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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.
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