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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Are There Garments That Shouldn’t Be Dry Cleaned?

Several years ago, we did a blog post entitled “Smarter Than the Label”, which talked about A Cleaner World’s philosophy of knowing when to follow the care label and knowing when to use a safer, alternative cleaning method.  Recently, I ran across the photos I used in the post, and I started thinking.  I don’t know if your brain works this way, but typically one thought leads to another which leads to another, and suddenly, I am half way to the South of France.  This time, however, I managed to stay on topic, and I started wondering if there were garments that shouldn’t ever be dry cleaned.  Seems the answer is ‘yes’, and that led me to more thoughts.

How can you tell if a garment shouldn’t be dry cleaned?  
  • Check the care label, and if it says, ‘do not dry clean’ then it likely shouldn’t be dry cleaned.  But keep in mind that garment manufactures are required to provide a reasonable basis for all care instructions and warnings.  The instructions are not hard and fast rules, and sometimes following them can lead to undesired outcomes.  
  • If the garment is heavily beaded or covered with sequins, it more than likely shouldn’t be dry cleaned.  Most beads or sequins are not resistant to the dry-cleaning process or solvents and could dissolve or come apart when cleaned.  But that does not mean that A Cleaner World cannot clean the item for you; we have alternative cleaning methods.  
  • Fabrics that are made up of plastic, PVC, or polyurethane can’t hold up to the solvents used during the dry-cleaning process; again, A Cleaner World can offer an alternative cleaning method. 
What are some reasons not to dry clean a garment?  

  • If you take it to a professional and after examination, they determine that following a dry clean only label could damage the garment, then you might want to consider an alternative cleaning method.  
  • Some garments and fabrics simply respond better to professional wet cleaning.  
  • Whites usually turn out whiter and brighter when professionally wet cleaned.
What if a garment cannot be dry cleaned, but you aren’t sure you can care for it at home?  
  • Take it to a professional.  Just because you drop off your clothes at the dry cleaner, doesn’t always mean they are dry cleaned.  For instance, most men’s dress shirts are laundered and then pressed, and of course, we’ve already mentioned professional wet cleaning as an alternative cleaning method.

With almost 50 years serving folks in North Carolina and Virginia, A Cleaner World can handle any of your garment care needs.  Feel free to call or stop by any of our locations with your unique clothing care issues. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Laundering a Men’s Dress Shirt

Have you ever wondered, even when no starch is used, how a man’s dress shirt comes back from A Cleaner World smooth and taut, but not stiff?  Here’s how it all works.

When a man’s dress shirt comes in, we examine it for stains, broken buttons, check the pocket, scrub the collar, and place it in the appropriate load for the requested starch level.  Then it is laundered.

Once the cycle is completed, the load is removed and then ‘shaken out’.

Here’s the most fascinating part – the shirts are pressed while still wet.  “That’s because we place them on a stainless-steel press,” said Steve Plantone, Manager of the A Cleaner World in Hickory.  “The heat and pressure from the press causes the shirt to dry and leaves the shirt with a smooth, satin-like finish, almost like there’s starch.”  Of course, if you like your shirts to stand on their own, like my husband, purchase a 100% heavyweight cotton shirt and ask for heavy starch.  The thickness and weight of the fabric determines how much starch the shirt will hold, and heavyweight 100% cotton shirts are the only shirts that can be heavily starched.  Either way, starch or no starch, your shirts will still come out incredibly smooth.
Laundering and finishing a man’s dress shirt this way leaves you with that smooth, taut finish we mentioned earlier, without any wrinkles or puckering at the sleeves or collar area, and with rounded or barreled sleeves – which is the industry standard.

Once the shirt is pressed to perfection, it heads to the inspection area where it is checked for pressing quality, broken or missing buttons, and collar stay and collar support insertion.  If all is well, it is bagged and sent to the line to wait for pick up.


