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The wedding sari has a food stain. What do dry cleaners do?

Cleaning soiled, delicate wedding garments – especially traditional Indian wear – can be tricky. Valencia Fernandes, Sub Editor, Clean India Journal explores how professional dry cleaners handle a variety of stained garments.

Nature of stain

It’s imperative to understand the kind of stain before trying to get it out. Experts say it’s advisable to blot the stained area with a clean paper towel first, then take it to a professional dry cleaner. Washing the garment with hot or warm water only serves to set the stain.

Arun Oliver of Presto Green Dry Cleaners said: “Most women’s wedding garments will have soil on the lower hem. If the wedding was outdoors, the lower hem will be lined by mud stains. If indoors, the staining will be to a lesser extent. Post-wedding, most women’s garments have makeup stains on them.”

Most catered Indian food contains artificial colour; this leaves deep stains on garments. One of the biggest challenges for Indian dry cleaners is dealing with wedding clothes stained with turmeric and kumkum (used for puja). “Removing lower hem soil from georgette is a nightmare for some dry cleaners”, added Oliver.

Do or dye

Nishant Tripathi, Founder & CEO, Elite Dhobilite Laundry Pvt Ltd shared: “Indian weddings are all about wearing cheerful, bright colours and heavy fabric such as brocades, silk, organza, net, lace, velvets and more. We are often unaware of the type or quality of dye used in the fabric and how it will react when we use stain removers on the garment. Removing stains is what we specialise in, and it isn’t a hurdle. However, we do face problems when the colour/dye of the clothes mixes with these stains.”

Sometimes, after completing the test check, we are able to use the stain removal agent to successfully remove the stains. But when the garment dries, the colour tends to change.

Nishant Tripathi

 

He continued: “We always test our chemicals and stain removers separately to ensure they are safe to use and don’t interfere with the dye of the fabric. Sometimes, after completing the test check, we are able to use the stain removal agent to successfully remove the stains. But when the garment dries, the colour tends to change. Therefore, when we encounter tough stains and are doubtful about the dye of the fabric, we remove the stains in two attempts to revive and keep the garment in its original condition.”

Dry cleaners use a petroleum solvent to remove the oil found in the food stains. Washing in water is good for the remaining part of the food stain that remains post-dry cleaning.

Dry cleaners want customers to point out the stain and explain how exactly it happened, and mention if they have taken any steps to remove the stain themselves. Home remedies – more often than not – set stains or damage the fabric.

Nature of fabric

If there are food stains on silk garments, one may find it difficult to remove the ring-shaped mark even if brought early for dry cleaning. Tough stains are first treated on the dry side. The fabric is first spotted on a spotting board using solvent and a POG (Paint/Oil/Greece) spotter.

Most dark hued wedding clothes are colour bleeders and this limits dry cleaners’ capabilities to have stains removed. If the dry cleaner gets too aggressive in cleaning the stain, the chances of discolouration of that spot are very high.

Timing is everything

Timu Sapra of Glowhite Dry Cleaners had this to say: “According to my experience, not all stains can be removed. The longer a stain is left untreated, the less likely it is to be removable. Permanent or stubborn stains are typically caused by spillages that are not removed quickly after they have occurred. The key to handling such challenging spots is to remove the stain immediately after you discover it.”

The longer a stain is left untreated, the less likely it is to be removable. Permanent or stubborn stains are typically caused by spillages that are not removed quickly after they have occurred.

Timu Sapra

 

Indian garments

“We use custom-created chemical solutions that are supplied to us by our local vendors”, said Tripathi. “We remove the stains in two or more attempts, so the garment is not damaged. There are some standardised procedures set in the dry-cleaning industry that we follow. However, we do have to take special care when it comes to dry-cleaning Indian clothes because we are never sure about the dye used in the fabric. We mostly use steam and water to lighten the stains and then use stain removal solutions to remove the stain in stages and not just a single attempt.”

Dry cleaning of Indian clothes starts with dry spotting, followed by handwashing of delicate garments and local treatment of stains. Minimal mechanical action is used throughout the entire process, so that the garments don’t lose their charm and look new once the process is complete. After cleaning, clothes are line-dried and not dried using tumbler machines. This process takes much more time and needs expert attention, which delicate and expensive garments definitely need.

Most women’s wedding garments will have soil on the lower hem. If the wedding was outdoors, the lower hem will be lined by mud stains. If indoors, the staining will be to a lesser extent.

Arun Oliver

 

Setting expectations

According to Tripathi, “We don’t want to deceive our customers by telling them that we can remove 100% of all stains. While most stains are removed and the garments look next to new, there are some stains that may not be removed completely. This is because we are unsure about the quality of the dye used in the fabric and how it will react to the stain remover.”

But even if it is a very stubborn stain, we successfully remove 90% of it. For the remaining 10% stain, we only proceed to further stages if the client gives us permission and agrees to take the risk that may be involved in the further process of the stain removal.”

Not all soiled garments can be restored to their original glory. But with the expertise that dry cleaners possess, a soiled sari or stained kurta need not dampen the festive spirit.

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