Build Your Business by Becoming the Comforter-Cleaning Specialist in Your Marketplace
In today’s world of drycleaners and commercial laundries all trying to carve out their own special niche by adding extra services, such as residential wash-dry-fold laundry and small-scale B2B accounts, vended laundry owners should remember that – especially with their large-capacity, high-speed washers and huge, state-of-the-art dryers – they are as well-equipped as any drycleaner to handle comforter cleaning. In fact, I would argue that, in some cases, we are even better equipped to clean these items than many professional drycleaners.
Of course, that’s only if you know what you’re doing. So, how do you go about cleaning a comforter?
First of all, you’ll need a toolkit of the proper stain-treating chemicals, all of which most likely are available from your local drycleaning supplier. Here’s what I would recommend:
• An enzyme blood remover for protein stains
• A citrus-based ink remover
• An acid remover for wine and juice stains, as well as chocolate stains
• A general-purpose stain remover, such as Shout; however I personally also like a mixture of Dawn dishwashing detergent and an ammonia as a general-purpose stain remover
With that stain-fighting toolkit and a light brush for agitating the stained areas, you will be able to remove almost any stain you’re presented with in a comforter-cleaning scenario.
When it comes to actually laundering the comforter, the next step is to examine the individual comforter and determine its cleanability. Look closely at the stitching pattern on the comforter.
Does the comforter feature a very tight network of stitches? By “tight,” I mean it is stitched throughout, with the stitches every six to 12 inches, holding the interior of the comforter securely in place. This type of tightly stitched comforter is very durable and will be easy to clean. It can withstand a fair amount of mechanical action.
On the other hand, comforters with only a few stitches throughout the item to hold the interior batting in place will require a bit more special care. I recommend two courses of action with comforters that don’t have a large amount of stitching to hold their batting in place:
1. Use a number of safety pins to pin the two sides of the comforter together in several places throughout the item. Pin directly through the batting. This will hold the interior of the comforter in place and prevent it from clumping up inside of the comforter during washing.
2. Pretreat the comforter, and let that pretreatment sit for quite a while. Then, program your washers for very low mechanical action and a gentle wash cycle. Also, I would suggest washing these comforters in water that’s less than 87 degrees in temperature.
If you have high-extract washers, many comforters often can be simply air-dried overnight by hanging them over a rack. They will turn out perfectly using this method.
If the comforter does require some drying, place it in the largest-capacity dryer you have, and only dry it for a short period of time – 15 to 20 minutes – on a delicate, low-heat cycle. By “low heat,” I’m referring to approximately 130 to 140 degrees inside the dryer drum. Next, finish them by air-drying.
Again, the more durable, heavy-duty comforters made of thicker materials can withstand more heat and are likely fine to dry with a normal cycle. But, again, be sure to use a large-capacity, large-drum dryer. And, even with these, dry them with relatively low heat and for a shorter period of time.
Up to this point, I’ve been referring to non-down-filled comforters. Clearly, feather-filled comforters are a completely different story. Most of them are white and can be bleached, if need to be; however, I would prefer not to bleach them.
When washing them, always pretreat – especially around the neckline area. This is where most of the body oils and other stains will appear. A gentle mixture of ammonia and Dawn dishwashing detergent is perfect for those areas. Let the solution sit there for 10 to 15 minutes before washing. Wash in a warm-water bath, somewhere between 90 and 110 degrees.
Wash these comforters with tennis balls to keep the feathers from clumping too badly; however, understand that, regardless of what you do, down comforters will clump somewhat. Inspect the comforter when done with the wash cycle to ensure that any stains were removed. If not, rewash with a bleach cycle.
Next, dry the comforter on high heat for the first 30 minutes, and then follow up with up to two hours of low-heat drying with tennis balls in the dryer for the entire time, ensuring that all of the feathers are separated and fluffing within their segments of the item.
A word of warning with regard to down comforters: when you first receive them from the customer, closely inspect the shell of the comforter to be sure that it’s sturdy and strong. If there are any tears or holes or if the fabric looks weak, notify the customer that their comforter probably cannot withstand the cleaning process.
Frequently, over time, comforter fabrics will break down – and there is no way to recover those feathers once they’ve gone down your drain. Make no mistake… they will clog your drain. Therefore, an inspection of the comforter before you clean it is critical.
With all types of comforters, once they’ve been washed and dried, develop a professional-looking way to package them. Drycleaners use a couple of methods:
• They hang them over a large, steel drapery hanger and cover them with plastic. This technique involves little folding and looks great.
• They will neatly fold the comforter, place it inside of a drycleaning bag and tie off the end. Many of today’s leading cleaning suppliers offer custom comforter bags in multiple sizes, which will make your finished product look brand new.
Of course, don’t be afraid to price this premium product far above the per-pound rate of your normal wash-dry-fold service. After all, you are doing the work and delivering the service of a professional cleaner, so you should get compensated along those same lines.
Lastly, the easiest way to market your comforter-cleaning service is to bag up some finished comforters – you mostly likely can find several inexpensive ones at your nearby Goodwill location – and display them in your store. Perhaps also post some photos of these finished comforters on your various social media platforms – just to let the public know that you offer this service and to show them what they can expect.
Before long, the comforters will be rolling in.