure that you get a quality piece of clothing.

1. Look at the fabric - Check to see that the fabric is cut and sewn on the grain. If there is a pattern, make sure it matches all over the garment and does not run against each other.
2. Examine the garment on the hanger - Look to see that it drapes the way it was intended, ensuring that everything is even.
3. Look at the construction - Make sure the seams are properly sewn, reinforced, and secure. They should be straight and finished and lie flat (no puckering). Additionally, higher quality garments typically have wide hems to allow for altering.
4. Buttons, Hooks, and Zippers - Make sure all are sewn on or in securely, not having any loose threads. Zippers should go up and down freely.
5. Is it lined? - Make sure the fabric is dense and solid. The lining should not be sewn in tightly but instead hang with a bit of give so it doesn't rip or tear. Make sure the lining doesn't hang below the hemline.
6. If there is trim or beading, make sure it is sewn on securely.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bathing Suit Care

I have had the same bathing suit for over 10 years -- a solid black one piece. I'm not quite sure what that says about me. But if I'm to be completely honest, I have purchased others over the years. After one or two wearings of the new one, I decide I don't like it, and I go back to the old one. As much as I've worn it, it still looks great. That's because I started taking good care of it from day one.

I share this because it is a perfect example of how properly caring for your garments causes them to last longer. A bathing suit is no exception, and here are some tips from the National Cleaners Association:

  • Always be sure to follow the care label, but typical care suggests hand washing after every wearing using a gentle soap. Chlorine in pool water and salt in the ocean will degenerate the fibers and fade the colors if not promptly removed. Plus suntan oils and sun blockers may cause stains or discolorations if they come in contact with your suit.
  • Most bathing suits contain some amount of spandex, which abrades and snaps easily. Take care not to sit on rough surfaces.

And that's it. I will continue to take good care of my bathing suit. Perhaps if I keep it long enough, the definition of vintage will include 1999.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Perfect Pair of Jeans

So up until recently I disliked wearing blue jeans -- and after 28 years of searching (I figured I didn't start caring until I was 13), I found 2 pair I actually like! My problem -- curves. Turns out I am a pear shape, so in order to find a pair that fit in the hips they were too big in the waist. Then I'd have to wear a belt, and they would bunch up and I'd look goofy. Besides, I always thought jeans were uncomfortable (hence my love of khakis). Well that's because they didn't fit right.

I found a great website, http://bit.ly/9cQhYP, that helped me identify what style to search for. I had success at GAP and Eddie Bauer -- both curvy, low rise, flare. Plus the ones from Eddie Bauer came from the sale rack!

Good luck, and let me know if you find your perfect pair.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stand-In Fathers

I adore my dad, and I plan to do something special for him for Father's Day to show my appreciation for the example he set, the values he instilled in me, and the sacrifices he made over the years. But aren't we blessed when in a particularly low point in our lives someone comes along that's not our biological father but briefly fills his shoes?

Shortly after I was hired at A Cleaner World, my first husband and I separated and ultimately divorced. It was a stressful, disappointing, and painful time in my life, and I ended up losing quite a bit of weight as a result. Ray and Sallie Edwards (owners of A Cleaner World along with Chris Edwards) took me under their wings, knowing my family was 10+ hours away. Not only did Ray keep an eye on me during business hours, but he was so gracious to include me in many weekend family gatherings especially making sure I was taking good care of myself. What a great thing to have such wonderful folks to help in the healing process. My parents told me many times how grateful they were for the love and support my work family showed me.

So as we pause this coming weekend to honor our fathers, let's also pause to honor those 'father figures' that lifted us up when we really needed it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What To Wear To A Wedding

My husband and I had a lovely wedding. At the time, he sold ad space and did circulation for Elegant Bride Magazine, so we had access to lots of great ideas. Compared to most weddings, it was relatively small -- about 100 guests, but it was in the most charming outdoor setting.

Given that it was to be outside in late May in southern Indiana (translation -- potentially hot and humid), we opted to hold the ceremony at 6:00 p.m. with an outdoor dinner reception to follow. I didn't realize that in an effort to try and keep everyone comfortable, I created a dilemma for most of the female guests -- "What do I wear?" Hopefully these suggestions will help.

