Simplify wet cleaning spotting

Even a seasoned veteran of wet cleaning can sometimes make a mistake due to lack of knowledge of chemicals. Problems like color loss, color bleeding or surface damage of wool, silk or leather mainly come from wrong use of spotting chemicals. I have explained the importance of acidic detergent and proper conditioner in my last 2 columns. I will cover the proper setup of spotting chemicals this month.

Every time I visit other plants, I can’t help but think there are too many chemicals at the spotting table. Most of them are covered with lint. When you have too many chemicals, it is very difficult to know the ingredient and proper usage very well. Some of them are undoubtedly bought because of the hyperbole of “super performance” from the salesman but after a while, they just become another product on the spotting board gathering dust. If you have chemicals like that, do not hesitate to throw them out. Chemicals you don’t understand are prime cause of spotting accidents.

I have always emphasized that wet cleaning is much easier than dry cleaning. I also emphasized that wet cleaning spotting should be easy for everyone, not just for experts. At my shop, it is always my employees who handle the wet cleaning. And with a few exceptions, they do spotting as well after 2, 3 months of experience. Yet I have not had a accident in the last 13 years. What is the secret? It’s very simple. Choose the right chemicals and keep them simple.

The chemicals shown in the picture removes 99% of stains. The purpose of the picture is to show you how many products I use. You can make your own selections but keep it simple.

From left to right, the chemicals I use the most are Stain Out, Grease Out, spray oil remover, rust remover, protein digester, ink/paint remover and bleaches.

These products are generally considered safe with the exception of bleaches. Since I do not keep my selections simple, it’s easy to know them very well. 90% of my spotting is done with Stain Out and Grease Out so the rest of them are used only sporadically. I will just explain Stain Out and Grease Out since you are probably familiar with the rest of them.

▲ Stain Out: It’s from EMC and it is a versatile stain remover. It is close to neutral so it’s safe on most fabrics and colors. It removes food, oil, bleed, protein, crayon, lip stick, show polish, ink, ring-around-the-color, under arm stains, deodorant, coffee and wine. If the stain is very old, I use other chemicals.

I keep 1 to 1 Stain Out solution in the spray bottle. I use it to cover wide area and to treat knits.

▲ Grease Out: It is also from EMC and its main ingredient is citrus oil. It has a citrus smell that disappears after it’s dry. It is pH 7 and safe for all fabrics and colors.

The glass bowl in the front of the picture contains a solution of Stain Out (16 oz.), Grease Out (16 oz.) and water (1 gallon). I use a soft bristle brush to apply this solution. Since it is diluted with a lot of water, it’s very economical to use.

▲ Clorax bleach: Bleach can be a life saver or a poison. In expert’s hands, it works like magic but when used inappropriately it will cause a irreversible damage. I included it in the picture for the sake of showing it but I strongly recommend to keep it in a different location. Instead keep oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide on the spotting table.

I guess you might have a product you swear by and who am I to say you’re wrong? But in my experience, I have seldom used any other products.

To summarize, the key to safe and successful spotting is choosing the right chemicals and keeping it simple. Once you made your selections, make sure you understand them completely. And once again, if you have spotting chemicals covered in dust, toss them out!

Yangsoo Kim

Yangsoo Kim

The author is the developer of Aqua Master wet cleaning chemicals and is currently operating Green Life Cleaners, a 100% wet cleaning service. You can contact him by phone (201) 699-7227 or email at

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *