DIY stain removal

Most of my shirts end up with a streak of grease stains on the stomach area, despite the fact that I have a lovely and very-full rack of aprons at my disposal to combat this pesky badge of honor in home cooking.

One of my instagram followers commented on this post on my stain-fighting tactics over the weekend and it made me realize that my mad scientist stain-busting tactics have moved into a new realm since Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking was published.

One change that I’ll undertake in a future printing is that wherever I wrote about borax in the book, I’ve now switched over to washing soda, which I buy at my local (non-fancy) grocery store for $3.24 for a 55-oz. box. Washing soda is like a super-charged version of baking soda. Beyond helping your laundry detergent do it’s job better (when added by the 1/4-cup to your washing machine when you add detergent) by softening the water, it’s super alkaline and will suck the oil from your hands if you mix it with water and touch it with your hands (so don’t do that). It’s not going to eat your skin off or anything; it just really dries out skin, a characteristic that happens to be bad news for stains.

Here are two of my favorite grease-removing pre-soaks, both of which call for washing soda:

Stage 1 soak - for any set-in grease stain:

Pour anywhere from 2 Tbs to 1/4-cup washing soda into a metal bowl large enough to contain your item and fully submerge it (get a couple of these at the craft store to use exclusively for stain removal). Add a couple squirts of dish soap to the bowl and pour in a couple cups of water, stirring with an old chopstick or something of the sort to dissolve the washing soda. Dampen item under cold water and place it stain side down in your mixture. Top the bowl with water to cover your item completely and poke with the chopstick to incorporate the mixture at the bottom with the added water. Let sit 4-8 hours. Wash item normally with other laundry and do not dry.

Stage 2 soak - for any grease stains that didn’t come out in Stage 1:

Follow stage 1 instructions above and instead of using dish soap, sub 1/2 cup of color-safe, non-toxic bleach to the dry washing soda in your bowl. Add water to further dissolve the paste and follow the steps above in stage 1 for placing item in, soaking and washing.

Note: Don’t dry after washing in case you need to repeat these soaks. Assess the stain-affected area after it air dries. Getting grease out of something that’s already been in the dryer is really tough, though not impossible if you keep at it with the mad science. The measurements here are totally arbitrary, please do not worry about precision here. Just eyeballing it is totally acceptable and encouraged.

I have another post on its way for the definitive shower curtain mildew removal tactic, which involves washing soda and peroxide. Stay tuned for that very soon!