One can check definitions of “stain” or “dirty” and the obvious answer is anything soiled. However, DLI did an in-depth study on stains years ago to determine if age or substance would effect removal. The answer is all over the board depending on what type of stain it is, how old it is, and the great unknown: Who put what on it before they gave up? Dye and fabric material plays a role in stain removal as well. A similar search of clean may offer, “stain free” as an answer. But, in the industry we all know, every stain will not come out safely. That is my personal opinion based on experience and study. That isn’t to mean we should not try. Buy more chemicals, not sorry tags!
It has been written in DLI and NCA as well as various detergent and machinery companies that a typical well maintained drycleaning machine would remove 80% of all stains from clothes. Naturally, this drycleaning machine processing will also remove soil and render the garment “clean.” It may still be holding some stains, but with the proper amount of solvent exchanges through the clothes, usually one solvent exchange per minute; they will be clean. Fifteen minutes wash time for perc and twenty-five for alternative solvents. At a bare minimum, ten minutes (or exchanges) and fifteen for alternatives. Decent solvent flow, no overcrowding and correct detergent percentage. All of these facts will render a “clean” garment, but not necessarily a stain free garment. Now this is where the rub comes in. How many times has a customer brought back something that was still stained? Assuming that they are honest and have not worn it, then likely we missed that stain when as many as five people touched and looked at it before it was racked up. Not a good track record.
If ever there were an argument for inspecting clothes before they go to the presser, this is. It is here that I feel compelled to drift back to inspection because it is probably my pet peeve of the business. Honestly, I have not been in 20 plants across the world in 30 years that I actually saw someone inspect a garment for stains as they are hung from the wheel or to be exact, before they reached the pressers. That is an amazing admission. I know a select few couture level cleaners that do, but rarely do I see an average drycleaner inspect.
I was taught to hang clothes from the wheel and then bring them to the spotting board for careful inspection before giving to the presser. We even took the time to run each garment through the spotting board and try to raise any hidden sugar or starch stains with steam that the presser might find. Brother, when those garments went to the presser, they rarely, if ever, came back. There were never any bottlenecks in our assembly/inspection area.
“Do We Owe Them A Refund?”
Yes, I know that this sounds like over kill but it beats the heck out of orders not completing because of one or two stained items that were held back or the risk that the customer finds the stain instead of us. Given this, I cannot think of any reason a customer should bring back a stained garment from your shop. Again, we have a clean fresh garment that is ready to wear but just happens to have a stain we missed or could not get out. Was a personally signed by your spotter note put on it? Or did we just miss it? On the other hand, if the stain won’t come out, do we still owe them a free cleaning or refund? Absolutely not, unless they are a valuable customer, and not worth the argument. The garment may be stained, but it is clean!
Back to the 80% stain free garments coming out of the wheel, this motivates most cleaners into the false pretense and comfort that they need not inspect clothes before going to the pressers. To that I say, what about the other 20%? If you are a discounter you may find comfort in that at a low price there is justification for not removing the remaining 20%. A great deal of the discounters I know do everything possible to remove all stains.
“Stain Removal Specialist”
All industry studies show that out of the remaining 20% of stains, 5% will not come out because of damage to material or dye. That leaves 15% of stains that some of us are not removing because of price restraints, lack of spotting and bleaching skills, or we just pretend we care when we don’t. You know who you are. Proper stain removal requires a trained industry educated stain removal specialist, to borrow my dear friend Doris Easley’s industry phrase. I remember a wonderful article I saved from around 1987 that was written by industry icon and my personal friend Marsha Todd of Canada and Fabricare Canada fame. Marsha’s title article was “The perils of same day service.” And that article most definitely defines the likely reason cleaners still send out stains. The other reason, I suppose, is that they just didn’t care, despite what they say.
“Beware Of The Untrained CSR”
Train your counter people to be assertive not aggressive. A returned garment is an opportunity to step forward and really shine by falling all over the disgruntled customer. The only thing that is more emotional than them coming back mad is for them to leave knowing that you are so sorry. They will give us another chance if we approach them with the right attitude. It is illogical to think our counter people can take the time or hold the customer up long enough to look at every garment for stains. That’s the cleaner/spotter’s job. If time permits, a quick look over is fine with the customer, but do not think you will find all stains at the counter or the tag in stations. I laugh every time I see bags of “stained garments” by the spotting board, placed there by a CSR. Not only does that not represent all stains, but also it throws the lot sequence off. Cleaners, do your job and inspect your own clothes. Inspect them before cleaning and after cleaning. This is the proper job for only you with the proper skills.
In conclusion, remember, when they bring back a stained garment, the stain may or may not be removable but it is clean!
I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!