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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Fireplace Safety

There is something about heating a room with a fireplace that just makes it so cozy and inviting.  My parents have a fireplace in their basement, and I love it when they have a fire – which is pretty well daily during fall and winter months.  But before the first fire of the season, my dad cleans his fireplace chimney and checks the exterior for cracks.  I inquired as to why he does it instead of having it professionally done, and he said that up until he had a stainless steel liner inserted about eight years ago, he did have it done by a certified specialist.  I worried a bit, and I questioned him.  While he is comfortable with the job that he does, he doesn’t recommend that just anyone do it.  “You need to know what you are looking for,” he said.  “Plus making sure there are no cracks in the chimney is equally as important as cleaning out the creosote.”  That’s because he knows that not properly caring for your chimney can lead to a fire.

But your chimney isn’t the only thing to be mindful of.  I recently talked to Mike Feudale, General Manager of A Cleaner World Restoration Dry Cleaning. He shared with me one particularly bad home fire where a recently-started, unattended fire popped a few embers out of the fireplace onto a rug placed too closely to the fireplace.  The result – a burned up living room and a home full of smoke and ash.  Besides the rebuilding of a portion of the home, everything had to be removed, cleaned, and deodorized.

Redcross.org reports that December and January are peak months for home fires.  They further report that the second leading cause in home fires comes from heating sources like woodstoves and fireplaces.  We just wanted to remind you, knowing that colder weather and the holiday season means fireplaces will be in peak use, to be diligent when it comes to fireplace maintenance and safety.  Remember to open the flue before starting a fire.  Make sure to use a metal screen when burning a fire.  Keep flammable items away from the fireplace.  Burn firewood only.  Clean the interior of the fireplace after each fire.  Finally, be sure that your smoke detectors are properly working.

Stay warm…..and safe.  For more information on fireplace safety, check out our Helpful Hints section.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Too Much Stuff? Consider Donating.

I vividly remember as a child laying on the family room floor with my sister in October and November looking through the Sears Wish Book.  We would nearly wear out the pages looking at all the toys as we composed our lists of toy requests for Santa.  A couple of months ago, Gray did the modern-day version of that by laying on the floor in the kitchen with my iPad looking at the Lego site and at Amazon.  He had two pieces of paper – one for birthday and one for Christmas – and he went to town on the toy requests.

Later that evening, Matt and I went up to Gray’s room after taking a look at the lists.  The kid already had too many toys.  The problem with Gray is that everything is special – even the 6 page space activity book from Chick-fil-a.  Matt started talking about building a second level onto his Lego table.

Nonsense.  There are so many kids out there that would be thrilled with just a fraction of his toys.  It was time to share.
I suspect that Gray is not alone in the too many toys department.  Tomorrow is Christmas, and we all will be getting new things.  A few months ago I adopted a policy, every time something new came in, something old had to go.  A pure 1-to-1 ratio.  So as the new stuff comes in over this holiday season, why not take a look to see what you can share?  A Cleaner World has had a long-standing relationship with The Salvation Army.  You can drop off no longer needed items – clothes, shoes, toys, even furniture – at any A Cleaner World location, and we will make sure the folks at The Salvation Army get those items.  The Salvation Army will place the items for sale in their Family Thrift Stores, and the proceeds directly fund Salvation Army programs that provide basic needs to individuals and families in need.

Writing this motivated me to share.  Below is treasure-trove of extras that we recently donated to The Salvation Army.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pressing Polyester

I am embarrassed to admit this but I have melted a hole in a sweater before.  That’s what happens when you fail to consult the care label.  If I had been smart enough to do so, I would have noticed that it said “cool iron”.  I don’t remember what the exact fabric ratios were, but I remember that there was a fairly high percentage of polyester.  Polyester is a synthetic fabric that has lots of great properties – it’s durable, easily dyed, light weight – but it is also easily damaged by excessive heat, hence the “cool iron”.  Unfortunately if you melt synthetic fibers, there’s really nothing that can be done.  My sweater ended up in Matt’s rag collection.

I recently asked David Jones, Owner of the A Cleaner World located on Lawndale Avenue in Greensboro why, with as many synthetic garments that we clean, does that not happen at our stores.  Here’s why – most home irons are electric and reach 500 degrees when set on high.  A Cleaner World uses steam irons, which are regulated by the boiler and will only reach a maximum of 285 degrees.  The temperature, along with the proper amount of steam and pressure coming from the press head and buck (the bottom of our press that looks and acts like your home ironing board and is covered in thick heat and steam conducting padding) allows for a damage-free professional finish.

You can certainly press polyester and polyester blends at home but here are a couple of suggestions from our resident expert, Mike Feudale:

• Always consult the care label first.
• Use a cool iron.
• Place either a damp pressing cloth (or you can also spritz a dry cloth with water) over the garment to create steam.
• Place the iron on the cloth instead of placing it directly on the garment.
• Avoid using the steam feature on your iron directly on the garment.  Use direct iron steam sparingly over the top of the damp press cloth.  Most fabrics need a little moisture (steam) to relax the fibers and remove wrinkles.  Allow the fabric to dry or become cool to the touch before moving.  This will set the finish, resulting in flat, smooth garments.  Once cool, move onto the next area being sure to overlap finished areas.

As always, if you have questions about caring for your polyester garments, or any garment for that matter, contact any one of our locations.  We are glad to help.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Commercial Floor Mats

I know I’ve mentioned many, many times that I have an overwhelming need to be clean.  With my family, it is incredibly difficult to keep a clean home – especially a clean kitchen floor.  During the warmer months there’s the grass clippings and garden dirt.  During the cooler months, Matt has a woodworking project going, so the mudroom, laundry room, and kitchen floors see a fair amount of sawdust.  They don’t wear shoes past those three rooms so that’s where the dirt stops, but I tend to spend most of my time in those three rooms and my bare feet can’t stand the feel of walking on dirt and grime.

