Many, many products, both professional and over the counter, serve as a tool to combat odor. The market is swarmed with these products as the public grows more and more scent conscience. After all, in our business odor has long been the number one complaint customers have about their clothes. Not as much these days though as we move towards more and more solvents that are “environmentally friendly” and with less of a chemical smell. I can imagine what it was like in the days of cleaning with gasoline or kerosene a hundred years ago…yikes! Of course, the trade off is less odor, but less cleaning ability. There is always a trade off.
This scent frenzy has become a multibillion-dollar industry. It is in practically everything we buy now. All of this is pleasant, but in my opinion perfumed, and a great deal of overkill in scent and a wasteful resource. The biggest problem with most scent products is that they merely cover up the nastier odor.
The drycleaning and laundry industry survives partly because of these scent perfumes. The growing demand of the fussy public dominates the market. Walking into a laundry plant in my youth and smelling the starch, soaps and pads on a hothead press that has some fabric imbedded in it is a memory that stays with me to this day. Almost every time I walk into a plant it takes me back to my youth. The sense of smell is an incredible sense in a human.
Drycleaning Does Not
When it comes to the unpleasant odors that we deal with in our plants, we are usually talking about body or animal wet side, aluminous odors that are really stains as well. It is a chore to separate the odor molecule and destroy it, removing it from the fabric permanently. Body and animal odors can be incredibly strong with skunk being about the worst, I believe. Ozone bleaching, water digesting and water bleaching is the only way to treat these hideous odors. Drycleaning will not do much and is of little use in handling clothes and household items.
Wetcleaning is the answer to your problem with odors. Particularly with household bedspreads and blankets, we are really missing the mark in our industry. It amazes me to see how many operators that still dryclean these items. Granted there will be less chance of dye color changes when drycleaning, but not always. Here is where the operator must make an educated decision about drycleaning or wetcleaning. The only way to properly clean them is through wetcleaning.
First, an effort to remove any loose stuff or caked on yuck must be dry brushed off. It may not be pleasant, but you sure do not want that stuff floating around in your soak cycle. And soaking is definitely the way to go. Over agitating does not clean like soaking does. It is the difference between mechanical cleaning and chemical cleaning. In the case of odors and stuff people get on blankets, you want to chemically remove these stains and odors. You cannot rush the process. You need a large laundry/wetcleaning area to hang these blankets to line dry before tumbling. Large washers and tumblers using the correct temperature are a must!
We Must Do Better
Than The Laundromat
One needs a good neutral penetrate in warm water. But first there should be a warm water rinse to remove loose soil and particles before soaking. Digester and/or bleach will be in order as well as a good proven odor encapsulating product. If we don’t do households the professional way, then the customer may as well take them to a laundromat. That is what they might start doing if you don’t provide a better source than simply washing the devil out of them without detail to stains and odors.
We Are Not A Laundromat
Price your work accordingly. What a disappointment to see the industry operators who will not charge extra for good wetcleaning and restoration. Because that is exactly what you have done! You have gone above and beyond conventional drycleaning and laundry by restoring this item. Factor in risk, extra chemicals and your vast knowledge. I understand we all like to do something extra for our customers and once in a blue moon that is okay. But if you do not charge for this well-earned extra work, they will keep coming back expecting extras with no extra charge. Don’t create that monster. It’s worse than getting hooked on coupons.
To recap the process for removing odors/stains:
1. Brush off any loose soils like mud or crusting; pre-spot any stains with peroxide/ammonia.
2. Do a warm water rinse before anything else.
3. Add a good neutral penetrating detergent, digester or bleach. There are seven bleaches to choose from.
4. Soak – not agitate for a minimum of one hour, and as long as necessary.
5. One warm water rinse and two cold water rinses.
6. Line dry partially and finish in a 100 – 110 degree tumbler, not a hot one!
Following these steps is crucial to doing a professional job on fabrics and households. Water is a great cleaner and responds best to water type stains and odors. However, too much agitation can beat the items to death and they look worse. This is a great money making part of our business, probably the best, and it should be handled with skill or they might as well just wash them to death at the laundromat.
I hope to see some of you at the CLEAN 13 show in New Orleans. Cleaner & Launderer magazine will have a booth there and I might likely be found there or at the DLI booth for visiting.
I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me.