Stain Removal Tips for Wash-Dry-Fold

Little did Paul Russo’s laundry customers know that this “Mystery Spot Remover” was actually the well-known household detergent Liquid Tide. (Photo: Paul Russo)

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Stain Removal Tips for Wash-Dry-Fold (Conclusion)

Educate customers that they must check own pockets pre-wash

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If you operate a wash-dry-fold service, or are thinking about offering one, my column this month is for you. I’m going to talk about the most common stains I encountered over the years, a couple of very difficult stains, and my solutions for removing them.

Plus, I’ll share a simple thing to do to actually reduce the number of stains that your customers get in the first place! (And this applies to self-service customers as well as drop-off customers.)

There are two types of stains: stains that end up in a person’s laundry, usually the result of eating or drinking; and stains accidentally left by your Laundromat (a color run, or a pen breaking open in the dryer, for instance).

Most stains can be effectively and safely removed, usually by using common household cleaning items. Stubborn stains may require stronger chemicals, more soaking time, or repeated washings.

In Part 1, I listed the stain categories and shared the stain removers I’m familiar with and what they’re best at removing (remember to always read and follow label instructions). Let’s continue:


Ink stains are the most difficult stains to remove, in my experience. The items involved usually don’t damage laundry in the washers. Dryer heat will melt them onto the laundry, and the stains will be all over the load.

If the stains were created in a drop-off load, you will be responsible. Panic time! Or maybe not.

If there are not too many stains, you can try the “squeegee” method to remove them one by one:

After you have tried Tide with a citrus chemical like Goo Gone, acetone is your last hope. If I see a bad grease/ink stain, I’ll go straight to the acetone first.

You can get some from a big-box store paint department. It works better than nail polish acetone found in department stores. Make sure you have good air circulation because the smell will be strong, and wear gloves and glasses. (And acetone is flammable, so keep it away from any fire source.)

Use the hottest water acceptable to melt and loosen the stain. Lay an old towel on a table, then place the stained garment face down on the towel. You want to push the stain back out in the same direction that it came.

Try using a “spotting bone” available from your drycleaning supplies distributor. Otherwise, the dull edge of an old tablespoon, or a dull putty knife, will work. Scrub brushes tend to pull the strands out of the fabric’s surface.

Squirt some acetone on the back side of the stain and use your tool to gently scrape the stain into the towel underneath. The acetone loosens the ink, and the squeegee action of the bone pushes the ink out. You can also spray a little Liquid Tide on the stain, which helps with removal when you wash it.

Wash the item in very hot water (if the fabric allows it). If the stain is completely out after washing, you’re done. If not, then repeat.


Here’s a tip for negotiating with customers over ink stains: always save the evidence.

If you see ink stains, look for the pen to show the customer so you can prove that they left “their” pen in “their” laundry. Same goes for any other item of theirs that breaks open and stains the dryer load. When a crayon melts, you can still find the wrapper to show the customer.

This may not get you off the hook with some customers, but it throws them off-balance and can open the door for you to negotiate a lower compensation, like splitting the difference in the item’s value.


Here’s how you can reduce the number of stains your customers get in the first place, and it applies to all customers, whether self-service or wash-dry-fold.

Educate customers that they must be alert to check their own pockets. Why should this be only the mat’s responsibility? But what will motivate all customers to check their pockets?

Tell them through signage: Check Your Pockets! Pens, makeup, crayons, etc. will ruin your wash! We are not responsible for items left in pockets.

And if you add “cash” to the “items left” note, I guarantee more customers will check their pockets!

Beyond this, explain and educate. Communicate how heat may have already set their stain, making it much harder to remove. I liked to say that heat “cooked” the stain in.

And have a customer sign a waiver if they insist you use more aggressive stain-removal methods that potentially could damage the item.

If you feel the need to go to spotting chemicals, and the garment is really important to the customer, bring it to a trusted dry cleaner and pay to have the garment spotted and cleaned. A dry cleaner knows how to use the chemicals and will have a spotting board that uses steam to help force stains out.

Remember that you can’t remove every stain. Even dry cleaners can’t. So, if you can’t remove a stain after following the tips I’ve provided, then it may be best to make good with the customer and move on.

Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].