In September, I shared with you what I had learned about our commercial floor mats during a visit to our A Cleaner World Commercial Services Division.  I commented at the end that I’d love to experience that 80% reduction in soil entering into my house.  Just a short time later, these lovely mats appeared at my front door.


While I cannot quantify the percentage reduction in the amount of dirt that enters my house on the floor, I can tell you that the bottom of my feet have noticed a significant difference.  I decided to ask one of our customers, Robbie Bryson with Triad Fitness Center in High Point, to see if he could help me.  Robbie said he immediately noticed a difference when he put one of our commercial floor mats at the front door.  “Before I had a cheap mat at the front door,” he explained.  “But this mat is like carpet.  It absorbs water and catches the dirt when it first comes in.  Plus it is black so when one of our members comes in with dirt on their feet, it is pretty obvious.  It has caused them to pause and many times take off their shoes.  It’s really our first line of defense and helps with keeping dirt from being tracked all over the gym.”  He went on to share how friendly and honest Derrick is, how he makes sure the gym is always stocked but never tries to oversell, and that he changes out his mat every other week.

If you are constantly dealing with dirt being tracked into your place of business, why not consider giving Scottie Springer, our Commercial Services Customer Service Manager, a call at 336-870-6299?  He will be glad to stop by to see how we can help.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Candle Safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  They also report that 56% of home candle fires occurred when some form of combustible material was too close to the candle.

Mike Feudale, General Manager of A Cleaner World Restoration Dry Cleaning has seen the kind of damage a candle fire can leave.  He’s recently tended to two candle-related home fires.  The first fire was actually outside on a deck at an apartment complex.  The candle was left on a table with a table cloth and no protective barrier.  It burned the porch and railing of that apartment as well as the deck of the apartment above it.  The second fire occurred under the same set up, but this time it was inside the home.  There was significant damage to the room where the fire started as well as ash and smoke damage throughout the house.

The holiday season is upon us.  Knowing that there will be lots of candles burning, Mike stresses the following:

• Never leave a burning candle unattended.
• Place burning candles on non-flammable, sturdy surfaces.
• Use containers that are large enough to hold the melted wax and make sure they are heat resistant.
• Keep burning candles out of the reach of children.
• Never burn a candle in a drafty area.
• Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on appropriate burn times.

Nothing says holiday festivities like a warm, scented, burning candle.  Just be sure to use care when burning candles so that you can enjoy a safe holiday season.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Avoiding Kitchen Sink Problems During the Holidays

Are there certain things you’ve done in the past that someone won’t let you forget?  Well, I have several, and one that my dad will never let me forget is the time I poured melted Crisco down the drain.  I remember doing it though I no longer recall what I was thinking at the time.  I’d ask my dad, but I know he’d take the opportunity to poke fun at me – again.  He laughs about it now, but he was very unhappy with me in the moment.

Well, here is an interesting piece of information.  According to abc.com, the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for residential plumbers.  The number one reason folks call -- kitchen sink drains and garbage disposals.  Plumbers are expensive.  Rates vary according to location, but I saw as low as $45 per hour to as much as $150 per hour.  So if you are hosting a gathering tomorrow, here are a few things to remember:

*Don’t pour grease down your drain. You’d think that would be an obvious one, but……
*Wipe greasy pots and pans with paper towel before washing to remove as much grease as possible.
*Be careful what you put down the disposal.  Stringy vegetables can’t be completely chopped up and the strings could wrap around the blades. 
*Be careful how much you put down the disposal.  A garbage disposal is great for small amounts of food, but it shouldn’t be used as a trashcan. 
*Make sure you are operating your disposal properly.  Run cold water while disposal is on.  Don’t turn off the disposal until the processing is complete.  Then let the water continue to run a bit longer to flush everything out.

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid a holiday disaster.  From all of us at A Cleaner World, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Crayon Coat

In 2011, Laura took her first piece of dry cleaning to our A Cleaner World located at 2290 Ten Ten Road in Apex.  It wasn’t just any old ordinary piece of cleaning; it was a very special coat.  To be more specific, it was her child’s favorite coat, and it was placed in the dryer with three crayons. 

Now if you don’t know, crayon is one of the hardest stains to remove because it is a combination stain that includes both wax and dye.  The coat was so badly stained that initially she looked to purchase a replacement but was unable to locate a similar coat.  That’s when she asked Tim Rolle, Manager of the Apex location, along with three other drop stores in Chapel Hill, for help.

Tim carefully worked on this valuable garment for approximately four hours.  Because of the type of stain, he had to clean it in steps addressing it from three different angles – first the wax, then the stain, and finally the dye – while still preserving the integrity of the fabric.  That crayon was no match for Tim.  I’ve mentioned in a past blog post that Tim is incredibly precise, but I haven’t mentioned that he is also incredibly knowledgeable – being one of less than 100 dry cleaners in the US that has earned the Certified Garment Care Professional designation from the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute.

Tim said that when Laura picked up the coat, “she was positively shocked.  She thought the coat was unsalvageable.”  Since then, she has trusted Tim with everything from every day regular dry cleaning to precious family heirlooms.  In a recent Yelp review, Laura wrote:  “We remain grateful for his professionalism, expertise, and the customer care he gave us as our daughter will be wearing the coat again this fall, two years on since the crayon incident.”

As the mom of a young son, I completely understand the sentimental value associated with certain garments.  We have been known to have a few garment crises in our household.  Like Laura, I am also thankful for our managers and their care and expertise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cleaning After the Flu

Ugh, the flu.  You know the symptoms – fever and chills, sore throat, cough, stuffy nose, body aches.  The real kicker about the flu -- you can be laying completely still, and still your body just hurts all over.  I hate that.  And even though the peak of flu season is still over a month away, the flu is out and about creating havoc and hurt in lots of families.

According to webmd.com, between 5 – 20% of the U. S. population will get the flu.  So what happens if an individual your house gets the flu?  Someone else is going to have to help care for them.  What if that someone is you?  How will you keep from getting the flu?

