If there's anyone who knows how to remove a grass stain, it's Joe Lattanzio. He and his brother Vinnie run Lattanzio's Linn Cleaners in South Philadelphia, a business which their parents started in 1947, and which, for the past 10 years or so, has cleaned the Philadelphia Eagles' uniforms after each game.
About a dozen years ago, Greg Delimitros, who is now the Eagles' vice president of equipment operations, took the coaches' gameday gear — mainly polo shirts and pants — to Linn Cleaners to get them washed after each game, according to Joe. A couple of years later, and Linn Cleaners was handling all of the Eagles' uniforms. Nowadays, Linn Cleaners not only takes care of Philly's football team, but also the costumes for many of the city's theater groups.
To find out the best way to remove grass stains and other messes from clothes, we spoke to Joe Lattanzio, who told us how he keeps the uniforms looking their best for each game.
How to get rid of grass stains
There's no secret trick or chemical to removing grass stains, Lattanzio says. "Soaking them in soapy water and elbow grease, then scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing."
NFL uniforms are made up of about 82% nylon and 18% Spandex, Lattanzio says. Because they're designed to stretch while a player is wearing them, stains get trapped when the uniforms come off and shrink back to their original size. "When they hit the ground, the stain goes into the fibers and when they take it off, it closes up."
"When I first started cleaning the uniforms, I thought I could just throw them in[to the washing machine] and put in some soap, and it came out and I shot myself in the foot," he says. "In putting it just in the machine, you’re taking off the top of the garment, so you’ve just glazed over it. So I just wasted a lot of time." In essence, the enclosed stain hasn't been removed.
Now, after a game, the dirty uniforms first sit in a tub of soapy water for three to four hours, which he says, is key in releasing a lot of the stains, be it grass, mud, or blood. "The real bad ones [such as those from the offensive and defensive linemen] we let sit overnight."
Then, it's a matter of using a dry-cleaning brush [also known as a laundry brush] to scrub away at the stains with soap and water. Lattanzio says he uses a brush with soft bristles "because the hard ones pulls the spandex off the fabric and makes it fuzzy looking." He recommends that soft brushes are best for more delicate fabrics, such as sweaters, while you can use harder brushes on things like shirts and jeans.
Next, the uniforms go into the washer. Then rinse and repeat — literally. "By the end of the day, they’ve gone through the washer 3-5 times," he says.
The key for removing any stain, says Lattanzio, is taking care of it before it sets.
"Everybody complains about blood stains," he says, "but if it’s on a button down white shirt, any water and it will start to break down, and will rinse right out."
The same goes for red wine. "Just put water on it, and it’ll dissolve it immediately," Lattanzio says. "Club soda isn’t doing anything more than water. Just let it dissolve. Afterwards, when you clean it, it’ll rinse right out."
"I wouldn’t suggest putting anything else on a garment — the water is what dilutes the stain to the point where the garment is put in the wash, it should rinse it out." The real key here, he says, is to take care of it immediately.
The one set of uniforms Lattanzio doesn't expect to clean are the ones that the team will be wearing for the Super Bowl; he says the players often keep those as mementos — and they wouldn't need them until next season, anyway.
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