Ask a Clean Person: The Stain Trifecta

Having the tits that I have, i.e. enormous, I inevitably ruin new shirts by getting food/coffee/etc. on my front. Spraying them with Shout does not seem to work. Any advice on that front?

The most important thing to know about stains is this: Get to them immediately. Shout might not be working for you because by the time you’re applying it the stain has already set in. This isn’t to say your shirts are beyond saving, no no!

So! The best way to treat a food or drink stain on a shirt is to wet it down straight away; good old water goes a long way with a fresh stain. Bonus if you have a sponge or terrycloth towel nearby to really get at that spot. Even if trace amounts of the offending substance remain, that quick rinse-rinse you just did will go a long way in helping the whole mess go away when you can finally get your blouse into a washing machine. If we’re working with a dry clean only proposition here, you should absolutely, 100% point out the stain when you drop the item off with your cleaner so they can spot treat it.

I’ve had good luck with applying Shout Gel to stains, rubbing the fabric vigorously against itself (what the more dirty minded among us might refer to as fabric frottage), and then rinsing in cold water prior to laundering. The ‘cold’ part of that is really important here: Heat will set a stain. If you’re at all unsure of whether you’ve successfully gotten a stain out, do not rinse or wash it in hot water and definitely do not put it in the dryer!

SUPER IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Stain treatment really (really really really) depends on what the stain is. The water treatment is safe for any kind of stain — but not for every kind of fabric! — but depending on what you’ve spilled maybe check out Martha Stewart’s stain chart for the specifics of dealing with chicken soup spots versus sangria splotches.

Jolie. Please. Once and for all. Yellow armpit stains on shirts. Shirts of all kinds. Fancy, beautiful silk shirts! (Ughhhh why am I so grossssss.) Is there any hope?

First things first, you are not gross. No, you are not and I won’t stand for you beating yourself up over the behavior of your glands, so just hush that fuss.

Let’s put your silk shirts aside for a moment and talk about getting those pit stains out of cotton and other washable fabrics. There are a whole boatload of weird and wonderful ways to treat sweat stains that employ everything from baking soda to crushed up aspirin. I know! So great, right? There’s also apparently a sweat stain removal product called Pit Stop, which is HILARIOUS to me. (I have never claimed to have a highbrow or refined sense of humor.) I know nothing of it, but maybe someone reading here does and can provide a product review?

The most commonly recommended way to remove yellow sweat stains is to mix up a solution made up of 1 tablespoon white vinegar to ½ cup of water. Soak your soiled shirt in the solution for about a half hour and then launder as usual, remembering to use cold water only.

When it comes to silk shirts, you need to be super careful because of the delicate nature of the fabric. I would suggest taking the item to your dry cleaner as soon as humanly possible for you — again, remembering our “get to it immediately” mantra — and showing the attendant exactly where and what the stain is. If you’re really an overactive sweater, you may want to eschew silk shirts entirely; they breathe not at all and show stains like the dickens. They’re like a pretty but temperamental girlfriend whose good looks can only take her so far before her many dreadful qualities get her dumped.

One last thing: If the shirts in question are white, you might have a moment where you think, “Oh la la la, I’ll just bleach it!” DO NOT DO THIS. Pit stains are protein stains, and bleach will render a protein stain even more yellow. Which brings me to…

But what about getting the cum stains out of sheets?

Look, let’s not mince around and stand on ceremony about how proper we are. We’re all out there doing sex to other people, or doing sex to ourselves, and things get leaky as a result.

Your sexual stains are the one area in life where I’m going to give you a pass on not getting to it immediately, because I cannot in good conscience suggest that you leap up out of bed after sexytimes to go wildly after your sheets with a Scotch-Brite.

I mean, I do that, but then again I am very, very single and very, very interested in keeping things clean.

The easiest course of action is to treat the soiled area(s) with a product designed for protein stains after you strip the linens from the bed but before you launder them. Something like OxyClean will work well here — if you’ve got Oxy powder (I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my Oxy, I prefer powder form but have absolutely no good reason why) mix it up with some water to make a li’l paste and then apply it to your splooge splotches. If you’ve got liquid or gel form Oxy, hit the stains with it directly. Give it some time to work its Oxy magic, and then wash the bedding as you normally would, using cold water so not to set the stain in if your first round of treatment didn’t fully take.

Previously: Silver, Baking Sheets, and … Wine Vomit.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Is anything you own dirty?