Flu.gov has some excellent suggestions while your patient is ill, such as creating a sick room and confining that person to the sick room, dedicate one bathroom to the sick person, and so on.  But the bigger thing, I believe, is afterward.  Let’s be honest, if someone is sick then we’re all super careful around them.  But as soon as the symptoms subside, we let our guard down.  Remember, those germs are still hanging around in your house.

This is what I do in addition to normal cleaning and laundry if someone has been sick in our house:

*Make sure all the tissues are properly disposed (My husband has a habit of leaving them lying around) and disinfect where they were laying.
*Thoroughly clean and disinfect the bathroom(s) 
*Wipe down surfaces – bedroom, kitchen counters, etc. – along with light switches and door knobs with disinfectant.
*Wipe off any items – like toys and phones – that they touched.
*Wash all the bed linens, including the pillows.  We never sleep with the decorative comforter.  But if someone is sick, I fold it up and place it in the closet before they even hit the bed.  Everything else is washed before anyone sleeps on it again.

So far my strategy has worked, but what about you?  What cleaning rituals do you follow when someone has been sick in your home? 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Cleaning and Storing Halloween Costumes

I love piecing together homemade Halloween costumes.  It’s something my mom did for my sister and me.  I’ve always done it for Gray, and I have to admit that I’ve come up with some pretty cute costumes over the years.

This year Gray wanted to be a police officer, so I got online and took a look at some costumes.  As I went through his toys to see what he already had that I could use, he saw a picture of a ready-to-purchase costume and went crazy.  Matt heard the ruckus and before you know it, the two of them were lobbying me to buy it – and I caved.  Did I mention that it was $50?

With prices like that, I think more than one use is in order.  But like any garment, you should never store a costume away without cleaning it first.  Here are a few suggestions to help should you decide to get multiple uses out of your kid’s Halloween costumes:

•    Always wash or dry clean before placing in storage. Insects are attracted to drink, food, and perspiration.
•    Check the care label for cleaning instructions and follow them.
•    If you have questions about the fabric, instructions, or cleaning method, bring it in to one of our locations and let us examine it.  We’ll tell you if it is something we think you can clean at home, if it requires professional cleaning, or if it is considered a disposable costume.
•    Store costumes in a temperature controlled environment – never in a cold basement or hot attic.  Extreme temperatures can cause damage.

I checked the care label on Gray’s police costume – it’s a cotton/poly blend that can be machine washed in cold, tumbled dry on low, and pressed with a warm iron.  It is in the wash as we speak, and I will follow my own advice so that it can be used next year.  For more information on caring for Halloween costumes, check out our Helpful Hints section.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meet Michael Rowe

I remember when Michael Rowe, Manager of the A Cleaner World on Robinhood Road, was hired 16 years ago.  He’d never worked for a dry cleaner before but quickly showed us that he had what it took to be a stellar manager.  Over the years he’s managed several different A Cleaner World locations, and now not only does he manage our Robinhood Road store, he also supervises another production store as well as a drop store.  He likes this new challenge because it allows him to spend time at all three locations “helping to maintain the great customer service standards of A Cleaner World.”

Here’s a great example.  Recently a customer came in to the store around 2:00 one afternoon.  He had failed to put the lid back on his ink pen before putting it in his pocket.  The shirt was covered in ink, and it was a favorite.  The customer took a spare shirt out of his backseat, changed, and left Michael the ink covered one.  Immediately Michael went to work and was able to fully restore the shirt in a couple of hours.

Ink is a difficult stain to remove, especially if garment care labels are not correct.  According to Michael, “There are a lot of garments that should not be handled the way the care label recommends.”  That’s where his 16 years of experience comes in.  Over the years he’s learned all the different processes that each fabric and print requires so that everything is handled properly and returned to a customer looking its best.  “Customers can always rely on A Cleaner World to know how to handle their garments,” he told me.

Not only does he like the production portion of his job, he also enjoys the people portion of his job.  “I like the relationships that we build with our customers,” said Michael.  “We see them frequently, and you become almost like family.  They hear about my kids, and I like to hear about theirs too.”

I was curious.  After 16 years, surely there was something about his job that he didn’t particularly enjoy.  “The 98 degree days,” he told me.  “But I’ve gotten used to it after 16 years.”  I can attest to that.  I was at his store in July.  He was crisp and polished in khaki pants and a polo shirt.  I was dressed in shorts with sweat running down my forehead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Little Treasure by Joe McDaniel

Recently, a customer brought me this flag that she found in the pocket of a WWII era Navy military coat.

The coat was in a box of miscellaneous clothing from an estate auction.  Unfortunately the coat itself was not restorable because of moisture damage and mold rot.  But inside the pocket of the coat was this little treasure.  Initially I was reluctant to work on it because of its age.  I was sure the stains were permanent, but the customer insisted that I at least try.

I took the flag home because I wanted to be able to work on it without interruption.  I used a very diluted form of Hydrofluoric acid, ammonia bilfuoride (rustgo), and sodium perborate to remove the brown stains from the backside of the fabric.  Once those stains were gone, I hand rinsed the entire flag with a neutral soap and then let it line dry overnight.  The next morning I took it with me to the store and did one more hand wash and then used forced air to gently but quickly dry it to prevent leaving water stains.

The result was even better than I anticipated.  After 75 years, it is ready to proudly hang again.

The customer was so pleased with the results.  She plans on having it framed and giving it to the local VFW.  I too am pleased with the results and even more pleased that I got to be a part of restoring this treasure.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Smarter Than the Label

Recently, Alan Peatross gave me a lesson on the differences between pressing khakis at home versus at A Cleaner World.  Somewhere in the conversation he said to me – “we have to be smarter than the label.”  Of all my years working at A Cleaner World, I’d never heard anyone use that phrase.  I was intrigued.  Who coined that phrase?  Where did it come from?  Enter Mike Smith.

