Thursday, August 28, 2008

Clothing disasters and how to avoid them

You wake up in the morning, get dressed, run downstairs and your dog knocks something over and spills on your last pair of clean pants, what do you do now? Or, you are meeting a client in an hour and your lunch ends up in your lap, what do you do now?

The first step in stain removal is to determine what kind of stain it is (don't just jump for the club soda, more about that later). Is the stain water-based or oil-based? Water-based stains such as coffee, tea, or milk will leave a ring or outline around the stain and can be removed with water. Oil-based stains such as most salad dressings, makeup (even though you can wash makeup off your skin with water, the same is not true with your clothes), and food grease will leave a dark or blotchy stain with no ring or outline.

The next step (and first action step) is to blot (not rub) the garment. Blotting both absorbs the spilled substance and prevents the stain from spreading further into the garment. If the spot is an oil-based stain, then stop here, blotting the affected area as much as you can do without making the spot worse. If you try and work an oil-based stain with any home remedies the spot is likely to spread, become more noticeable when it dries or damage the garment.

If you have a water-based stain, after blotting, dip a white cloth (or napkin if necessary) in water and squeeze half of the water out, next squeeze the other half onto the affected area. Now with cloth on each side of the fabric, blot the water, and hopefully the spot, out.

At this point you have hopefully removed the stain enough so that you can comfortably wear it until you can get it to your dry cleaner so they can remove the stain fully.

Club soda, which is simply carbonated water sometimes with another additive such as table salt or more, is no better than water at removing stains, but sometimes the additives can be left behind. The bubbling action was thought to 'lift' the stain to the surface for easy removal, but this just is not the case.

A word of caution - anything labeled dry clean only such as silk may be damaged when trying to clean with water, including the method outlined above. You can potentially do more damage to your clothing by trying to remove a stain at home than the original substance did when it transferred to your garments. Even if you successfully remove the visible portion of the stain, the next time you have that garment cleaned, the color may flush out with the remaining stain so when in doubt, leave stain removal to a professional.

Next time you have one of these mini clothing disasters, you'll be armed with the knowledge necessary to reduce the visible portion of the stain while protecting your clothes so you can wear them again in the future.

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