In a competitive market, doing an even better job on drop-off orders may make your store stand out. Some stain removal knowledge can come in handy, especially with some commercial accounts where you’re dealing with a specific type of stain on a consistent basis.This information was gathered from several sources, including an Iowa State University extension program dealing with stain removal and operator suggestions.THE BASICS• If a garment has a fresh stain, try to care for that item first. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than those more than 24 hours old.• Before washing, blot up any excess liquid with a clean, white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids with gentle scraping or chipping with a dull knife or metal spatula.• Avoid rubbing stains with a linty terry towel or dark-colored cloth. You may make the problem worse.• Never rub a fresh stain with soap.• Take a look at wet laundry before putting it in the dryer. If a stain is still evident, do not put it in the dryer. The heat of drying can make the stain permanent.• Test stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of a garment to be sure they won’t affect the color or finish of the fabric.• Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable — it can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish or color.• Wash heavily stained items separately if possible. Soil and stains can be redeposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if, a) too little detergent is used, b) water temperature is too low, c) washing time is too long, or d) the washer is loaded with too many clothes.• Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. It can set protein stains like milk, egg or blood.• Try to use the water temperature recommended on stain removal products and detergents.COMMON, BUT DIFFICULT, STAINSChewing gum — Apply ice to harden the gum. Crack or scrape off the excess. Treat with gel, stain stick or aerosol pretreatment spray. Rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent and rinse with hot water, then launder the garment.Deodorant — Apply liquid detergent and wash in warm water. Some deodorant buildup may be impossible to remove.Fingernail polish — Do not use nail polish remover on acetate, triacetate or modacrylic fabrics — it will dissolve these fabrics. Tell the customer that this type of problem is best handled by a drycleaner.Pencil — Use an art gum eraser to lift off excess, but avoid rubbing the fabric. For durable wash fabrics, use a pretreatment aerosol product, stain stick or stain removal gel. Then rub in heavy-duty liquid detergent. Rinse in warm water and launder.Mildew — First shake or brush the item outdoors. Pretreat the darkest stains with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Mildew attacks and destroys fibers, so bleaching may not restore fibers to white.Odor — For persistent odors, place baking soda in an open container and store with clothes, or simply sprinkle baking soda directly on the fabric and let stand; then shake and launder.Paint (latex) — After paint has dried for six to eight hours, removal is very difficult. You can wash the fabric with hot water and rinse.Paint (oil-based) — This is best treated when wet. Use spot treatment and paint thinner on spots until the paint is softened and can be flushed away in a heavy-duty detergent wash. Turpentine, paint thinner or alcohol usually works as solvents.Excessive perspiration — Apply liquid detergent or soak in warm water with presoak for 15-30 minutes. Launder in hot water if it’s safe for the fabric.Rust — Commercial rust removers found in stores are effective and safe for most fabrics, but ones that contain hydrofluoric acid are toxic and can burn the skin and damage appliance finishes. Lemon juice and salt also sometimes remove rust. Sprinkle salt on the stain, squeeze lemon juice on it, and spread the garment in the sun to dry. A word of caution: Lemon juice can bleach some colors, and many washable garments are not colorfast to sunlight.