Morning or Afternoon Wedding

Ladies - a floral or appropriate sundress, skirt and sweater set, or a light colored suit or dress

Men - a suit, dress shirt with a tie and dress pants (but add a blazer if possible), or a dark suit if the invitation says the event is formal

Evening Wedding

Ladies - dress as if you were going out to a nice dinner. Perhaps a cocktail dress (black is OK), dressy dress, or suit. If the invitation says black-tie or formal, then definitely go with a cocktail dress.

Men - when in doubt, always go with a dark suit. If the invitation says casual, you can go with pants, a blazer, and tie. If the invitation says black tie or formal, then wear a tuxedo.

Here are a couple of things to avoid

Wearing white

Black to a daytime wedding


Anything too revealing

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Your Overcoat

This was originally just meant to be a little blurb on how to care for your overcoat. Of course being the curious person I am, I had to spend a few minutes reading the history of the overcoat. I'm just fascinated at how things develop over time. I hit one of my favorite sites -- Wikipedia -- and learned about how the styles and availability evolved. Most interestingly, the overcoat was widely used in military history.

I have two overcoats, and they only come out when it rains. I just view the overcoat as one of those necessary weather-based items. But according to http://www.coutorture.com/spring-2010-trend-report-his-her-trench-coats-5613668, the overcoat has once again been updated for this season. Whatever your view, need or want, the waterproof aspect of the overcoat is an important feature.

Waterproof and water repellent fabrics are treated with a coating to make them resistant to water. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Your overcoat experiences normal wear and tear just like any other garment. But because it is coated with a special finish, there are a few things you can do to help lengthen the life.

1. Clean it according to the care label

2. Make sure it is fully dry before putting it away

3. But ultimately wash and wear will eventually break down the water repellent finish and it will need to be refinished

I didn't know this until recently, but A Cleaner World can reapply a water resistant finish to your clean rain coat. The bottom line is that an overcoat that doesn't repel water allows the water to get to your clothes, which could cause damage to those garments. Not only that, who likes to be cold and wet?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just a few more common sense travel tips

I ran (I use the term loosely) the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Given that the marathon was at Disney World, my parents wanted to come too and of course, they wanted to turn it into a vacation for my three year old son. Because my husband had just started a new job and couldn't go and because my parents were flying from a different destination, just my son and I traveled from North Carolina to Florida.

Traveling with a three year old isn't fun. To top it all off, for some reason I left my brain behind on this trip. Besides the typical delays and having to entertain a three year old, I had shampoo spill in my bag, had to pay an overweight bag charge, had to put sweaty marathon clothes back in my bag touching my clean clothes, left a few things in the hotel because they wouldn't fit in my bag, and the list goes on. If only I'd remembered:

  • Put your personal hygiene products in plastic bags.

  • Don't remove the plastic bags from your dry-cleaned items as they help reduce wrinkling.

  • Use grocery bags for packing shoes and bring along a few extra for damp or sweaty clothes.

  • Never pack your jewelery or medicine in your suitcase.

  • Put a collapsible bag in your suitcase to provide for more packing room on your way home.

  • Always make sure your name and contact number are on your luggage.

  • If you take a hairdryer or electric razor, make sure you pack an appropriate adaptor, if necessary.

  • Check your airline's baggage fee schedule. Sometimes the charge for a second bag is cheaper than paying the overweight charge on one big bag.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Perfect Garment

One thing I've been trying to do as we move is take stock of all the stuff I have and try to determine what I can get rid of. Apparently my husband too has been taking stock of all the stuff I have and recently asked me, "How many pairs of khaki pants does one woman need?" After counting I answered, "Apparently twelve."

What can I say? I love khaki pants. They are appropriate for most occasions (except for maybe a cocktail party). You can dress them up or down. There are so many styles to choose from, and each one has its own purpose. I can't imagine parting with one of my twelve pairs.

I think the thing I love the most is the way they look after picking them up from A Cleaner World. There is just something about that crease that runs down the front of the pants and just how fresh and crisp I look (I've mentioned how I like the crisp thing before) when I first put them on.

