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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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