Clothing Stains

Whether it’s a new or well-worn, treasured garment, everyone hates to stain their clothing. Professional cleaners will always use their best efforts to make stains go away. Sometimes it’s pretty easy – sometimes not.

Successful stain removal depends largely on the nature of the stain, the type of fabric, and the colourfastness of the dye. Some fabrics and dyes simply will not withstand the use of cleaning or stain removal agents. Some stains, like ink and dried paint for example, can be impossible to remove.

“Miracle” stain removers – guaranteed to remove stains – are pretty much just that. It would be a miracle if they did the job.

Help the Professional Cleaner to Help You

Bring a stained garment to a professional cleaner as soon as possible to prevent the stain from setting.

Show them the location of stains (see “invisible stains”) and describe any removal procedures you may have attempted before bringing the garment to them. Never put a garment away for the season without it being cleaned. Every year professional cleaners see garments that weren’t dirty “when I put it away for summer,” only to be taken out in the autumn full of little holes and stains.

The smallest unseen food crumb or spillage invites insect damage.

Don’t iron stained or soiled clothes trying to get just one more wearing out of them. Ironing dirty clothes will set stains and drive soil deeper into the fabric. Not good.

If You Must Do Something

Never rub a stain. Blot the stained area. This may help remove some of the staining substance while avoiding damage to the fabric.

“But It Wasn’t Stained When I Brought It In”

Some stains caused by beverages, food, or oily substances may not be visible after they dry. But later, with exposure to heat or simply the passage of time, a yellow or brownish stain will appear.

This is the end result of oxidation or caramelization of sugar or sweetening agents. It is the same process that makes a peeled apple turn brown after exposure to air. If the professional cleaner doesn’t know about it they can’t fix it, so it is important to let them know if you spilled something.

White Turns Yellow

This problem arises when white and pastel fabrics begin to yellow. When this happens, a little investigative work typically reveals a manufacturer defect in the optical or fluorescent whitening agent applied to the fabric. When this agent begins to break down as the result of exposure to light, atmospheric gases, or drycleaning or washing solutions, yellowing results. The problem cannot be corrected and can only be prevented by the manufacturer using stable brighteners.

Consumer-Related Sources of Discoloration

Perspiration – Body oils, antiperspirants, or perspiration left long enough on silk and wool garments will weaken the fabric. Frequently cleaning clothes heavily soiled with perspiration can lessen the likelihood of a problem.

Acids – Perspiration, deodorant, antiperspirant, even “all natural organic” products, fruit juice, or hair preparations can cause a change or loss of colour along with weakening the fabric.

Alcohol – Perfume, cologne, skin freshener, aftershave, hair spray, medicine, and adult beverages can cause permanent stains or colour loss.

Bleach – Home bleach, hair care products, disinfectant, skin lotion, acne preparations, whitening toothpaste, medicine, cleaning products, office supplies, and other such items can cause a change or loss of colour or fabric weakening depending on the dye and fabric.

Alkaline Substances – Cleaning products, toothpaste, soap, detergents, shampoo, and skin preparations can also cause problems that may not appear until the stained area has aged or the item is exposed to heat during a cleaning process.

Salt – Perspiration, beverages and food, medicine, even wintry street gutter splash can result in a change in colour on wool fabrics.

Hair Preparations – Permanent wave solution or other hair care products can result in a change in colour. This type of staining is easily recognized by the location in the neckline, shoulder, or back of a garment.

Here’s What Professional Cleaners Do

They attempt to remove stains in accordance with professional practices. However, not all stains can be removed despite their best efforts. This usually means that:

  • The stains are very old, oxidized, and set in the fabric
  • The delicacy of the fabric limits the degree of removal
  • The fabric dye is soluble – that is, they would remove the dye along with the stain

The more information you provide and the sooner you give it to the professional cleaner, the greater the chances of satisfactory stain removal.