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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Stains: Nuts & Bolts

By Dr. Laundry June 12, 2006

I look at a bad stain as a challenge that can usually be overcome. One of my most memorable stain-saving situations occurred the night before the Berkeley Ballet Theater’s performance of The Nutcracker, near San Francisco. One of the volunteers had hand sewn a gown for “Mother Ginger” with black ribbons running down a giant white skirt. The day before the show, one of the performers broke red lipstick and accidentally smeared it on the skirt. Funny, who knew being a scientist at Clorox would mean late night house calls!I don’t have any superhuman powers that I draw upon to remove tough stains like lipstick on white clothing. Just knowing some of the basics to stain make up goes a long way in guiding how you could react to it.

In the case of my little ballet drama story, lipstick was the bad boy we had to deal with. Lipstick is really a combination grease and color stain, so one of the worst things you can do is rub it into the fabric. To remove it, dampen a cloth with water and add a few drops of liquid dishwashing soap. From the back of the fabric, push the dishwashing detergent into the stain to start solubilizing (dissolving) the greasy portion and help separate the substance from the fabric. While pushing the back of the fabric, take a dry cloth to the front and blot the lipstick away from the fabric.  Keep changing the cloth so that a clean portion is always in contact with the stain.  Then, use a separate wet cloth to gently flush the remaining stain and excess dishwashing detergent from the item.

In general, if you have a stain on bleachable white fabric, I’ve found Clorox® Bleach Pen® Gel is a very effective way of getting rid of it. It allows you to bleach just what you want, the stain, and nothing more.  I’ll break down different types of stains in other posts…