When Mike, our Vice President of Operations, started in the dry cleaning business some 25 years ago, 95% of the garments that came through our doors were dry clean only.  Period.  But over the years, fashion and fabrics have changed.  And while garment manufacturers and importers must provide a ‘reasonable basis for all care instructions and warnings’, we’ve found over the years that cleaning only by the label’s instructions can result in undesired outcomes.

Case in point –

A customer brought in a black and beige outfit.

The label said dry clean only.


But when the manager closely examined the garment, he found that a portion of the garment was made of polyurethane.  He immediately knew not to dry clean the garment.  If he had followed the manufacturer’s instructions, the polyurethane portion of the garment would have become brittle and would have cracked and broken into pieces like hard candy.
“The tag isn’t exactly accurate,” said Mike.  “Dry clean only means dry clean in any solvent.  What it should have said is dry clean only in petroleum-based solvents.  If it cannot be cleaned in any solvent then the tag is supposed to reflect that.”  When dry cleaning isn’t an acceptable method of cleaning, our alternative method is professional wet cleaning.  Cleaning clothes these days is so much more technical, but because Mike and our staff believe in “we have to be smarter than the label”, this outfit, along with countless others every single day, was cleaned successfully and returned to a satisfied customer.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Give A Kid A Coat

For 28 years, we’ve partnered with The Salvation Army to help provide coats to folks in need.  Why do we do it?  Because it is a great way for us to help.  Because we’re parents too.  Because we understand the desire to send your child off to school in a warm coat.  Because a coat is so much more than just something you put on.

Yet for so many folks, a new winter coat just simply isn’t something they can afford.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 'Health experts report that even a 2-degree drop in body temperature results in reduced heart rate, loss of coordination, and confusion. Adults cannot work effectively and children find it difficult to learn. For most, a warm coat solves the problem. But, for the now nearly 15% of Americans living in poverty, a warm winter coat is a budget “extra".'

So this is where you come in.  The Give A Kid A Coat, a program we started 28 years ago, is designed to be a simple way to help those in our community.  You know those coats your kids outgrew?  Just drop them off starting this Friday through November 15 at any A Cleaner World.  We’ll take it from there.  We will clean them, do minor repairs, and send them to The Salvation Army where they will then pass them on to someone in need.  It’s seriously that simple.  Think about how this one little thing can greatly impact a child’s life.  And think about this – because of your generosity over the last 28 years, 788,000 coats have found their way to both adults and children in our area.  That’s what it’s all about.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Caring For Your Winter Coat

Be completely honest – did you clean your coat when winter was over last year?  I must confess that I did not.  I know better.  A winter coat isn’t any old disposable garment.  It’s an item that should last several seasons, if treated properly.  And that’s the key – take good care of your winter coat, and it will take good care of you for a long time.

Here are a few suggestions on how to treat your winter coat – properly:

*If you didn’t clean it at the end of last season, get it cleaned now.
*Wear a scarf with your coat.  This will help keep makeup and soil from settling around the collar area.  This is especially a good idea if your coat is suede or leather.
*Never hang your coat on a hook. 

I made the mistake of hanging my leather jacket from the above hook and now it has a big hump in the back.  Instead use a good-quality hanger to help preserve the shape.

*If you have a wool coat, gently brush after each wearing to remove any surface dirt.
*If your coat is wool and is labeled dry clean only, we recommend that you clean it twice a year – once at the beginning of the season and again at the end of the season. 
*Never store your winter coat in our plastic poly bags.  These bags are designed for short term use only.  If you’d like to keep dust from settling on your coat, use a cloth garment bag or ask us for one of our dust covers. 
*Always have your coat cleaned before putting it away for the season.
*Never put your coat away damp or wet.  This could lead to mildewing issues.

So does your winter coat need some attention?  Drop it off at one of our stores.  We are glad to help.  For more tips on caring for your winter coat, check out our helpful hints section.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Check Your Smoke Detectors

Just last week, Gray and I heard a beeping sound from upstairs.  Gray told Matt, who replaced the batteries in the smoke detector a day or two later.  The truth is, that’s the only time we change the batteries.  But according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, smoke detectors should be checked at least once a month and batteries should be changed at least twice a year.

With next month being National Fire Prevention Month, I thought it would be a good time to remind us all (me included) on how importance this is.  After all, according to the Red Cross, a working smoke alarm almost cuts in half the likelihood of dying in a fire.

Allstate.com also suggests testing your smoke detectors at least once a month and recommends following these steps for testing:

• Be sure to inform family members that you will be conducting a test.
• Station a family member in the house at the furthest point away from the detector.  I would also suggest that you shut any doors if applicable.
• Follow the manufacturer’s directions on testing the alarm.  If the sound is weak or if it has been six months since the batteries have been replaced, go ahead and replace the batteries.
• Test the detector with real smoke as well.  Light a candle and then blow it out underneath the detector.  If the alarm doesn’t sound, replace the batteries and test again.

The maintenance doesn’t end there.  The Environmental Protection Agency also recommends that smoke detectors be replaced every ten years or sooner if the manufacturer’s instructions indicate a shorter life span.

All this sounds to be a tedious little task – just one more thing to add to your ‘to do’ list.  But the National Fire Protection Association reports that almost 60% of reported home fire deaths from 2007 – 2011 resulted from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.  They also said that when a smoke alarm doesn’t operate, it is usually because the batteries are missing, disconnected, or dead.  Those facts make this tedious little task seem not so trivial now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Men’s Dress Shirts

My husband likes his dress shirts to be stiff – so stiff that they can stand in the corner on their own.  In a pinch, I’ll have to iron one at home.  He’s not crazy when that happens because I can’t seem to get them remotely close to what he likes.  But recently, after dropping off some shirts at A Cleaner World, he commented that they weren’t stiff enough.  I inquired and learned something new.