On a side note I’m sure you are wondering ‘Why aren’t women’s dress shirts done this way?’  There are two reasons really.  First, it comes down to fabric.  Most men’s dress shirts are made of cotton or a cotton/polyester blend, while women’s blouses are made of less durable fabrics like silk or often have a small percentage of spandex in them.  Putting a garment with that type of fabric on such a hot press would damage the fabric.  Second, men’s dress shirts have varied little in style for many years.  This has allowed equipment manufacturers to design and build automated shirt presses that will fit most men’s dress shirts. Operating these automated shirt presses takes a whole lot less time and labor to properly finish a man’s dress shirt.  But if a man’s dress shirt comes in with silk or another more delicate fabric, we would clean and finish it as we do most women’s blouses.

With our almost 50 years in the business, state-of-the-art equipment, and attention to detail, A Cleaner World provides not only the best quality for men’s dress shirts but for all your garment care needs.  Stop by one of our locations to see what I’m talking about.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Common Office Clothing Stains and How to Solve Them

My brother-in-law is a welder and a mighty good one at that.  His ‘uniform’ is one of a few pair of grungy pants and long sleeve shirts that he peals off as soon as he walks into the back door.  They go in their own laundry basket and are washed separately.  He doesn’t worry if the grunge comes off because they are just going to get grungy again.  On the other hand, my sister is a school teacher, and like many of us, wants to look clean and crisp.  So, unless you are a welder, you’re likely to fall into that category with the rest of us – you don’t want to show up at work looking unkempt, but you’re going to have some mishaps, and it’s important to know how to handle them.

Let’s talk about General Guidelines first:
  • Never rub at a spill, doing so will push it further into the fabric.
  • Time is of the essence.  Act quickly because the longer the spill sits on your clothes, the harder it is to remove.
Now let’s address specific Common Office Stains:

  • Marker and Ink -  These are common stains, especially when you work in some sort of office-type environment.   Our first piece of advice is to wait and address it when you get home; many times, a mark or a smudge can be treated with a grocery store spotter and laundered according to the directions.  But if it’s a leak from an uncapped pen, it’s highly possible that the stain cannot be removed.  Instead of trying something at home first, leave it alone and drop if off at any one of our locations as soon as possible.
  • Coffee – Sometimes it’s a little dribble from missing your mouth; other times, you accidentally knock over an entire mug, and it ends up covering your lap.  Whichever it is, coffee can sometimes be a difficult stain to remove because coffee with cream and sugar is a combination stain because there are three components in the mug.  You might be able to spray the stain with a good-quality pre-treater and then launder according to the care label’s directions.  If that doesn’t work, then try 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.
  • Chocolate -  The afternoon munchies always get me, and that’s usually when I head for something chocolate.  Inevitably, unless it’s M&M’s, I end up with little chocolate shards sprinkled on me somewhere.  The best way to handle chocolate mishaps is to take an item with a blunt edge to gently scrape off the excess once it’s dry.  Once you are at home, turn the garment inside out and place under running water to help remove additional pieces (that’s assuming the garment is machine washable).  Then apply a stain remover or some liquid detergent to the area, gently massage in, then let set for a few minutes.  Wash the garment according to the care label’s directions, making you sure to check to see if the chocolate has been removed before placing it in the dryer.
The list continues with things like dry erase marker, copy toner, highlighters, soda; it’s all in a day’s work.  Luckily, A Cleaner World is an expert at stain removal, so anything you are uncomfortable with or unsuccessful with addressing, we will gladly pick up where you left off.  Just be sure to point out the stain at drop off; the more we know, the more likely we can remove the stain successfully and easily.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tips for Choosing the Right Wedding Gown

I was one of those rare brides that didn’t have to try on hundreds of dresses before I found the right one; I saw the gown I wanted in a magazine.  Further, my husband worked for the magazine’s publisher, so they called the designer who sent me a sample.  We then sent her my measurements, and about a month later my gown arrived.  I was also lucky because it was a simple, sleeveless sheath dress, and we were getting married in a simple outdoor ceremony.

Sadly, not every bride falls into the perfect dress.  Sometimes it takes time to find ‘the one’, so we thought we’d offer a few tips that might help that process go a bit more smoothly.

