Spot cleaning fine garments: The myths debunked

We’re frequently asked to spot clean a garment. A client will tell us that they only wore the garment for a short time and got a little food, beverage or makeup on it.

Our typical reaction is that, yes, it’s possible to spot clean a garment. But, in most cases, we’d prefer to clean the garment completely.

Here’s why.

Spot cleaning is essentially an attempt to remove a visible stain without subjecting the garment to any dry cleaning, wet cleaning, hand washing and/or restoration process.

Spot cleaning is accomplished by a stain removal technician on a spotting board (a piece of equipment shaped like a home ironing board), using a combination of steam, specialty cleaning agents, vacuum (to extract the moisture created by the steam), and compressed air (to dry the fabric).

Non-removal of chemical agents

The problem with spot cleaning, and the reason we generally prefer to clean the garment completely, is quite simple:

It’s impossible to guarantee that the residue of any chemical agent that might have been used in spot cleaning has been completely removed or “flushed out” – residue that would normally have been flushed out of the textile by the dry cleaning solvent or fluid.

This means that some chemical residue might remain in the fabric - with unpredictable long-term results.

What’s more, many of these spots are oil-based stains that cannot be completely flushed out with steam. So when that garment is pressed, the heat from the hand iron (or an ordinary dry cleaner's press) could oxidize the stain and yellow the fabric.

Of course, there may be unique situations where a garment either cannot or should not be completely cleaned due to its fragility, finish, embellishment or trim. But, typically, these situations are few and far between – even if the garment is labeled “Do not dry clean. Do not wet clean. Spot clean only.”

Consult a true quality cleaner

When it comes to "spot cleaning", we can understand your trepidation if you're dropping off an expensive garment at an ordinary cleaner. You might be fearful that their "cleaning process" will somehow damage your garment.

But you have almost nothing to worry about when visiting a true quality cleaner.

Looking for an opinion?

Discuss the garment with a true quality cleaner.

They’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your options, advise you as to any risks associated with each option, and identify the results you can or cannot expect from each option.