How Long Does it Take for a Stain to Set?

So you are out to dinner with friends the day before a trip.  

You look great in your favorite creme crepe silk blouse.  

Then the unthinkable!

So the question is, how long can safely you wait to take it to your trusted cleaners?  Or . . . would you be better off to pack it and take it to an unknown cleaners at (gasp) the hotel where you are staying rather than let it set?

The answer to this question is the same as the answer to so many questions.  The unsatisfying "It Depends. . . "

The good news is it probably isn't as urgent as many people believe.

It takes anywhere from 4-6 months before sugar stain caramelize.  Think about biting into an apple, the apple turns brown due to the sugar oxidizing when exposed to oxygen.  The same happens when you spill clear soda, juice, white wine on your clothes.  It dries clear.  However, if not removed it will take several months for the stain to turn brown.  And once it does, it will be VERY hard to remove, if not impossible.  Oil stains (body oil, butter, grease) can also oxidize and they are even more difficult to remove that oxidized sugar stains.

So the question is, How Long Can You Safely Wait?

I always recommend that you clean a garment as quickly as possible.  However, stains don't set immediately.

Specific Tips:

  • Try not to put water on the stain at the scene of a stain.  Do not put water on any stain if you don't plan on finishing the job.  Almost getting a stain out can be worse than not doing anything.  Blot don't rub, and avoid using water unless you are prepared to finish the job.  This is especially true with blood and wine.  As for ink - please don't ever put water on ink.  It will set it immediately.
  • Leaving your clothes in the car.   The heat that can build up in a car can cook your clothes and set a stain in the matter of an hour.  Once that is done, your clothes may be done for.
  • Taking a cotton shirt off after sweating and leaving it in your closet for a week.  I see this from guys again and again.  Men (sorry for the generalization guys, I do love you) finish a hard days work with out noticing they had been perspiring.  they leave their shirts in the back of the closet for over a week.  Perspiration creates a chemical reaction and weakens the fibers quickly.  Especially a natural fiber such as cotton or silk.  When the shirt is cleaned, the shirt tears. . . typically in the area where the shirt came in contact with the person, the underarm or the back. 
In closing, I believe you will be better off waiting (storing the clothes in a cool place with little sunlight), than taking any prized item to an unknown cleaners.  Dry Cleaners are not all made equally.  There are no requirements that make someone qualified to be a cleaner.  And because cleaners are so dependent on humans (it is more of an art than a science), a cleaners reputation and history will be key!


Toby Crane said...

I am hoping to have a dry cleaners near my new apartment in Provo so that I can get my dry cleaning done quickly. My fiance and I are moving there in April.

pollob hasan said...

Thank you so much for sharing such nice and informative thought., This is very helpful fer me and others. Keep blogging man!!!!!!!

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Marlene Detierro said...

I love making my own homemade soaps, my homemade laundry detergent, homemade window cleaner, and now this! Can't wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe. :-)

Marlene Detierro (Eureka Joe's)