Of course now that A Cleaner World is 9 hours away, I am searching for a new cleaner. Recently I tried pressing a pair myself. That didn't go so well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A New Sewing Machine

I'm awfully domestic. I grow my own herbs, make homemade bread and jelly, will only serve my family my fresh made marinara (no Ragu in my house), keep an immaculate home, and on and on. For some reason, I've never had the desire to learn how to sew. Yet for some reason, my husband, Matt, has a deep yearning for me to learn to.

Our first Christmas as a married couple taught him quickly that unsolicited appliances as gifts were a bad idea. My mom, who is great at sewing, bought a new sewing machine shortly before Christmas and still had the box. As a joke, the two of them decided to put the machine back in the box, wrap it up, and place it under the tree with my name on it. As I unwrapped the gift, I took a look at the box and hesitated. Matt encouraged me to open it, and for a brief moment I thought he'd just used the box for something else. Turns out when I opened it, there was a sewing machine. Tears immediately ran down my cheeks. I still remember the thought going through my head -- Married less than a year and he's already trying to make me something I'm not. Of course both he and my mom felt terrible. On a happy note, there were a pair of earrings stashed in the box.

Thank goodness for folks that do like to sew -- like Gladys who takes care of alterations at two of our Raleigh A Cleaner World locations and Bonnie at our A Cleaner World in Thomasville, someone I've personally used a number of times.

So several years later, Matt mentioned to his mother that he'd like to have a sewing machine. That Christmas he got one. The only person that's ever used it -- my mom.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Save Space in your Travel Bag

When I first met my husband, he traveled 60 - 70% of the time for his job. The first time I watched him pack, I was fascinated. He rolled his clothes, had small bottles of hygiene products, planned his wardrobe, and placed things in his suitcase in a way that I though was chaotic. Turns out he knew what he was doing. Here are a few packing tips to help you save space in your bag.

Roll your clothes, don't fold them.

Use sample size products for shampoo, conditioner, medicine, hairspray, and so on (and don't forget to put them all in liquid proof bags).

Wear your heaviest clothes and bulkiest shoes on the plane.

Color coordinate - Plan clothing so you can get a variety of outfits out of just a few pieces.

Try and eliminate the need for hairdryers, electric razors, etc. Call your destination to see what items are available in your room.

Make use of every inch of space - for instance, stick toiletries in your shoes and stuff socks and underwear in those outer pockets.

Still need more room? You could also try vacuum sealing your clothes in bags.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just for Fun -- to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

There are places you always want to frequent when you go home for a visit. I am originally from a small town in Southern Indiana. As I've already mentioned, I am a big foodie. Whenever I go home, I always want to go to Hacienda Mexican Restaurant in Evansville. For whatever reason, I love their wet burritos. I don't know what it is -- the secret sauce, the mounds of cheese, or how it tastes when I use the meat and bean mixture as a dip for my chips. I just love them. My family knows how much I love them. In fact, my sister usually calls to heckle me when she goes with her friends.

Once of the things I did while working for A Cleaner World was to put together a quarterly employee newsletter. The content varied and typically included articles on equipment maintenance, employee benefits and wellness, customer service tips, and so on. Being the big foodie, I always included a recipe. I just thought it was a fun thing to do. One May I put this Wet Burrito recipe in to honor Cinco de Mayo. It turns out that it's awfully good. While it doesn't take the place of a Hacienda wet burrito, it does hold my craving at bay until I have a chance to go home again.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Storing Winter Garments

I have a confession. I have too many clothes. So twice a year, I go through my closet and try to purge. This process never goes well. I'm too attached to most of my things, so I go to Plan B -- storage! Given that I've done this year after year, I've become quite good at it and have learned a few things along the way. Below is a list of what I've learned.
  • Wash or dry-clean everything prior to storage. Moths are known for feeding on clothing and natural fibers. Moths prefer dirty fabric and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contain human sweat or other liquids that have been spilled on them.
  • Place folded garments in large plastic containers with air-tight lids. You could also use a cedar chest or plastic bags. Cardboard boxes and paper bags provide moths with too many entry points. Plus, cardboard and paper can't keep water out.
  • Hang suits and coats on cedar hangers and store them in garment bags. Use hangers with wider bars to prevent creases at the knees. Avoid hanging heavy knit items or sweaters to prevent distorting their shape.
  • Adding cedar chips or lavender and rosemary sachets will keep your clothes smelling fresh. Mothballs can be used but they tend to have a harsh smell. If you do use them remove the smell by tumbling the garments in your dryer for 20 minutes with some scented dryer sheets.
One final thing, A Cleaner World does offer free storage for out of season garments -- just in case you don't have enough storage or extra closet space.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Celebrate Earth Day

