Getting the stink out of sports stuff at Wilmette Tailors & Cleaners
Rita and Kurt Raggi pose for a photo with their son, Richard, who works for the company. | Jackie Pilossoph~for Sun-Times Media
Wilmette Tailors & Cleaners
819 Ridge Road
Updated: March 14, 2013 4:22PM
WILMETTE — Is there anything that smells worse than a football helmet that has been worn for three seasons?
How about five-year-old hockey shin guards, or tennis shoes you’ve owned since Chris Everett was in Wimbledon?
Kurt and Rita Raggi, owners of Wilmette Tailors & Cleaners are here to help. They recently purchased an equipment sanitizing machine for their business that’s guaranteed to get the smell out of anything that goes in it.
“We bought the machine because we wanted to find a bit of a niche market, and we felt like there was a need on the North Shore with all the sports programs,” said Kurt. “There was nothing like it in the area.”
The machine is made by Sani Sport, a Canadian company whose customers include professional and college sports teams, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to Kurt, the cost was “tens of thousands,” a price he said he looks at as an investment.
“There’s such a need for this, as sports equipment and other items collect bacteria over time,” said Kurt. “Bacteria turns into an odor, but it’s the bacteria that can be harmful and can lead to germs and all kinds of bacterial infections.”
Here’s how the machine works. Items are placed inside for 16 minutes, during which time a UV light comes on and gets circulated through the oxygen in the chamber. That changes the oxygen to ozone, which is what sanitizes the equipment. The process is safe, because it’s chemical free.
Just about anything can go into the machine, including shoes, any type of sports equipment, pet beds, toys, stuffed animals, prosthetics, scuba suits, life vests, luggage, and other household items that have an unpleasant odor, but that cannot be washed.
“If you buy something from a flea market or a garage sale, and you want to get the smell out and get rid of the bacteria, this is a cheap option to do that,” said Rita.
Cmdr. Pat Collins and a few other police officers from the Wilmette Police Department recently had their tactical vests sanitized in the machine.
“The outer part of the vest can be washed, but there are ballistic panels that can’t go into a washing machine,” said Collins. “One of the officers who had an older vest commented that hers smelled a lot better and fresher.”
“I brought in my entire goalie equipment, including skates, pants, catching gloves, a mask, chest protector, and the bag,” said men’s senior hockey goalie, Pat Kerrigan of Northbrook. “They cleaned it and it was perfect. It completely got the smell out.”
Kerrigan said he is going to start having his equipment sanitized once a month.
Wilmette Tailors & Cleaners charges $5 per item, or $35 for a full bag of sports equipment.
“They did a phenomenal job,” said Karen Levin of Wilmette, who recently brought in her dog bed to be sanitized. “It doesn’t smell at all. My dog loves it and so do we.”
Wilmette Tailors & Cleaners is a full service dry cleaner with the plant on the premises. The store also employs two tailors, one who specializes in wedding gowns.
The Raggi’s, who have lived in Glenview for 31 years and who raised their two children there, bought the business in 1983 from Kurt’s step father.
“I think this machine is really going to be a hit,” said Kurt. “People tell us, ‘There’s no way I’m letting my son bring his uniform in the house.’ What we’re doing is a solution to that problem.”