National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Understanding and using alkali
Many drycleaners do not fully understand what an alkali does or the problems associated with using alkali. An alkali is a necessary component for removing many stains and necessary for effective stain removal.
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Characteristics of alkali
Releases hydroxyl ions in the presence of water.
Turns pH or litmus paper to blue.
Rinses out in water and wetside chemical.
Used for the removal of albumin, protein, some red inks, dye and medicine stains.
Neutralizes color change caused by acid.
A necessary component of many bleaches.
Accelerates some bleaches.
Used with some detergents to increase soil removal.
Found in prepared protein formulas.
Found in some digestive agents.
Sets tannin stains.
Heat accelerates alkali.
Tends to discolor animal fibers such as wool, silk, red and vivid colors.
Usually safe to rayon, vegetable and synthetic fibers.
Prepared protein formulas
A mixture of lubricant and alkali.
Very slightly alkaline and is usually safe to most colors. Bright and vivid colors should be tested.
Becomes aggressive when heated.
Removes protein and albumin stains. These are stains originating from a living body such as blood, milk, eggs and perspiration.
Ammonia (26)
The strongest alkali on the spotting board, it should be diluted with half water to reduce its volatile nature.
Has a very pungent odor and should not be inhaled.
Used in lubricant mixtures to remove soil.
Not found in prepared protein formulas.
More aggressive than prepared protein formulas.
Used to accelerate some bleaches.
Not safe on wool, silk and bright and vivid colors.
Pre-spotting mixtures for removing soil in wetcleaning
Pre-spotting mixture of ¼ ammonia, ¼ lubricant and four parts water.
This mixture is very effective for pre-spotting soil on collar of shirts and soiled cottons.
Using alkali to remove soil in wetcleaning
On very soiled items, alkali is added to the wash load for removing soil.
After wetcleaning it must be soured.
Acetic or oxalic acid is used as a sour.
If fabrics are not soured, it would set up a condition for yellowing when items are pressed.
Accelerating hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is accelerated and strengthened by adding ammonia.
Apply peroxide to stain.
Apply ammonia.
Neutralize with acid.
Perborate and percarbonate
These are mild oxidizing agents and are alkaline by nature. After using, the garment should be rinsed, soured and rinsed again.
Sodium hypochlorite
Chlorine bleach is highly alkaline in nature. This bleach will discolor and deteriorate animal fibers. Adding alkali to this bleach will cause the bleach to become unstable and release chlorine gas.
Test for redeposition
To determine if graying is due to redeposition, apply a paint remover and ammonia to area. Tamp and flush. If the area becomes cleaner, the graying is from redeposition.
Strong wetcleaning grease removers
If you are using nonionic detergent for oil and grease in wetcleaning, make sure it is neutral in nature to ensure safety to colors. Many stronger products are sold by mixing it with an alkali, making it more potent on stains but unsafe to many colors.
Rust remover
Hydrofluoric acid must be neutralized after use. It does not rinse out readily from fabrics. The best way to remove the last traces is to apply a prepared protein formula and flushing.
Titanium sulphate
If ammonia comes in contact with this stripping agent, it will leave a black residue on the fabric. It can be reduced by using rust remover.
Protein stain removal process
Apply lubricant.
Protein formula.
Peroxide and ammonia (test).

Dan Eisen is the former chief garment analyst for the Neighborh