Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ancient Chinese Secret

posted Wed, 25 Aug 2004

Here’s a customer service suggestion for the dry-cleaning industry: if the stain is still in the garment, keep cleaning until it is gone.

The approach my former dry cleaner used was that I would drop off the jacket and point out the stain. We would put little stickies on the jacket that said “stain.” The clerk wrote “remove stain” on the ticket.

Then I would return the next day, look at the jacket and say, “The stain is still there.”

We would repeat the process, from putting on little stickies to my saying, “The stain is still there” until the putative stain-removal people would put a note on the jacket saying they had done all they could and any further work would damage the fabric.

I have since changed to a different dry cleaner – one that charges $2 instead of $6 an item. I figure the new ones can not get my clothes clean for a lot less money.

They made me go through the same charade – only I only had to say, “The stain is still there” once to the attendant. And that was right before she said, “I know. I was going to send it back to them, but I was holding it in case you came this afternoon so I could show you.”

I had my doubts, of course. They also promise everything but deliver nothing. But when I went back today, the stain was GONE. And there was a little girl, maybe fourth grade, working back there, still dressed in her school uniform. She couldn’t wait to take my ticket, find my jacket, and then hand it to me with a cheery “Have a nice day!”


Another laundry challenge I have faced recently is the discovery (and I did suspect this) that bleach will not remove ground-in dirt. (That is the technical term for dirt that gets transferred from your flowerbeds to your white towels by means of your hands.)

I had some education in this, having discovered the same thing about rust stains and discussed the issue in an interview I had years ago at Whirlpool. Apparently, bleach works best on organic stains, like blood and chocolate. Stuff that has been alive or was created by something alive at some point.

Rust and dirt don’t really fit that category. I don’t think. In organic chemistry, they don’t talk about rust and dirt, they talk about hydrocarbons, right? And isn’t carbon the basic building block for life as we know it?

Anyhow. I never have been able to figure out how to remove rust stains. (You get those on your white linen shirt when the inside of your dryer rusts, which is what happens when it is kept outside of your duplex in Miami because that’s where the attachments are.)

And now I don’t know what to do about the ground-in dirt. I am sending an appeal to all moms reading this. Help.

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