Food, oily substances and beverages may become invisible when they dry but when exposed to the elements and with time, a yellow or brownish stain will appear. This is attributed to oxidation or caramelization of the sugar in the staining substance, much like how a peeled apple turns brown when exposed to air. If your garment has an “invisible stain”, point it out to your dry cleaner so that they may treat it with the appropriate method. Because the heat of drying or finishing can set these stains, they are often treated prior to cleaning. Oily substances can also oxidize, leaving a stain that is distinguished by the irregular “cross pattern” in the fibres of the fabric. These types of stains are easier to remove before they oxidize.
Stains From Perspiration and Body Oils
Not all stains are from the obvious substances. Perspiration can also leave problematic stains, particularly on silk and wool. In fact, perspiration on silk can actually cause the fibres to deteriorate, causing structural damage to the garment. Any garment repeatedly exposed to perspiration and body oils can be permanently discoloured, yellowed and/or become odoriferous. The stains may become extremely difficult to remove as they react with the fabric’s dyes or sizing. To protect garments, it is highly recommended that people who perspire heavily have their clothes cleaned more frequently. Clothing may also be protected by wearing perspiration shields.
The Responsibility of Your Dry Cleaner
According to professional practice, your professional dry cleaner is responsible for attempting to remove stains. However, despite the best of efforts, not all stains can be removed.
Some stains that are oxidized and set in the fabric may be simply impossible to remove. Due to the nature of some fabrics, cleaning may be limited to safeguard against damage. Total removal of the stain may also be prevented from certain soluble dyes that are prone to bleed, since those dyes may also be removed during the stain removal process.
What are Oxidation stains?
Oxidation stains are those yellow or brown stains found on your clothing when they’ve been stored for long periods. Over time stains, or even trace amounts of oil transferred from skin, combine with oxygen causing a chemical reaction similar to burning or rusting, which causes these colours.
Dealing With Stains
The best way to deal with a stain is to bring it into your professional dry cleaner as soon as possible (preferably in the first few days following the incident) and informing the cleaner of the care instructions and the substance causing the stain. This will improve the chances of removing the stain.
Do not put clothing away with spills or stains on it, as the warmth of a closet and exposure to the atmosphere can actually help to set a stain – which is something you definitely don’t want to do. In addition, avoid ironing stained or soiled clothes as heat can set stains and push the soil deeper into the fabric. For this reason, it’s a good habit to launder dirty clothes prior to ironing.
If you’d like to treat a stain or spot at home, test the fabric for colourfastness first. To do this, wet an unexposed area of the garment, such as an inside seam, and blot with a paper towel. Then treat the stain by blotting rather than rubbing. Blotting helps to get rid of the stain without spreading it or damaging the fabric. After you’ve treated the stain, let your dry cleaner know even if it is no longer visible.
Can these stains be removed?
A common belief is that these stains can be removed through the use of household bleach, however, we strongly recommend against this solution. Most bleach formulas remove stains through oxidization, which means in the event it fails to remove the stain it will complete the chemical reaction, setting the stain and making it impossible to remove.
The experts at Dove Cleaners have a great deal of experience in dealing with these stains, as well as access to the latest state of the art cleaning equipment and solutions. However it is important to understand that these stains are very difficult to remove.
Prevention is your best solution!
The biggest mistake you can make when storing your clothing is not cleaning it before storing it. Professionally cleaning clothing before storing will greatly reduce the chances of oxidation stains.