Matt has taken to buying a 70% cotton and 30% polyester blend for his dress shirts.  I asked him why he’s settled on this shirt as of late.  He’s sure there is a reason, but he can’t remember.  After talking to Mike Smith, our Vice President of Operations, I learned that the fabric blend was the reason the shirt wasn’t getting stiff enough for Matt’s taste.  I like having things boiled down to the bottom line, so here’s the takeaway from my lesson:

• The starch we use is based on a vegetable byproduct that is dried then mixed with water.
• The thickness and weight of fabric determines how much starch the shirt will hold.
• Heavyweight 100% cotton shirts are the only shirts that can be heavily starched.
• Oxford weaves will allow for heavier starching than finer pinpoints.
• Polyester, a man-made synthetic fiber, will not absorb or hold starch the way 100% cotton will.  Starch cannot bind with polyester fibers so you will never get a stiff shirt.
• Even if the shirt is a blend, it won’t hold the starch like a 100% cotton dress shirt will.

We will finish your shirts however you’d like but keep in mind that what the shirt is made of determines the final outcome.  If you have questions or concerns about your laundered dress shirts, just connect with us below or stop by one of our locations.  We are here to help.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Removing Mildew Smell From Clothes

My husband is so thoughtful.  He came up with another blog post for me – by leaving a load of towels in the washing machine for a week.  I walked into the laundry room after being gone and saw that the washing machine door was closed, and I knew what I was in for.  I opened the door and that funky mildew smell smacked me right in the face.  I examined them.  There was no evidence of mold.  But just because I couldn’t see it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there -- especially if the fabric is dark.

I suspect that I’m not the only person that’s had to deal with this.  So what do you do if this happens in your household?  Just rewashing won’t do the trick.  Once the item gets wet again, the smell will return.  Below are three tips from our resident expert, Mike Feudale.

• If it happens to be white undergarments, rewash in chlorine bleach using the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.  You can also put 3% hydrogen peroxide on the area, wipe it clean, and rewash.  Either way, dry the items outside in the sunlight. Fresh air and direct sunlight eliminate mildew.
• If they are color clothes or towels, try adding a small box of baking soda to the wash.  Be sure to hang outside in the sunlight to dry as well.  To avoid the possibility of fading, turn the items inside out.  Obviously if they are towels, there’s no turning inside out.  But the fading will be minimal.
• If it is a delicate or special item bring it to A Cleaner World, even if it is white.  Sometimes chlorine bleach can damage the optical brightness of white causing yellowing.

We hope these tips prove helpful should you have a mildew load.  But if it happens and you need help, feel free to call one of our locations or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or G+.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Types of Commercial Floor Mats

On a recent visit to our Commercial & Uniform Services Division, I got a glimpse of some really cool supplies.  I was particularly fascinated with our huge assortment of floor mats – all the colors, sizes, and varieties.  I had lots of questions, so Mike Feudale, Manager of both A Cleaner World Fire, Smoke, and Water Restoration Services and A Cleaner World’s Commercial and Uniform Division, gave me a lesson.

Logo Mats -- First impressions are so important.  That’s why Oliver Diesel & Auto Repair choses to place this logo mat inside their front door.

But this mat isn’t just for looks.  It serves a much higher purpose.  Did you know that according to nsc.org (National Safety Council), falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the US, accounting for 8.9 million visits to the emergency room?  And the Healthy Facilities Institute shares on their website that 85% of all soil enters a building on the feet of building occupants.  This mat does so much more than display Oliver’s logo or match their d├ęcor.  It protects both the building and those that enter it.  These logo mats are made of incredibly durable nylon – solution dyed so they won’t fade, heat set into rubber so they won’t crack, and have a crush resistant pile so they won’t look worn – and can capture 80% of the dust and dirt that enters through the front door.  They also work well in inclement weather by holding several gallons of water.  Further, they are slip-resistant so they can help prevent slips and falls.

Raised Scraper Mats -- While our logo mats work well on their own, our customers like to pair them up with this raised scraper mat.

It is designed to be placed right outside the front door so that folks can scrape and remove dirt, debris and snow from the bottoms of their shoes.  “Scraper mats are a great barrier to keep dirt from going through the front door in the first place, removing up to 50% of the soil on the soles of those that enter,” explained Mike.  “Just think how tidy a business could stay by utilizing both these mats.”  But here’s one really cool feature about this mat – it can be flipped over and used at any employee work station as an anti-fatigue mat to create a more comfortable work environment.  I should also add that they are made of 100% rubber so they are very durable and have beveled edges so there will be no tripping.

Wet Area Mats – These mats are perfect for restaurant kitchens or behind bars because water goes right through the circle holes and stays trapped.  Then at the end of business hours, remove the mats, clean the floor, and place them back down for the next business day.  These mats also have anti-fatigue properties, but more importantly they help prevent slips and falls.  And they too are made of 100% rubber and have beveled edges.
I couldn’t believe how much I learned about mats in a quick 20-minute lesson.  And I have to admit that I was a bit jealous.  I’d love to figure out how to get my hands on some for use at my own home.  If only I could keep my family from tracking so much dirt in……  But if you have a business in the Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem area and a need, just call Scottie Springer at 336-870-6299.  He will be glad to stop by and help you figure out exactly what you need – even if it is only for certain times of the year – and how to make it fit your budget. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tips When Trying On Clothes

Last year I was shopping with my mother-in-law, Pat, when I saw it – the perfect little dress.  It was more than a casual dress but not quite a cocktail dress – knee length, sleeveless, scoop-neck, in black and white when a little pop of red here and there.  I tried on an 8.  It was too big!  So I tried on a 6.  It fit.  Good heavens – it was the cutest dress AND I could have it in a size 6.  It was my lucky day.  And of course, Pat encouraged me to get it.

Except I didn’t exactly think it through.  I didn’t sit down in the dress so I didn’t realize that it would ride up allowing the folks to see down the front.  I also didn’t think – where in the world would I wear this dress?  A year later that dress is in my closet, with the tags still on it.

