Analysis of difficult stains and special treatment used for their removal

In teaching spotting and stain removal we put stains in a category and use a prescribed method for their removal. Manufacturers of chemicals also provide spotting charts for their chemical usage based on the category placement of stains. The simplicity of this method makes spotting easier but does not necessarily work on all stains. Some stains are more complex and the methods used to remove the stains must be changed. We are going to list some stains that do not fall under the simplified procedures. The following stains are more complex and require a change in their procedures to obtain removal.



  • Composition-Perspiration contains chloride salts which is hazardous to silk and other fabrics. The salt remaining in silk discolors and also deteriorates silk and other fabrics to a lesser extent. The chloride salts are accelerated by age, moisture and the heat in dry cleaning. Perspiration also contains fats and acids which contributes to the rancid odor characteristic of perspiration. The acids, after a period of time turn to an alkaline condition.
  • Removal-The fatty content of perspiration is removed in dry cleaning but the alkaline color change and salt remain. The first step in removal is flushing with a water gun or steam gun held away from the fabric to avoid excessive heat. Use acetic acid to neutralize the color change. On silk fabrics the safest agent to use is a powdered enzyme. On other fabrics it is okay to use ammonia and neutral lubricant. Last traces of yellowing can be removed with peroxide and ammonia.



  • Composition- Urine stains contain sodium chloride, uric acid, urea, organic acids and pigment.
  • Removal—Garments with urine stains should not be dry cleaned.  The dry cleaning process does not remove the urine stains and it is possible for the urine to leave an objectionable odor in the dry cleaning machine. On dry clean only garments obtain a customers release for wetcleaning. Use an alkali such as ammonia and mild lubricants. After rinsing put in a solution of a mild lubricant and an acid such as acetic to neutralize the effects of the alkali. Yellowing on white fabrics can be removed by soaking in a mild oxidizing bleach such as perborate or percarbonate. Be sure to wear gloves when handling. After wetcleaning, garments should be dry cleaned for further purification.



  • Composition- An objectionable stain containing bile, mucus and albumin
  • Removal- The stains do not come out in dry cleaning. Wetcleaning procedures are best to use when the stain covers a large area. Use an enzyme in warm water for silks and wools. For more durable fabrics use ammonia and neutral lubricant during wetcleaning. Be sure to wear gloves when handling garments with body stains. After garment is dried it can then be dry cleaned.



  • Composition- Perfume contains oils, musk alcohol, coloring matter and synthetic compounds. Perfume gives off a characteristic odor.
  • Removal- The perfume often leaves a yellow ring. Sometimes a ring of color loss occurs in the center with dye accumulation on the ring. Sometimes the disturbed dye rings can be re-distributed by using a towel with a little alcohol on it and rubbing the disturbed dye toward the center to re-distribute it. When the color loss is severe there is no correction. The yellow rings on white fabrics can often be removed by using hydrogen peroxide plus ammonia.



  • Composition- Jewelry stains are caused by oxidation of gold, silver and metallic trimming. When oxygen and moisture contact jewelry, it forms an oxide which produces a dark stain on the fabric, often mistaken as dye. It frequently occurs on the top area and the neck line caused by a pendant or necklace.
  • Removal- It is easy to remove this stain. Test the fabric dye for safety using either oxalic acid or hydrofluoric acid which are rust removers. When using hydrofluoric acid use a protein formula after use to make sure the acid is properly neutralized.



  • Composition- The solid portion of blood is protein containing hemoglobin. There is some iron and a liquid portion known as serum.
  • Removal- The problem with removing blood stains is not the stain itself but contact with alcohol which can set blood stains so they can not be removed. This can occur when the spotter uses paint remover with water or general formula. Blood stains react well with digestive agents, alkali and lubricants. Hydrogen peroxide and ammonia work especially well for the last traces of the blood stain. Blood stains should never be dry cleaned without first pre-spotting since the heat of dry cleaning can set the stains.
Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen

Dan Eisen, former chief garment analyst for the National Cleaners Association, offers lecture, consultation and garment analysis service. He is the author of The Art of Spotting. He can be reached at (772) 340-0909, by email at or through his website at Dan Eisen, 274 NW Toscane Trail, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986.

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