Choosing the safest and best stain removing method

In the course of my consultations and training I come across drycleaners using a large variety of different chemicals from different manufacturers. The chemical formulations offered by different manufacturers are not necessarily similar and the drycleaner has to choose what works best for them. There is not just one manufacturer who has a monopoly providing all the best chemicals. The drycleaner may use different products from different manufacturers. Drycleaners should jump at the opportunity of obtaining samples and trying different products in order to find out which one works best for them. Using products properly is a must for obtaining the best results.



This is one of the most important aids for successful wetside stain removal. The drycleaner who does not use neutral lubricant misses out on the opportunity to remove wetside staining without using tannin or protein formulas. The quality of the neutral lubricant that you use and the way it is used are important factors. Neutral lubricant is used after the stain is flushed with the proper mechanical action. The neutral lubricant not only protects the fabric from damage but helps break up the stain, lift the stain so it can be easily flushed from the fabric.



The safest protein formulas are the ones that have the lowest alkalinity. The formulation is effective on protein stains and provides safety to most fabrics including silk. The more dangerous protein formulas are the ones with a high alkaline content and those containing ammonia.



An effective and safe tannin formula has a mild acid content. Tannin formulas with a higher acid content and those containing acetic acid may not have the same safety properties.



Check with your chemical company or sales representative whether you can combine tannin and protein formulas. I work with a chemical company who has shown me how a protein and tannin formula combination can be effective in removing some difficult stains. Although combining acid and alkaline based chemicals are not recommended the results of combining some products can be beneficial.



Digesters are enzyme based products that convert protein stains into soluble sugar. Different manufacturers have different enzyme based products with different properties and safety. You should understand the properties of the enzyme based products and choose the one that is best for you.


  1. High Temperature Enzymes-These enzymes are usually liquid and can be used at high temperatures up to 140oF and do not break down with other chemicals. They are used with mechanical action and have a relative degree of safety, but not entirely.
  2. High Temperature Alkaline Based Enzymes-These enzyme based products can be used with soaking or mechanical action. It is not designed for safety on fabrics such as silk or those with poor color fastness.
  3. Low Temperature Powder Enzymes-These enzymes are the safest enzymes to use and are designed for use on silks and those garments with poor color fastness. They have the same degree of safety as using water. They can be used in a bath or for spotting board use. They must be used with temperatures no higher than 120oF, no contact with chemicals and allowed to work on a fabric for at least 20 minutes. These enzyme based products require no mechanical action.



There are several products manufactured for ink removal. Some have the capability of removing ink and are safe to the fiber and color. There are some ink removers produced that are more aggressive and may affect fabrics such as acetate and tri-acetate. It should also be noted that some ink removers have the capability of removing plastic based stains which has the benefit of eliminating amyl acetate which is prohibited in some states.



Sodium perborate and sodium percarbonate. Both bleaches are alkaline by nature and I use for whitening fabrics in a bath. Sodium percarbonate offers a higher degree of safety since it dissolves easier in cool water.



Hydrofluoric acid and oxalic acid-Both products are used for as rust removers. Oxalic acid provides a higher degree of safety, especially on glass and metallic trimmings.

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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