According to fits.me, clothing returns average 25%.  There is a Facebook page called “You have a closet full of clothes but never wear any of it”.  An article on ivillage.com had these statistics:

• Ladies own $550 worth of fashion items that have never been worn
• Most women say 20% or more of their closets are full of never-worn items

How can we change these statistics?  I think there are two key fit tests to consider when shopping for clothes:

1. The fit on your body.  How does the garment look on you?  Walk out of the dressing room and take a look at it in one of those three way mirrors.  Try and get a glimpse of the backside.  Take a look at it in different lights.  Make sure the color looks good with your complexion.  Make sure it compliments your shape.  How does it feel?  Can you breathe in it?  Sit down.  Bend over.  Stretch.  Carefully and honestly evaluate its comfort.  If it is as cute as can be but is incredibly uncomfortable, what are the odds that you will regularly wear it?

2. The fit in your wardrobe and life.  If it something like a blouse, sweater, or skirt do you have something to wear with it?  Will it require new shoes?  Do you already have something similar and if so does it need to be replaced?  Do you really need another one?  Do you have a place to wear it?  (Case in point, Anne Taylor dress above).  Finally, check the care label.  If it requires hand-washing – are you willing to follow those instructions?
I’d like to say that I’m good at following my own advice when it comes to clothing.  I find that I think I need more than I actually do.  And if I’d carefully evaluate my purchases, I’d have far fewer long-term pieces with the tags still on.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Meet Bryan Cabler

I find myself sometimes being surprised by folks.  Not in a bad way.  It’s just that when you work with someone, and that someone is at a different location than you so most of your interaction is business related and telephone based, you really don’t get to know them that well.  As I interviewed Bryan Cabler, Manager of the A Cleaner World at Golden Gate in Greensboro, for this blog and got to know him a bit better, I found that we like lots of the same things.  So normally when I profile a manager, I paraphrase the answers to my questions and try to tell their story.  But Bryan tells his own story way better than I would.  Here are a few questions I recently asked him:

How long have you been in the business and how long with A Cleaner World?

This year is my fourteenth in the dry cleaning business. I worked for Chapel Hill-based Carolina Cleaners for several years prior to that company being acquired by A Cleaner World in 2008-- my official first day with ACW was coincidentally my birthday also, July 12.

How did you get started and what keeps you going?

When I first got into this industry, it was as a counter clerk. I'd had a long history at that point in counter sales; I'd worked for businesses my family owned and always loved being around a business environment as a kid growing up in Alabama. When I moved to North Carolina, one of the first job openings I saw advertised was a CSR position for a dry cleaning store, and I felt at home right away because the focus of that job was simply knowing the customers, giving prompt service, and being organized-- all of which were things I'd been doing as long as I could remember.

Tell us a bit about yourself - family, likes, and hobbies.

My wife, Wendy, and I recently celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary. She's a first-grade teacher who loves nothing more than hanging out with a roomful of rowdy six-year-olds. We have an English springer spaniel, Abbey, as well as whichever creatures Wendy brings home from her classroom for holidays and summer break-- those have included everything from lizards to fish to a Praying Mantis, Monty, who I admit was fascinating to have around. We like to play chess, search for the mythical perfect restaurant, and endlessly discuss American history. I also play guitar and read a lot, and tend to my collection of MP3s, which runs to around 30,000 songs (including almost every popular recording of my favorite decade, the 1960's, although I wasn't born until 1974).

Given how long you've been in the business, I'm guessing you have a number of instances.  But can you share a couple occasions when you went above and beyond for a customer and really blew them away?

It's always nice when you can completely exceed a customer's expectations. I've had cases where someone needed something cleaned and pressed inside an hour, and, 'oh, by the way, there's a huge food stain on the front', and been able to deliver, which requires a lot of things to go exactly right. I also have a good memory for names and faces, so I pretty quickly learn who new customers are. There are times when I can tell by the way a customer pulls into the parking lot that he or she is in a huge hurry, and we'll have an 'all hands on deck' moment: by the time the customer is in the lobby, we've got his clothes hanging at the counter, his order pulled up on the computer, and he's on his way in record time.

What do you like most about what you do?

I really enjoy both people and details, so I'm really in the perfect business. I supervise eight or nine great employees, some of whom have worked in this very building for nearly twenty years and some of whom are college students. I'd say I have a minimum of fifty interactions with individual customers each day-- often more-- and I enjoy each one of those. Managing a dry cleaning shop is the ultimate multi-tasking experience: in the space of five minutes, I might start a load of dry cleaning, wait on a drive-thru customer, touch up a shirt collar, answer a series of detailed questions about wedding gown preservation on the phone, and settle a dispute over what we're going to order for lunch.

What tips and advice can you provide to customers so that their garments always look their best?

My biggest tip is to handle your garments with care; a lot of garments I see show signs of being handled carelessly by their owners. Some men have a habit of yanking dress shirts over their head, undoing the minimum number of buttons to get out of the thing, and causing unnecessary damage. It’s important to unbutton those cuffs before you pull your hand out. Also, putting a jumbled handful of hangers into your express bag with silk blouses is mighty risky. I'm thrilled when people recycle our packaging materials, but please let us give you a free hanger caddy to put them in.

I’m so glad I got the chance to interview Bryan.  I already knew that he was detail-oriented and that he could remove a wide variety of stains from my child’s clothing.  Now I am excited to also know that he too loves 1960’s music, American history, and is a foodie!  Most important for you, you can see that he knows what he’s doing, he likes what he’s doing, and he wants you to leave his store happy.

To visit Bryan or any one of our other great managers, here’s a link so you can find the A Cleaner World closest to you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can Club Soda Remove Stains?

