Techniques Used For Stain Removal And Cleaning.


Shrinkage occurs in many different forms from the fibers contracting in size to the hairs curling giving the appearance of a shrunken size. Then there is the little tricks manufactures play to extend the amount of material by artificially stretching it before they process, finish and cut the material. When this material is cleaned for the first couple times, the moisture, agitation and heat will cause it to convert back to its original size. When properly woven, finished and made, washable textile should not shrink more than three percent of its original size when washed and all fibers less than one percent when dry cleaned.

The three key factors to reducing shrinkage are Moisture, Agitation and Heat. Eliminating one or more of these factors will greatly reduce the amount of shrinkage.

Moisture – As we all know moisture is water. It’s everywhere! If you clean with a solvent like traditional dry cleaning there is no moisture in the solvent but there is moisture in the air and retained in the garment itself. With green dry cleaning and washing at home there is no way to remove the moisture since you are putting it into water. This part of the equation you cannot control.

Agitation – The movement of the fabric or garment with violence or sudden force in the machine creates the agitation. That’s both machines the washer and the dryer. How violent depends on the setting you select, Whitest whites have the longest cycle with the most agitation, then comes heavy – dirty, normal, gentle – delicate, with hand washables being the gentlest. The tumbling in the dryer also creates agitation. Front load washers are better than top load washers, but the most gentle will be to hand washing it in the sink and hang it to dry. Excess agitation will remove the outer finish or surface coating of the garment.

Heat – That’s the temperature of the water in the wash and the air during the drying whether you hang to dry or put it into the dryer.

To determine what settings to use will solely depend on the garment structure, material, color and the amount of shrinkage you can afford.


Identifying the stain is a key factor in successful stain removal. Regardless of what stain removal product manufactures want to make you believe there is no one product for removing all stains. I hate to say this but bleach is the worse of all the product for your health, the environment and garments.

Color – Use the color of the stain to help determine the type of stain. Red Wine will be purple not pink. Strawberry will be red not yellow. Blood will be red not Blue.

Shape – The shape of the stain on the garment will give many clues to the type stain it might be. Red Wine is a liquid which will leave a ring. Strawberry is mainly solid with some juice so it may leave a smear or small ring depending on its ripeness. Blood will either appear as a drop or a smear due to its thickness it will not leave a ring.

Texture – Evaluate the stain by texture. Use sight and feel to help determine the stain. Red Wine has no texture. By sight it looks smooth and embedded in the material. Strawberry may leave a slight texture from the seeds or skin and have a small ring from the juice. Blood definitely has a texture by feel and appears to rest on top of the fabric.

Smell – Some stains have a distinct smell. Red Wine will smell like red wine for days on end. Strawberry may smell for a few hours after. Blood will not have any smell to humans.


It is very important to test the color of the garment in a hidden area for color lost, loss of surface coating or fading. Use a white towel and apply a small amount of the spotting or cleaning solution to the towel and gently dab a hidden area. Only proceed if there is no color transfer to the towel, do not proceed if any color appears on the towel. Stop to evaluate the amount of color loss to see if that will be acceptable before proceeding. If the amount of color loss is not acceptable do not proceed or change techniques in order to avoid color loss. Wash garments that bleed in color separately from other garments to avoid dye transfer. Dye transferred with moisture is extremely difficult to remove.

Direct Stain Removal – Spotting the stain directly with a stain remover is the fastest and most effective way to remove a stain. It is however, the harshest technique as far as the material and color is concerned. This technique can cause color loss, change in texture, and the loss of the surface coating on delicate garments.

Soaking – Creating a diluted solution made from the spotting agent is a much gentler technique to use, however the weaker solution requires more time. This technique is much safer to use for garments that are not colorfast or has difficult stains that require more work and time.

Color Fade - The pH of water is 7.2 which is slightly alkaline. Most stain removers and laundry detergents however use high alkalinity to strip dirt and stains off of your garment. This alkalinity also strips color off the garments.

Vinegar Solution – Using a pH neutral soap then adding one ounce of distilled white vinegar to every three gallons of water will help lower the pH of the water to reducing the amount of color fading from the garments. The higher the pH of the detergent the more vinegar that needs to be added to the wash load.

Agitation – The scrubbing action from the washer and dryer will cause color loss, the loss of the surface coating and shrinkage.

Drying – Heat, agitation, and moisture from drying will also cause color loss and shrinkage.


Alkaline – Most stain removers are high alkaline products. It is the easiest and quickest way to remove protein and dirt stains. High alkalinity will also strip many surface coatings, strip off color as well as weaken material over time.

Acid – Very few products on the market are acid based stain remover. Acid is more effective on tannin type stains. Tannin stains are plant base stains, everything from coffee to fruit. White distilled vinegar is a great natural product to use on this type of stain.

pH Neutral – There are now laundry detergents that are pH neutral as well as enzyme stain removers. These products are safer for delicate materials and garments that are color sensitive.

Evaluating the color, the surface coating, and the material will help in determining the amount of heat, agitation, and the product(s) to use.

Stain Removal Examples

Dress Shirt – Apply stain remover directly to stain, lightly tap stain and stain remover with stiff brush to help stain remover penetrate stain. Let garment rest for 10-15 minutes before washing. Check stains before drying, repeat steps if necessary.

Blue Jean – Applying a stain remover to denim will permanently remove the color and create a whitish area around stain. Create a soaking solution using a low pH formula and soak the garment for several hours before washing. Check stains before drying, repeat steps if necessary.

Black Cotton Sweater – Test garment for colorfastness, and surface coating to determine spotting technique allowed. Some dyes on cotton are colorfast and some are not. Choose the spotting technique depending on the results of the test.

Washing Examples

Dress Shirt – Wash in very hot water on normal cycle and dry in the dryer on normal heat setting. Three percent shrinkage and slight loss of surface coating on the garment is acceptable.

Blue Jean – Wash inside out in cold water on the delicate cycle to prevent color fading and streaking. Add vinegar solution to lower pH and dry in the dryer with low heat until 80% dry, then hang to dry for the remainder of the time to minimize shrinkage and color loss or hang to dry directly from washer to prevent any shrinkage.

Black Cotton Sweater – Machine wash in hand washable cycle with cold water. Add vinegar solution to lower pH or hand wash, dry in the dryer in low heat until 80% dry then hang to dry for the remainder of the time. Reducing the agitation and heat will help to prevent shrinkage, loss of surface coating, and color fade.

Karl Huie

Pacific Heights Cleaners

Your Green Certified Dry Cleaner proudly leading the way in garment care today – and into a healthy future.

Dry cleaning with the Wet Clean system which is a non toxic environmentally friendly EPA approved system.

Other Articles of Interest:

Stain Removal Products and Tips


How to remove rust stains

How to Use Enzymes?

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