Methods of removing rings

A ring can be a bothersome occurrence for any cleaner and a customer. There are many reasons why rings occur and the solution depends upon what caused the rings and the nature of the fabric. Rings can fall into three categories.

  • Wetside-this occurs when moisture contacts a fabric and shifts the impurities in the fabric and thus forms a ring upon drying.
  • Dryside-the same condition occurs with dryside agents as with wetside agents.
  • Fabric sizing-some fabrics have a water soluble sizing that dissolves upon contact with moisture forming rings and discolored areas. Some fabrics are also impregnated with a dryside resin sizing that breaks down and forms a different ring with a different solution.


  • Forced drying-this is a method of using the air gun and vacuum end of the spotting board at the same time to dry the fabric before it rings. To effectively use this method, it is advisable to keep the wet area localized. The best way to keep a wet area localized is to spot over a towel. When you start to dry do the outside of the ring first and progress toward the inside. If the heavy outer ring is dried quickly enough this procedure will avoid rings.
  • Feathering-this is a method that cleaners do not often use and is probably the most effective and safest way of removing rings. You hold the steam gun 3~5 inches above the fabric and use just enough steam to break up the ring yet not saturate the fabric. You then wipe the outer edge of the ring from the inside of the ring toward the outer edge. You are attempting to gradually move the wet area into the dry area. If you do a small portion of the ring at a time the wet area can be hung to dry without ringing. In the forced drying method, the air gun is held at such a close range when drying that there is a big chance of damaging the fabric from the force and pressure of the air.


If dryside agents were used and you wanted to remove the rings use the same feathering procedure but wipe with a towel damp with volatile dry solvent. You do not have to use forced drying since the volatile dry solvent dries quickly with a minimum of air usage.


Leveling agents are products that mix with water and dry solvents. When applied to a wet area and brushed, the water spreads out and loses its ability to form a ring. Many companies make different types of leveling agents and it is important to know whether the leveling agents has in it perchloroethylene solvent which is outlawed by EPA in many areas to use on a spotting board. Some chemical companies such as Cleaners Chemical Corp incorporate leveling agents in their protein and tannin formulas. This means that after spotting if a ring occurs the garment will have to be hung to dry and then recleaned. Many spray spotters such as those made by RR Street are effective leveling agents to be used on the fabric and hung to dry. If you are using a leveling agent that you must throw into the cleaning machine wet or damp it is the wrong leveling agent. You also should check with the chemical company to make sure the leveling agent you are using is compatible with the detergent you are using. For example, a cationic detergent is not compatible with an anionic leveling agent. If dryside rings are present on a fabric all that has to be done is re-cleaning the garment without the use of a leveling agent.


  • Water soluble sizing-Many silks and rayons have a water soluble sizing that breaks down causing shiny areas and loss of luster. Use a fogging method for the solution. Steam the affected area holding the steam gun 5 inches from the fabric and then dry quickly with the air gun. You can also place the garment on the pressing machine, spray lightly with water and then dry it with a steam iron.

Note: If you are having problems with rings when pressers spray with a water gun, instruct them to aim the water mist upward and let it condense on the fabric. This method of spraying will avoid rings from the water gun.

  • Resin sizing-Many satins and taffetas may have a plastic resin sizing that can break down forming difficult rings. This type of sizing is not removable using your normal dry or wetside spotting agents. The only way to remove this type of ring is to apply amyl acetate, brush lightly and then reclean.


One of the most difficult stains to remove is mustard. The reason why mustard is so difficult is that it has oils and dye content. The proper way is to brush off the surface with a dry brush and then work it dryside followed by the tannin method. One of the effective things that I have found on set mustard stains is to use a wet dry spotting formulation. These are special spotting agents manufactured by various chemical companies that have wetside lubricants mixed with some dry solvents. This type of formulation and spotting may prove to be very successful on those set mustard stains that you cannot remove.

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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