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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Valentine’s Day Stains of the Season: Chocolate, Red Wine, Lipstick

By Dr. Laundry February 14, 2009

I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! And, for those of you lucky enough to be indulged this magical weekend, here are some stain solutions for a few popular V-Day stains should you need them.

Chocolate

Like many, chocolate is a favorite of mine, and it’s a real shame if it spills anywhere other than into the mouth of a chocolate lover. With so many different chocolate versions, when a spill does happen, it can be difficult to decide how to treat it. Regular chocolate is usually a mixture of emulsifiers and the cocoa powder particles. Add milk chocolate and now we have milk proteins to worry about. This means, they’re both complex stains, but should be treated differently.

For the regular chocolate, you want to attack the greasy portion first, but with the milk chocolate, the protein portion should be attacked first. After these have been attacked, we hit it with the bleach to help get the color out. While a difficult stain to remove — the task is not impossible.

Regular Chocolate
First, pretreat with a good liquid detergent to help solubilize/dissolve those emulsifiers. Rub into the stain and wait 5–10 minutes.

Milk Chocolate
Here, you want to presoak the fabric in cold water and liquid detergent for about 30 minutes to help loosen the protein part of the stain.

Don’t forget, like any other stain, be sure to inspect the item before you put it in the dryer. If the chocolate stain remains after your initial washing, repeat the steps above prior to drying item.

Red Wine
I love a good red wine, but the spills that result from it are tough! From Two Buck Chuck Merlot to Rosenblum Zinfandel to Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, red wines always find a prominent place in my Valentine’s Day celebration. While tannins help develop complexity to the flavor of the wine, they also add difficulty to stain removal. Here are some easy tips for saving your tablecloth or T-shirt:

First and foremost, quickly blot the spot as soon as possible after the stain occurs with a paper towel or cloth to absorb excess red wine. I like using club soda to bubble up the stain and help prevent it from setting. To help bubble off the stain, I recommend you pour the club soda from the back of the stain. Treating the stain immediately also greatly increases your odds that the stain it will be successfully removed. Bonus tip: Do NOT rub bar soap on a red wine stain. It may set the stain.

As always, before you toss the item into the dryer, check to ensure that the stain has been fully removed. If the stain remains, repeat the appropriate process above until the stain is gone. If you dry a stained item, the stain may be set into the fiber making subsequent removal much more difficult.

Lipstick
Lipstick is a combination stain of a greasy/oil part and dye, and you have to treat the oil portion of the stain first. Here’s the process:

  • Pre-treat the stain with liquid dishwashing detergent on a damp cloth. From the back of the item, push the liquid through the stain to help separate it from the fabric. Remember to dab, not rub, as rubbing can force the stain into the fibers.
  • While pushing the stain from the back of the fabric, put a dry cloth under the front of the item and continue to blot the lipstick away from the fabric. Keep changing to a clean part of dry towel to prevent re-staining the item.

From here, if your stained item is WHITE:
Wash immediately after in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1.

If your stained item has COLOR/PATTERN:
Apply Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster and rub into stain. Wash immediately in the warmest water recommended on the care label using detergent and Clorox 2®.

Finally, inspect the item. If any stain remains, repeat the steps above prior to drying the item

Again, Happy Valentine’s Day!