I am not a dry cleaning expert. I typically come up with way more problems than solutions. When I have a new garment related crisis, I either just send it to A Cleaner World or I call an expert like Mike Taylor, Mike Feudale, or Mike Smith. (Side note – we have a lot of Mikes at our company.) But I can be taught, and I’ve always understood that when you spill something on a garment, you should blot it with a clean, white towel and then leave it alone. Using something like club soda to remove the stain could actually make it worse especially if it is a dry clean only silk multi-color garment (think color bleeding). But recently I got an e-mail bulletin from the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) that said they had done an in-depth study of the merits of using club soda versus plain water in stain removal, and that yes club soda can be a big help in the short-term, but no it is not the be all, end all to stain removal. The article went on to say that when applied immediately to 10 commonplace food stains, both club soda and water removed anywhere from some to most of the stain.
There are some caveats:
  • Neither water nor club soda will completely remove the stains. An analysis under ultra violet light showed that at least a portion of every stain remained after the club soda or water was used.
  • If left untreated, the remaining stain residues can become permanent stains over time.
  • The sugar residue from the club soda in the beginning is unseen but it can caramelize during the drying process and leave a yellowish stain.
  • When it comes time to remove the stain, the chances are greatly increased if club soda or water is used to rinse the stain before it dries.
  • If you happen to try using club soda on a stain, then take it to a professional cleaner as soon as possible after doing so. Be sure to point out both the original stain and the club soda when dropping off the garment. If this is not done as soon as possible, the invisible residue can oxidize over time and leave permanent discoloration which on some fabrics cannot be removed.
  • There are also some stains that club soda makes worse. If water or club soda is used to remove a water and solvent combination stain, like ballpoint ink, it can actually set the stain permanently.
I was surprised. I called my trusted expert with over 30 years dry cleaning experience, and he said this, “I would never encourage anyone to do their own spotting unless it is an extreme circumstance and you need to do it to save the night. But if you do, be sure to have the garment cleaned as soon as possible or caramelized sugar stains are sure to set in.” He always gives good advice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

True Hanger Recycling

For many years, A Cleaner World has tried to do its part to reduce its carbon footprint.  A few months ago, we shared with you how our poly bag recycling program works.  In an article in The Business Journal, the President of A Cleaner World, Chris Edwards, shared how we continuously purify and recycle our solvent so that no perc is released into the environment.  For nearly 25 years, A Cleaner World has asked customers to return their no longer needed hangers to us. 

But what about the hangers that could not be reused?  Unfortunately, they were thrown away.  There was no other option available, and that was something that always bothered us.  It also bothered one of our suppliers, N. S. Farrington. 
I was curious how their new hanger recycle program got started, so I went to their facility in Winston-Salem and met with co-owner John Erskine.  According to John, for years dry cleaners had been trying to do their part to reduce waste and to be more environmentally friendly.  Many eco-friendly products were introduced, but few performed at an adequate level.  Customers were disappointed with the quality of the products.  But somewhere along the way the folks at Farrington recognized that packaging supplies would always need to be used.  That’s when they began to focus on ramping up their recycling efforts. 

Fast forward to today.  They developed a simple program, and we are very excited to be a part of it.  Here’s how it works:
  • N. S. Farrington supplies us with a recycling bin to place unusable wire hangers in

  • They pick up the bins once full and then will leave an empty replacement bin at no charge when making their regular delivery

  • They take the full bins to licensed metal recyclers
  • The recyclers melt down the hangers into raw carbon steel in the form of bar stock and piping and resell it to places like construction companies, small machine shops, and so on for use as raw material in their operations
Here’s the coolest part – this program is recycling almost 17 tons of hangers per year, and according to John, “At these levels, A Cleaner World and other participating companies are keeping roughly 5000 cubic feet of waste out of landfills each year.”  Nice!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leave These Stains to the Experts

I never like for a stain to get the best of me.  If you read back through past blog posts, you will find a number of instances where I ruined a garment over pride.  But I decided I needed some basic guidelines to follow – to know when I should take a stab at a stain and when I should just leave it to the experts.  So I called one of my favorite experts, Mike Taylor. 

I’m a list sort of person so I asked him if he could give me the top three stains to never tackle at home.  I just figured with the list of stains – protein, oil, water-based, and dye – that he could put it in a neat little package for me.  Three pages of notes later, I came to the conclusion that I should leave these stains (along with marker) to A Cleaner World:
  1. Yellow Mustard – The traditional yellow mustard that everyone uses on hot dogs is an incredibly difficult stain to remove.  The mixture of mustard seed, coloring from turmeric, and liquid make it combination stain.  Taking a shot at it at home will likely remove the dried on portion but the discoloration from the coloring will remain. 
  2. Any Kind of Oil or Grease – Grocery store pre-treaters typically cannot break down oil-based stains.  The solvent dry cleaners use is a degreaser.  From a stick of butter to Vaseline to motor oil, this type of stain is one that A Cleaner World can get out. 
  3. Lipstick – Lipstick is an oil-based product which makes it difficult to remove from clothes if laundering at home.  But since it is an oil-based product, the solvent used by most dry cleaners can usually break it down and remove it from the garment.  
I went over my conclusions with Mike.  He agreed, and he added a qualifier – if you plan to take a garment to the dry cleaners, then don’t mess with the stain.  Just wipe off the excess with a white cloth and then leave it alone.  Spraying it with hairspray because your neighbor suggested it or pouring club soda on it because your mom told you to only makes it harder to remove.  That’s one thing he doesn’t have to tell me twice.  I’ve ruined too many garments thinking I was the expert when in fact, we all know that I’m not. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Home Ironing Versus Professional Finishing

Have you ever been in a pinch where you had to wash and press a pair of khakis?  That happened to me recently, and here’s how they turned out:


So how is it that A Cleaner World can get them crisp looking and mine look like that?  I had to know.  Lisa Walters, Manager of the A Cleaner World on West Wendover, and Alan Peatross, District Manager, were kind enough to spend a few minutes showing me how.

First they placed my pants on a pant topper.  This piece of equipment formed the waist and seat and is particularly important if the pants are pleated.  The pads on the top come down and help set the pleats in place.

Then they were placed on the utility legger so the legs could be properly pressed.

