The Worst Stains are Invisible

“Invisible” and Other Stainsstains

Most stains occur when foods and beverages  are spilled or oily substances are splattered on clothing. Beverage  stains can be deceiving,  since they often become “invisible” after the beverage is blotted up and the area dries. Later on, however, with exposure  to heat or the passage of time, a yellow or brownish  stain will appear.

This is caused by the oxidation of sugar which is found in most beverages. You have probably seen this phenomenon with peeled apples that turn brown after being exposed to the air for a few minutes.

You can help us do a better job for you by pointing out such spillage when you bring in a garment to be cleaned.  We often treat these stains prior to cleaning, since the heat of drying or finishing  may set the stain.

When an oily substance,  such as cooking or vegetable  oil, is exposed to heat or ages in a garment for an extended period of time, it also oxidizes. This type of stain can often be distinguished by the irregular “cross pattern” the oil makes when it follows the fabric fibers. Oily substances  are usually successfully removed in drycleaning  unless they are left to oxidize. Once they become yellow or brown, they become much more difficult to remove.

Other stubborn food-related stains are caused by common  substances  such as:

  • Albumin,  naturally  found in meat, eggs, milk and fish
  • Tannin, a natural staining substance in coffee, tea, and tomatoes  (which accounts  for spaghetti sauce stains)
  • Tuneric,  the key yellow ingredient  in mustard (also found in curry sauces)
  • Food coloring  in soft drinks
  • Natural dyes contained  in wine, which can create blue, purple, red or even black stains


Perspiration  Stains

Perspiration  can also cause problem stains, particularly in silk and wool garments.  Perspiration left in a silk garment, for example,  can cause deterioration of the silk fibers. Repeated exposure  to perspiration and body oils can create a permanent  yellow discoloration and an objectionable odor. People who perspire heavily should have their clothes cleaned frequently  and should consider using perspiration shields. Clothing that is worn often or heavily stained also required  frequent cleaning.

Ink and Paint Stains

After foods and beverages, ink and paint are probably  the most common  stains. Many ink stains are removable, as are many stains caused by paint, nail polish, and cosmetics.  Paint that is heavily built-up and dried-on, however, may be impossible  to remove. In every case, a stain’s successful  removal depends largely on the type of fabric and the colorfastness of the dye. Special chemicals  and bleaches are needed to remove such stains, and some dyes and fabrics may not withstand the use of these agents.

Color Loss and Damage

Before you get dressed, make sure deodorants  and perfumes dried completely. Alcohol in perfume can cause many dyes  to bleed, causing a permanent color loss or dye ring. Salts in deodorants  can stain and weaken some fabrics. Some stains are slightly acidic or alkaline in nature. These stains, even in small amounts, if allowed to remain on the fabric for long periods, can cause color changes and damage. Foods, beverages, and perspiration  can cause this reaction.  We can sometimes  reverse these color changes if the stain is “fresh”  only several days or weeks old. But the acid or alkaline content of the stain may have caused a permanent  color reaction and also severely  weakened  the fabric covered by the stain. In some severe cases, fabric damage may occur while we are trying to remove the stain.