Set your budget and stick to it.  If the overall budget for your wedding is $10,000, don’t spend $8,000 on your gown.  Figure out how much money you have to work with and then allocate the dollars realistically.

Think about your style and the venue.  In my case I knew I wanted something simple; I’m not an overly ornate or frilly kind of girl.  I also knew we were going to get married outside, so the last thing I wanted was a long train that would get grass stains on it or get stuck on the rocks on the cobblestone walkway.   

Start shopping – as early as possible.  There are so many variables here – Are you a picky shopper? Are you going to want a custom gown?  Will it be rather ornate?  We recommend at least 8 -10 months out from your wedding date.  This will take into account shopping time, if it’s a custom gown, and will allow for alterations.

Schedule appointments.  Don’t just show up at bridal salons, especially on Saturday afternoons.  Instead, call ahead, discuss your likes and dislikes in case they might want to bring in more samples, and then schedule an appointment.  Take any accessories you might want to wear on your wedding day, but avoid taking too many helpers.  Sometimes too many opinions make it difficult for the bride-to-be, but do take one or two friends, or your mom, to give you honest feedback.

Have an open mind.  Even though you might have your heart set on a certain style be open to trying on other things, especially if the salesperson recommends it.  It’s hard to get a good picture when the dress is hanging on a hanger.  Plus, it is possible to fall in love with something completely opposite of what you thought you wanted.

Have fun.  You’re preparing for your day; enjoy the attention and pampering.  When you find the right dress, you’ll know it. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Importance of Where You Store Your Clothes

There are many things that make me uniquely qualified to do this job, but I think the biggest thing is that my life (most of the time thanks to my husband) is the ultimate guide of what not to do.  Here’s the latest story.

A year ago, my husband’s company was sold, and he temporarily went to work for the new owners to help them make the transition.  After about 6 months, they no longer needed his services.  We knew this was coming and prepared for it, so Matt took some time off to tear down our old barn and to build a new one.

As he was preparing to tear down the old barn, he had to put all his stuff somewhere, so he borrowed his uncle’s horse trailer (shown in the photo just to the right of the new barn) and stored most of his things – tools he doesn’t use frequently, sports gear, hunting gear, and so on – in that trailer.  Now that he’s almost finished with the barn, he’s started unloading the trailer, and what he’s discovering is that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to store his hunting clothes in that trailer.  I know you know that horse trailers are not temperature controlled, air-tight (notice the tarp covering the openings for the horses), and critter proof.  To top it off, he put his stuff in boxes or wooden cabinets.

The interesting thing was that when I put them in the washer, they just looked dirty.  When I pulled them out of the washer, they looked like they do now.  That’s because holes due to insect damage don’t appear until after the garment has been cleaned because the fabric was likely weakened by insects, then the agitation the garment received during the cleaning process caused unbroken but weakened fibers to break.

The lesson we should learn from this?  In previous blog posts, we’ve shared that you should always store your clothes in a cool, dry, clean place; never store your clothes in a cold basement or hot attic.  We should add never store your garments in a horse trailer.  These places are not temperature controlled and are more likely to house critters and insects that like to munch on fabric that hasn’t been cleaned properly.  To learn more about how to properly store out-of-season clothes, click here.   To learn more about storing your clothes at any A Cleaner World location, click here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Thank You for Donating to Give A Kid A Coat

The 2018 Give A Kid A Coat wrapped up its 31st campaign on Saturday, February 10 after collecting and cleaning 21,188 coats for distribution.

Every year, we are just in awe at the generosity and kindness that you show.  I talked with Captain Bobby Jackson, with The Salvation Army of High Point, during this year’s campaign, and he shared with me what kind of impact Give A Kid A Coat has on those receiving coats.  He explained that many families must decide each month exactly how to designate their limited resources.  Often, they chose between paying the electric bill, buying food to eat, paying rent, or buying coats.  “Give A Kid A Coat allows them not to worry about the jacket needs of their families, so they can focus on other needs,” he shared. 

Besides providing warmth, comfort, and security for the child wearing it, a coat also provides peace of mind for the parents.  And you guys did that.  I feel like saying the words ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like enough.  Instead, we thought we’d say thank you in photo format, so you could see the impact your donations made.

It’s a team effort – starting with you, going to our hardworking staff, then to the ever-faithful folks at The Salvation Army, and ending up with a warm, happy face.  And that’s why we all love Give A Kid A Coat.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It’s About the Customer

I love hearing stories from our managers, from things like crazy stains they’ve conquered to customers that have visited their stores for years.  So, when I heard that our A Cleaner World on Brandon Avenue in Roanoke had a 25+ year customer, I had to learn more.

Heather Taylor, the manager of the Brandon Avenue location, remembers Mr. Colter visiting the location when she was just a little girl.  “Mr. Colter has always been a big jokester,” said Heather.  “One day I remember him pulling up and ordering a hamburger and a coke.  My dad had just gone to McDonald’s and carried a bag with a burger in it and a coke out to Mr. Colter.  He thought it was a scream.”

Mr. Colter continues the fun now that Heather is the manager, and he especially loves Wednesday, a day he refers to as “hump day”.  One day, roughly 5-6 years ago, he brought the staff a plastic camel in honor of “hump day”, asking that they not mention it to his wife because he stole the camel out of her Nativity set.  To this day, the staff at that store places the camel out on the counter in the lobby every Wednesday.
This is just one of the things that differentiates A Cleaner World from other dry cleaners.  You drop off your dirty clothes, and we clean and finish them for you.  And sure, we have multiple locations in North Carolina and Virginia, but at heart we are a family-owned business.  We know how you like to have your garments finished and packaged.  We know you and your kids.  We love on your dogs.  Sometimes we know when you’re going through difficult things, and we’ll do something special – just because.

So, we just wanted to say thank you; each location has its own Mr. Colter, and we enjoy serving him or her just like we enjoy serving you.  There’s something about a family-owned business where customers are treated like family, where we know what you like, and where we are always there for you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Top 5 Ways You Could Be Ruining Your Clothes

I should change the word ‘you’ in the title to the word ‘we’, because I am guilty of many of these habits too.  Sometimes it’s because I am limited on the proper storage space and other times it is out of sheer laziness.  After all, if you have 2 red tops, a pair of jeans, a bra, and a couple pair of undies, isn’t it just easier to throw them all in one load?
Here are some common things we all do wrong:
  • Not washing clothes promptly.  Items with spills and stains should be addressed immediately.  The longer the stain sits on the fabric, the more difficult it becomes to remove, and failing to act quickly could cause the stain to set into the fabric permanently.  That means that even if you can remove the stain, the fabric where the stain once was, is likely to be discolored. 
  • Not washing clothes properly.  The truth is, there are lots of rules to doing laundry properly.  Check the care label before doing anything.  Separate by both color and fabric weight.  Pull out delicate items.  We’ve actually addressed this in the past, and here are two links that go into greater detail on how to do laundry properly: How often should I wash my clothes? and  Laundry guide for college freshmen.
  • Using too much detergent or fabric softener.  Too many suds can hold dirt from clothes and get caught in areas that won’t rinse clean.  If you see suds when the wash load is complete, you’re using too much detergent.  Play with cutting the amount until all the detergent is removed from your clothes.  Using too much fabric softener can cause an oily film on fabric. The film can make clothes feel slimy and it also decreases water absorption on towels.  An alternative to fabric softener is vinegar; add ¼ cup to the rinse cycle, and your clothes will come out soft minus the slimy feel.
  • Not storing out-of-season clothes properly.  The most important thing when storing out-of-season clothes is to wash or dry clean every item before storing it away, even if you only wore it for an hour.  Unwashed clothing contains dead body cells, sweat, food particles, and so on, which are attractive to moths and other pests.  These pests will then munch on the items left behind, ultimately causing the fibers to weaken.  When you pull clothes out of storage, they may initially look fine, but once they are cleaned, the agitation and action from the washer or dry-cleaning machine will cause the fibers to weaken and eventually break.
  • Storing in-season clothes improperly.  For example, using the wrong size hanger can cause the shoulder area to become distorted.  Remember, the hanger should sit just at the end of the shoulder where it meets the sleeve seam.  To learn more, check out this blog post on choosing the proper hanger. Another way to ruin clothes is to hang garments instead of folding.  The most common items are sweaters and knit items.  The weight of the fabric pulling downward while hanging on a hanger will again create shoulder distortion.  When in doubt, fold.  
While these are easy fixes, they also require a little extra time.  If A Cleaner World can help in any way, please stop by one of our convenient locations.  We’ll be glad to talk to you about proper storage, clothing care, or even storing your out-of-season garments in our stores.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Why I Wanted to Help with Give A Kid A Coat by Courtney Westcott