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson searched for many years to find a way to focus public attention on the environment. In 1969, he came up with Earth Day. The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, and has become an annual national event focusing on learning about conservationism and what we can do to reduce pollution.

At A Cleaner World, we take our commitment to the environment seriously. For over 20 years, A Cleaner World has asked customers to return their no longer needed hangers to us. In exchange, we would purchase trees to be planted throughout our community. We also recycle our dry cleaning solution and poly bags.

There are lots of ways we all can help reduce rubbish -- especially in our homes. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Plastic Grocery Bags
  • Place them in the bottom of plant pots and hanging baskets - they act as great drainage systems
  • Scrunch them up to surround items you are shipping as an alternative to bubble wrap
  • Use them as doggie dodo bags

  • After children's drawings have been displayed for a while, use them to wrap gifts
  • Use old envelopes for scribbling down shopping lists, to-do lists, and notes
  • Give old magazines to doctor and dentist offices

Household Waste
  • Aluminum trays from pies and cakes make great drip saucers to put under potted plants
  • The following waste items can be modified and used for planting seedlings: egg cartons, plastic bottles, cherry tomato containers, plastic ice cream containers
  • Lawn clippings can be used to cover weeds to keep them from growing in the garden throughout the winter

Other Items
  • Reuse washed zip lock bags for sandwiches and snacks rather than using plastic wrap
  • Old or broken household goods such as toasters and microwaves can be used by others for parts. Sell them cheaply at a garage sale.
  • Day cares and schools often need boxes, plastic bags, old buttons, used wrapping paper, greeting cards, ribbon, and so on for art resources.
  • Old furniture, clothes, kitchen items, and bedding are always needed by organizations like The Salvation Army.

General Tips for Recycling
  • Buy a smaller trash container for the kitchen. This makes you remember to recycle.
  • Make sure bottles and cans are clean before putting them in the recycle bin.
  • Reorganize the kitchen so it has an efficient recycling area with good sized bins to help with sorting. This will encourage everyone to contribute and share in the work.
  • Put a 'no junk mail' sticker on your mailbox.
  • Get your children involved. If we educate them early, they will grow up and appreciate waste reduction and will continue these habits later in life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


We are A Cleaner World -- a family-owned dry cleaning chain of 28 locations in North Carolina and Virginia. We take pride in our commitment to quality and community. My name is Barb, and I have spent the last 14 years working for A Cleaner World in the corporate office. I've had the privilege of supervising a fabulous office staff, managing the company's finances and employee benefits, and running our community service programs like Give A Kid A Coat. I love my job and my company. So when my husband wanted to relocate our family to Tennessee (so that he could have his dream job and we could be closer to family), it took me a while to get on board. As luck would have it, my boss thinks I'm pretty great, so I now get the honor of being A Cleaner World's Social Media Manager and Blogger from the comfort of my new home near Nashville. Here's what you can expect from me and my blog:
  • I am an organized clean freak. I don't like to be dirty; my clothes and house are immaculate. I just love it when I can help someone clean up a mess and get organized. Our first order of business will be providing you with tips on storing your out of season garments. (And if you don't have room at your house, you can store them at A Cleaner World.) Hopefully my fear of dirt and clutter and desire to be crisp and clean at all times will provide you with some helpful information.
  • My love language is acts of service, so I like it when someone asks me 'what can I get my mom for Mother's Day'. I'm full of ideas, so look for that kind of stuff in the future.
  • My head is full of useless but interesting facts. I'll probably share them with you.
  • I really do love and believe in A Cleaner World. We want our posts to be helpful and fun, so please give us some feedback. And let me know if your location is doing a good job for you or if we need to make improvements. I'll be listening.
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