The Science of Soaking
When you need to soak a stained garment, follow these proven guidelines:
• Mix the detergent into the water before placing the garment into the soaking tub.
• Soak whites separately from colors to prevent dye transfer.
• Spin or wring the solution out of the garment before washing.
• Do not soak elasticized garments for long periods – or the elastic will yellow and crack.
It is especially important to follow directions when soaking in an oxygen cleaner. Using too much or leaving it on a stain for too long can damage fabrics. Often, less is more with oxygen cleaners, and doubling up the amount called for may produce disastrous results. When used properly, oxygen cleaners are especially successful on typically hard-to-remove stains such as blood and pet stains.
Common Laundry Stains
Most common laundry stains typically fall into one of five categories: human stains, food and beverage stains, oil and grease stains, common soil stains, and chemical stains.
For all stains it is best to use completely soft water with a zero hardness rating. You can contact your city’s water department to find out what water softness you have. Although zero-soft is the optimum level, a safe, effective softness level for laundering stains is up to seven grains. Beyond seven grains chemicals have a difficult time doing their jobs, because they’re attacking the minerals in the water rather than the stains on the garments.
Water temperature should be at least 130 degrees or hotter.
If the material is white cotton, use chlorine bleach in tandem with the detergent during the wash cycle; however, use a non-chlorine type bleach on colored or synthetic material.
Do not dry the garment in a clothes dryer until the stain is completely removed – doing so will set the stain making removal extremely difficult, if not impossible, later.
Examples of human stains are urine, perspiration, fecal matter, and saliva. After soaking, pre-wash the stained items with detergent at a low water level for about five to seven minutes. The wash cycle should be anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Then, follow up with three rinses.
Use an enzyme-based detergent or a detergent with a decent amount of surfactant (such as emulsifiers, water conditioners, wetting agents, soil-release agents, and optical brighteners).
Take caution when using fabric softener and only use in the final rinse. Using too much softener can create water repellency, so be sure to use it sparingly. Since most human stains are typically on undergarments, bed linen and towels – items where you want sweat absorption – go light on the fabric softener to maintain these items absorption capabilities.
Food and Beverage Stains
Examples consist of ketchup, mustard, coffee, tea, wine or anything that’s organic.
Generally, pre-wash garments with these stains for three to five minutes with hot water at low levels. Pre-wash with a booster like an enzyme-type detergent as enzymes will attack anything that’s organic and aid the regular washing process. Soaking in an oxygen detergent may yield best results.
Low water levels are ideal during the pre-wash, when chemicals are involved, enabling the chemicals to work most effectively. Whereas higher water levels obviously are better during the rinsing process because, at that point, you’re rinsing out the chemicals.
The optimum wash cycle for food and beverage stains is generally in the 12- to 15-minute range, followed by three rinses.
Use a detergent with a high surfactant content, which may also contain an optical brightener, or an enzyme-based product. If the items are cotton and you’re using a high-surfactant detergent, chlorine bleach should be applied, along with the detergent, during the wash cycle. If the fabric is synthetic, use non-chlorine bleach. However, if you’re using an enzyme detergent, apply bleach after the wash cycle.
The first rinse should be at 150 degrees or higher. If starching is required, use it in the last rinse cycle. Also, understand that it’s very difficult to starch in a pre-programmed washer; however, it’s possible if you can make your last rinse a warm-water rinse. This is highly recommended, because starch doesn’t dissolve well in cold water. In fact, certain starches hardly dissolve at all. Therefore, if you’re going to starch, use the last rinse and be sure the water temperature is at least 90 degrees or warmer.
Applying softener to the last rinse also is an option.
Oil and Grease Stains
These stains can be caused by vegetable oil, petroleum, etc.
Pre-wash for five minutes, using alkali only because the alkali attacks oil/grease stains. Alkali neutralizes and changes the chemical composition of the oil and grease, which prepares garments for the wash cycle.
Follow up with a 12- to 15-minute wash cycle, using a built detergent with optical brighteners, if available.
A di-limonene-based detergent can be your second option. This type of product also has oil- and grease-removing properties. However, if you use a di-limonene-based detergent also add some to the pre-wash, rather than the alkali.
If the fabric is white cotton, use chlorine bleach. The chlorine bleach should be anywhere from 8 percent to 12 percent active. Of course, if the garments are colored or made of a synthetic fabric, use non-chlorine bleach.
The wash cycle should be followed by three rinses. The last rinse should include a laundry sour to neutralize the alkali, if used. There are some safe, solvent-type detergents available that also do a great job.
Again, using fabric softener is optional in the last rinse.
Common Soil Stains
Basically, this refers to dust and dirt stains. Pre-wash for three to five minutes with a detergent or a booster.
A 12 to 15 minute wash cycle is ideal at a water temperature of 110 to 150 degrees. Wash with a good-quality, high-surfactant detergent in tandem with bleach. Again, if the items are white cotton, use chlorine bleach; if they are colored or synthetic, use non-chlorine bleach.
For the wash cycle, you also may choose to use an alkali-based detergent. If so, use a laundry sour in the last rinse. As always, softener is optional in that last rinse as well.
These stains can consist of ink, iodine, hair dye, etc. A five-minute pre-wash with water at 150 degrees or higher is suggested.
In that pre-wash, there are certain additives available to remove particular chemical stains. These additives should always be applied during the pre-wash, setting up the fabric for the removal of the stains during the wash cycle.
The wash cycle, anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes, should include a high-surfactant type of detergent. Surfactants such as emulsifiers, water conditioners, wetting agents, soil-release agents, and optical brighteners are the active ingredients that do most of the work. However, you also may use an alkali-based detergent on certain chemical stains. If so, be sure to use a laundry sour in the last rinse.
If the garments are white, use chlorine bleach that is 8 percent to 12 percent active. Use non-chlorine bleach for colors or synthetics.
Chemical stains can be extremely difficult to remove. There are supplementary additives and safe solvents are often required to remove such stains, as regular detergent sometimes has no effect on these types of stains.