A little over a year ago, I was walking in the cold attempting to get from my warm car into my warm school in as little time as possible.  All the while, I was dreading the next time I would have to face the bitter temperatures again; however, in the middle of my pursuit of warmth, my mind turned to those lacking the very thing I took for granted, my coat.  All the sudden, the gray pea coat I was wearing, which was blocking the harsh weather from my body, became a reminder of my blessings and my unique ability to change the lives of others.  I was surrounded by resources which would help me achieve my desire to provide a coat to someone that didn’t have one. 

As president of Wesleyan Christian Academy’s National Honors Society and National Beta Club, as well as being an employee at A Cleaner World, I knew I could make a difference with the help of my manager at work and the faculty at my school.  I talked to my employer, who eagerly encouraged me and provided countless support. Many of Wesleyan’s wonderful faculty agreed to help me by tirelessly announcing the Give A Kid A Coat drive and collecting coats in their rooms.  For 3 weeks, Wesleyan staff and students flooded donation boxes with coats, which I would take to my A Cleaner World colleagues to clean and distribute. Each step along the way, Lisa Walters and the staff at the A Cleaner World located at 2527 Eastchester Drive in High Point encouraged me and met me with a smile as I drove up for my shift with a car full of coats. I was so thankful to have dropped off roughly 170 coats with the help of my friends, family, fellow students, and the staff at Wesleyan.  My heart was so overjoyed for the opportunity I had in playing a small part in such a huge campaign.

When I found out that Wesleyan Christian Academy is once again hosting a coat drive in collaboration with A Cleaner World’s Give A Kid A Coat campaign, my heart leap for joy.  I am so thankful that the current students at my old school are once again working to give to those in need.  I know the Junior Class of Wesleyan Christian Academy will be blessed immeasurably more than they could ever ask or imagine as they bless others. I know I was.

It’s amazing to me how one person’s decision to act can cause a positive trickle-down effect.  Because of Courtney’s example from last year, Helena Brown and Maddie Cashion, also students at Wesleyan Christian Academy, are currently holding a coat drive to assist with the 2018 Give A Kid A Coat campaign.  Thanks ladies.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Caring for Cashmere

When I put on a cashmere sweater, I don’t instantly think ‘goat’.  But I should because there is a type of goat – the Kashmir goat – in parts of Asia, such as Mongolia, Tibet, Northern India, Iran, Afghanistan, and Southwest China, that moult each year from March to May.  In the moulting process, they develop a mixture of coarse hair and fine undercoat.  At some point, the goats are shaved, the hair is processed, dyed, and finally woven into yarn.  The most interesting thing is that one Kashmir goat produces around 4 ounces of hair each year, and as a result, it usually takes 3-4 goats to produce one average-sized 2 ply cashmere sweater.