Here are the key differences between pressing at home versus having A Cleaner World finish your khakis.  First, we spray a combination of sizing and water before pressing the legs.  This conditions the pants and helps them press better, giving that crisp look that I like so much.  Second, A Cleaner World’s equipment is calibrated with the appropriate amount of steam and pressure coming both from the press head itself as well as coming up through the pad on the bottom.  As I watched and asked questions, I couldn’t help but notice how expertly and comfortably Pam moved the pants around, ironing out all the wrinkles I put into them.  Then I commented to Alan on how I struggle with the process.
“Think about your home iron,” Alan said to me.  “Home irons provide a little steam on the top of the garment only plus you are trying to iron on an unstable board and thin pad.  You just can’t get the combination of conditioning, steam, and pressure at home.”
In the end, it’s not completely me.  To get that crisp look, professional equipment and the proper expertise are required.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Know Your Stains

I typically go through a bottle of Shout Advanced stain remover in a little over a week.  I’m sure you have your favorite grocery store stain remover brand as well.  But have you ever wondered why it works on some stains and not others?  I posed that question to Steve Plantone, Manager of our A CleanerWorld in Hickory.  Here’s the short answer -- not all stains are the same.

First, Steve broke stains down into categories for me – protein, from things like eggs, dairy, blood, glue; oil, such as olive oil, butter, suntan lotion, makeup; water-based, the likes of soda, wine, tea, coffee; and dye, which includes things like mustard, grass, ink.  But then it got complicated when we got into combination stains – think coffee with cream and sugar or even crayons which include dye and wax.
Before I move forward, I feel like I should pause here and just say that the amount of knowledge that Steve has in his head is simply amazing.  I asked so many questions and tried to take good notes, but things got jumbled after a while.  So I decided to boil it down to what I thought I could tackle at home and what I knew I should simply take to a professional.
  • Water-based stains are fairly simple to remove.  For many, spraying with a good-quality pre-treater and laundering according to the care label will do the trick.  Others may just require 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.
  • Then there are the others.  Oil-based stains are almost impossible to get out at home.  Grocery store pre-treaters won’t break down the stain.  Steve knows of non-traditional items that could possibly break down oil-based stains but he warned that they can also cause the garment’s color to break down as well.  The good news is that the solvent that dry cleaners use can break down oil-based stains lickity split.  Dye and combination stains are equally difficult to remove at home.  They require multiple steps for stain removal.
The experts at the National Cleaners Association say that there is no one size fits all stain remover.  The risk of setting a stain by using the wrong product or approach outweighs the benefits.  Know your stains, and know your limits.  If you are concerned about the outcome, bring it to us.  We’ll take it from there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why Do Whites Become Dingy?

My love of the white t-shirt continues on.  I have a closet full, and I rarely pass up the chance to purchase more.  I like the bright, crisp look of a new white shirt.  But unfortunately, that bright, crisp look fades over time.  Why is that?  Well, we’ve talked about a few reasons in the past.  But since summer is here and that all-important white t-shirt will be front and center in most of our wardrobes, I think it’s time we revisit the do’s and don’ts for whites.
It is important to remember that white is not a color.  White fabrics are bleached during manufacture and then treated with optical brightness.  Those treatments create the illusion of whiteness by enhancing the fabric’s absorption of light.  If the manufacturer treated the fabric with an unstable brightener, the brighteners will breakdown when exposed to light or heat as well as after it is cleaned.  The only thing that can be done here is to return the garment to the retailer.

Here are some things we can do to keep our whites looking bright:

  • Be mindful of what you get on your clothes.  If you let a stain on a white item set or allow the item to get incredibly dirty, it may be difficult to restore it to its original state.  Always treat stains immediately and follow the manufacturer’s care label when laundering.  Avoid using chlorine bleach because it can break down the optical brightener causing things to turn yellow or brown.
  • Store your white items separate from dark items.  When light garments are stored closely to dark garments, sublimation of dyes occurs.  This is when nitrogen gas causes dark dyes to redeposit on lighter garments, creating stains and discoloring.
  • Always take the plastic off your white garments before storing them.  Plastic bags trap humidity and gases around clothes causing them to yellow.
  • Consider using deodorant instead of antiperspirant.  Antiperspirant contains aluminum chlorohydrate which tends to clump in cotton and damage the fibers.  It never completely washes out and will build up over time causing discoloration.
Whites are great items to have in your wardrobe and should be purchased and enjoyed.  The key to enjoying them long-term is proper care.  If you need help with a white garment, leave us a message below or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and G+.  We are happy to help.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

How To Properly Fold An American Flag

I’ve known retired U. S. Army SFC Pam Minnehan for almost two years.  She’s someone I admire.  Here’s why -- she spent 20 years in the Army serving our country in the Military Police and did three tours – Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Homeland Security after 9/11.  During one of our conversations, I learned that her biggest pet peeve, out of all the things in the world, is when someone displays the American Flag incorrectly.  I worried a bit.  We have an American Flag.  Was I displaying it properly?  Was I storing it properly?  So I asked, and I learned a lot.  Here are just a few guidelines on displaying the American Flag:
  • It is typically displayed from sunrise to sunset unless it is illuminated.
  • It should be raised briskly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • It should not be flown in inclement weather.
  • Here’s a big one to Pam: When displayed against a wall or window, the blue field should be uppermost and to the left of the observer.  That is why she held the flag backwards when I took this picture:

But what I was really interested in was how to fold it and put it away.  She gave me a lesson.  Here’s an abbreviated version of what I learned.

First straighten it out to full length and fold it lengthwise one time.

Fold it again lengthwise to meet the open edge.  Make sure that the union of the stars on the blue field remains outward in full view. 

Then start making triangular folds by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.

Continue folding toward the blue union until the end is reached with only the blue showing. 

She had all sorts of wonderful facts in her head and shared them as she folded.  Did you know that each fold has a symbol?  The colors also have meaning.  The white signifies purity and innocence.  The red signifies hardiness and valor.  The blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.  I asked Pam what the flag signifies to her.  She said, “Honor. Freedom. Sacrifice. Love of country.”  Well put.  I will remember those words when I put our freshly cleaned flag out this Friday and celebrate that freedom I enjoy thanks to folks like her. 

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!
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