1. Here is what the students say: Bleach, bleach, and maybe a little more bleach. Before we came to the CIA, bleach worked on all of the day-to-day stains. After washing my jackets here, I have noticed that bleach will remove some of the lighter stains, but barely helps on the deeper stains. One tactic to keep in your head is that forms of pre-soaking, or even letting bleach sit on the stained spots for ten minutes before washing, help a lot. Pre-soaking is usually for 24 hours, having your coat in a container submerged in a bleach and water mixture. If we look at bleach on a molecular level, we understand that the bleach breaks the chemical bonds of the stain, which is why soaking is a leading choice for tough stains. Both pre-washing methods have seemed to be more effective than just putting bleach in the washer. Please note that when you do use these methods YOU STILL NEED TO add bleach to the washer for maximum results.
2. Not all stains are the same, which means they cannot all be treated the same. Protein stains can be big trouble if you do not know what to do. Common thought tells us to wash all of our whites in hot water because they cannot bleed. For protein stains, hot water can cook the stain into the fibers of the jacket. Hot water denatures the protein, taking the water out of it, making it difficult to dilute. Most stain fighters have the enzyme to help fight proteins, so you can use the common bleach or other stain removers. Just remember to use cold or warm water instead of hot water. Protein stains, among other stains, are hard to get out once set in, so a bleach pen is good to have in your pocket to lighten the stain quickly before the stain sets.
3. Regular maintenance is protocol to keep your jacket in tip-top shape. Avoid bleach if you do not have to use it. A good day in the kitchen means you will not have any bad stains, and the lesser stains can be removed with a simple product like Oxi-Clean® Bleach. However, these products will wear your jacket down, and, if you use too much, can leave holes in the jacket. Many chefs will give you the simple answer to getting stains out: just do not get stained. If you only have to heavily clean your jacket once every two weeks, opposed to using bleach every other day, you will notice that your jacket will last longer and be more cooperative when stained.
4. Being a student, I have my own ritual for taking out the worst stains. From grease splatters to red sauce, this works every time. I have SuperTrump™ from Ecolab®. It is used in dishwashers to clean kitchen equipment, and in my case, uniforms. I put a coffee mug of it in a five-gallon bucket filled from halfway to three-quarters full, depending on how concentrated I want the chemical. I soak my jacket in the mixture for 24 hours. After soaking, I put my jacket and the chemical water mixture in the washer with a little bleach and a Tide® pack. I have never had a problem with this method. This method is pricey because the chemical can go for $60 a gallon, but it is relative to how effective I find it. This is not to say that a mixture you can make for five dollars is not more effective, and I implore you to find the cheapest and most effective way to clean a jacket.
Next time you clean your jacket, think of what kind of stain it is, and then what the best way to clean the stain is. If you decide to use your own mixture of chemicals, please remember to never mix ammonia and bleach, and to not get any chemicals on your skin. Be safe, and experiment your mixtures on other white clothing before you use a lot of it on a valuable chef’s jackets.