When I put on a cashmere sweater, I typically think about how warm, soft, and luxurious it feels.  Then I look in the mirror, and I admire how beautiful it is.  And with any luxury garment, it requires special care to ensure it retains its like new feel and look for years to come.  Here are some tips to help accomplish that:
  • Wait for deodorant, lotion, perfume, and hair products to dry before putting on your sweater.       
  • Use caution with purses, jewelry, belts, and seat belts because they can abrade the fabric and cause pilling, snags, and even a hole.
  • Don’t put or let anyone put an adhesive name badge on your sweater. (Just FYI - The same holds true for suede and leather items too.)
  • To avoid distortion, don’t push up the sleeves and use care if it is a pullover sweater so that you don’t stretch the neck area.
  • The best way to store a cashmere sweater is to fold each side of the sweater inward by a third, smooth the arms down, fold in half, and either place or a shelf or in a drawer.  Never hang a cashmere sweater because the weight of the fabric and the pull of gravity will cause shoulder dimples and overall distortion. 
Finally, follow the care label when it comes to cleaning the garment.  Cashmere sweaters are delicate items, and if you have any doubts, we recommend you take it to a professional

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How to Decipher those Care Label Symbols

Before I start researching how, I often want to first know why.  For instance, why did someone decide to create symbols to put on a tag inside your clothes instead of just writing ‘machine wash cold water, tumble dry low heat until dry, immediately hang or fold’?  Here’s how the story goes: in the 1950’s, several textile conferences were held which resulted in the creation of GINETEX, the International Association for Textile Care Labeling, and they ultimately chose to use a symbol form of communication to avoid any confusion given that there are over 6,000 languages floating around the world. 

While that makes complete sense to me, I work in the garment care industry and even I don’t have all the symbols memorized.  And why should you have any of these memorized?  Unless you want to carry a chart around with you, you should know the basics to help you as you pick out new clothes, and these are the 5 you should recognize.

Each one has variances to them.  For instance, under wash there are subcategories with numbers or dots for temperature, an X for don’t machine wash, and a hand meaning hand wash.  But if you know these 5 basic symbols, you’ll be able to decipher if something is hand wash only, dry clean only, or cannot be ironed.  Sometimes the amount of care a garment needs can be a deciding factor as to whether you make the purchase or not.

More importantly, once you get a garment home, you need to know how to care for it properly, if you want to get more than just one use out of it.  This is the very reason why I have the following guide posted in my laundry room:


This guide has saved me from ruining more than one garment, and we hope you find it helpful too.  Of course, if there is ever something you are uncertain of, please feel free to stop by or call one of our locations.  Our garment care professionals are trained to understand these symbols and to provide the best care for all your wears. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Caring for Tights

I hate pantyhose; I’m certain that a man created them.  There’s something about the material that just makes my skin crawl, and perhaps it is because when I am forced to wear pantyhose, it’s usually in the summer.  I am thankful that these days we can mostly get by with wearing summer skirts and dresses with sandals or pumps and skip the pantyhose altogether.

But tights, well that’s a different story.  I love tights.  In fact, I broke my tights out when we had that little cold snap back in October.  While tights, as compared to other garments, aren’t terribly expensive (the brand I like costs about $15 a pair), the last thing you want to do is wear them 2 or 3 times only to find a run or hole in them.  Tights, with the proper care, can last a long time.  Here’s how we suggest caring for tights:
  • Never wash your tights in the washing machine, even if they say machine washable.  See the instructions below on how to hand wash tights.
  • Don’t wad them up in a ball and throw them in a drawer after you’ve taken them off.  Instead, fold them in thirds – neatly.
  • Put them on gently by sitting down, rolling up one foot at a time.  Avoid tugging and yanking.
  • Clear nail polish could get you out of a jam if you see a run starting while you are out and about.
  • Quality is important.  You don’t need to buy the most expensive pair of tights you can find but remember tights with Lycra and thicker fibers will stand the test of time better.
To hand wash your tights:
  • Fill a sink or basin with warm, soapy water.  Use a mild detergent.
  • Turn your tights inside out.
  • Place the tights in the water and gently massage them from top to bottom.
  • Drain the soapy water and rinse the tights in clear water until all the soap is removed.
  • Gently squeeze to remove most of the water, then pat dry with a towel.
  • Finally, hang them on a drying rack or even across your shower rod until they are completely dry.
  • Once completely dry, fold in thirds and place in a drawer.
Following these tips will help keep your tights looking great for the rest of the season.  If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at wildwednesday@acleanerworld.com.
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