It’s a whole lot easier to get rid of unwanted guests before they become permanent residents. Mysterious stains sometimes appear on clothes after a period of time in storage. Faint stains may also appear worse or stains “invisible” to the naked eye may show up only after the garment is cleaned. Making sure clothing is properly cleaned before storage is the best defense against these problems. This is true for all garments including wedding gowns. Club soda and water are good short-term solutions to stains, but they do not remove all of the staining material. It is risky to store a garment that has not been fully cleaned. Be sure to tell the counter staff about any stains or spills when dropping off clothes.

The Dry Cleaning & Laundry Institute, the trade association for professional drycleaners to which we belong, conducted several tests to show how hidden stains can resurface after cleaning if not addressed prior to cleaning. By spilling a juice beverage on the sweater shown below the Institute observed there was no visible stain after it dried. Then, the Institute cleaned the sweater and the heat of the cleaning accelerated the oxidation of the sugars and tannin residues that were in the juice. As seen in the second picture, the “invisible” stain is readily apparent after cleaning.

Next, the Institute stained a blouse with an alcoholic beverage that oxidized and left a faint stain. In this case cleaning removed the stain, but the next picture shows the loss of color that resulted from contact with the alcohol. Some products that contain alcohol include perfume, skin freshener, after shave, cologne, hair spray, lotions, and some medicines.

The best short-term prevention is to thoroughly rinse all affected areas with water, taking care to blot-not rub-the stained areas. That will get you through the night, then it is best to get the garment to us as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage or color loss. Please inform the clerk of any spills when you drop off your clothes so we can attend to those stains and hopefully prevent any delayed staining.

Some “invisible” sugar from a juice beverage turned the affected area yellow during cleaning. It is always best to inform your dry cleaning attendant of any such problems so they can clean your garment properly.

Alcohol left a faint mark on this shirt pocket. After cleaning, the alcohol was removed, along with the color in the affected area. Prevention: thoroughly rinse affected areas; bring the garment to the dry cleaners as soon as possible.

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