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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When’s the Last Time You Washed Your Bed Pillows?

Our blog post in November about Cleaning after the Flu mentioned that part of my cleaning ritual after someone in our house has had the flu was to wash the pillows.  But if I’m being completely honest, that has only been a recent addition.  Up until a few years ago, it really never occurred to me to wash our pillows.  After all, I faithfully washed our sheets once a week, and I washed the blankets and mattress covers every six months.  According to Martha Stewart, you should also wash your pillows at least twice a year.  Yikes.

It’s actually not a difficult job; just check the care label and follow the directions.  If you’ve cut off your care label or there’s not one, then here’s what we suggest:

• Check for any rips or tears.  Be sure to mend those before washing.
• Machine wash in cold water.
• Wash one king size or two standard size pillows at a time in a machine without an agitator.
• Add an extra spin cycle to ensure maximum water extraction.
• Dry in the dryer on low heat with a couple of clean tennis balls.  They will help with the fluffing.  If you don’t have tennis balls, stop the dryer often to fluff the pillows.
• Make sure your pillows are completely dry before placing them in pillow cases and back on your bed.  Damp pillows could lead to mold or mildew.

One final recommendation -- if you have foam pillows, you will need to remove the cover (if possible) and wash it and then either spot clean the pillow or use the appropriate vacuum cleaner attachment to remove any dust.  Some foam pillows suggest hand washing but use caution if you go that route because wet foam can easily tear.  As always, please let us know if you have questions.  You can leave a message below or contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or G+.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Can You Wash Wool?

Do you ever have crazy thoughts like this: if a wool sweater shrinks when you wash it in your home washing machine shouldn't sheep that are out in the rain look like they're squeezed into spanx?

According to textileschools.com, wool was one of the first fibers to be spun into yarn and woven into fabric.  We all know that wool mostly comes from sheep, but it can also be harvested from alpacas, camels, and goats.  Wool is a fantastic fabric, especially in colder months.  It is breathable but still provides warmth while shielding from the winter elements.   To come up with a list of all its best qualities, I checked this fact sheet, which gave these benefits of wool:

• Wrinkle resistant
• Soil resistant
• Durable
• Repels moisture
• Flame resistant

As with any garment, those made of wool need to be handled properly or the likelihood of ruining it is great.  Wool is especially prone to shrinkage.  There are three things that can cause shrinkage – heat, moisture, and mechanical action.  Just because you remove one element – say the heat by washing it in cold water instead of warm – doesn’t mean that it won’t shrink.  With wool, too much agitation in cold water can also cause it to shrink or felt.  Felting is when the fibers draw up and become entangled and tie in knots.  If that occurs, the garment cannot be salvaged.

We always advise customers to follow a garment’s care label.  If you have a wool garment with a ‘dry clean only’ label, we would recommend that you follow those instructions.  But if you have a wool garment that can be hand washed or if you are inclined to try washing a wool garment at home, Mike Smith, our Vice President of Operations, suggests this process:

• Fill a sink or tub with cold water and a small amount of mild soap.
• Place the item in the tub or sink and gently agitate.
• Be careful not to shake or wring the garment vigorously.
• Drain and fill the sink or tub with soap free water.
• Using your hands, press the garment under the water.  You may have to do this several times to get all the soap out.
• Drain the water, and gently pat the garment to get the water out.
• Lay the garment flat with a towel underneath.  Place a towel on top of the garment as well and allow the towels to absorb the water.
• Be sure not to wring the garment – this will cause it to lose its shape.
• Lay the garment flat to dry.

Mike also emphasized three things.  First, make sure that you use as little detergent as possible.  The more you use, the more you will have to rinse and that is an agitation.  Second, never place a wool garment in a home washing machine, especially a top-load machine.  Again, there’s too much agitation.  Finally, if you are unsure as to how to handle a wool garment just bring it by one of our locations.  One of our managers will be glad to take a look at it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shrinking Cottons

Gray put on an inexpensive long-sleeve t-shirt for play, and I swear the sleeves were half way up to his elbows.  Then I looked at his waist, and it barely covered the top of his jeans.  Now he just wore it a few weeks ago, and I know he hasn’t grown that much in 14 days.  I took a look at the label – 100% cotton but there was no indication as to whether it was preshrunk or not.  I had washed it in warm water and placed it in the dryer – both of which the care label said to do.  I asked Mike Smith, our Vice President of Operations, about it, and he said that it would be considered excessive shrinkage and that the fabric was more than likely not preshrunk.

So how do you know if an item is preshrunk or not?  Sometimes the label will indicate whether the fabric has been preshrunk, but if it does then by law they are also supposed to indicate the percentage of residual shrinkage left in the garment.  I took a look at many of my cotton t-shirts and tops – most of which were of higher quality – and not one said anything about preshrinking.  That’s because, according to Mike, these days most t-shirts and cotton garments are assumed to be preshrunk.  So the answer is – you really don’t know for certain but if it is a quality garment, then the fabric has probably been preshrunk.

Well, how do you keep from shrinking a cotton t-shirt or top?  There are three elements that aid in the shrinking process – moisture, heat, and agitation.  Those three elements can cause the strips of fabric to constrict, making the weave of a garment tighter, ultimately reducing its size.  When a well-made cotton garment is washed and dried according to the care label’s directions, it will always draw in a very little bit but the amount is so small that it is never noticeable.  Then the fibers relax after you’ve worn it so it ends up back to where it was before you washed it.  Here’s the key -- that’s how it works on any well-made cotton garment.  Of course, there will always be an exception – especially in the case of a poorly constructed, inexpensive play shirt for a messy 8 year old boy. 

For more information about cotton garments, check out our Helpful Hints section.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Meet Vickie Cribb

I started working for A Cleaner World in 1996.  Before I was to start my position in the office, Chris wanted me to spend a month in the stores so that I could really learn the business.  One of the folks that taught me the ropes was Vickie Cribb.  At that time, Vickie worked at our Adams Farm location but had been originally hired a few years prior to that as a shirt presser for our Thomasville location.  Basically, she’s worked every position a dry cleaning plant has to offer – and mighty well I might add because 9 years ago she was promoted to Manager.  She now manages our A Cleaner World located on Inman Road in Greensboro.  Here are three things you should know about Vickie:

She loves Halloween.  Every year she dresses up, treats her customers, and attends parties.

She loves her work and her customers.  She knows their needs quite well.  Here’s a perfect example.  One of her long-time customers broke his back and was out of work for approximately 2 years.  He recently went back to work but has trouble getting dressed, so Vickie and her staff button his shirts so that he can slip them on over his head.  They also bag them individually, backwards, so he can see which shirt he is grabbing each morning.  It’s that little attention to detail that makes Vickie so special.

In her spare time also likes taking motorcycle rides with her husband Jimmy.

Given her 20 years in the business, Vickie has seen a lot and learned a lot.  She said that over the years, technology has evolved to not only make her job easier but to also protect the environment.  While she is quite good at what she does, she will admit that she cringes when she sees red wine stains or water spots on dry clean only garments or household items.  And the one piece of advice that she tells her customers – never ever pre-spot on your own.  Certain stain removers may not dry clean out and depending on the stain and the product used, it can even set the original stain.  As a girl known for being too much of a risk-taker on clothes at home, that’s some really sound advice.
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