Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every other week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.
My boyfriend is a classical musician, and has to go to a lot of auditions. This can be pretty nerve-wracking sometimes, so he ends up sweating a lot, and some of his dress shirts are really starting to smell. Recently he was in Italy for an audition, eating some local oranges, and got the idea that if he rubbed the orange peels on the armpits of his shirt, he'd smell citrus-fresh instead of like old BO. So now his good white shirt not only stinks, it also has big yellow-orange stains in the pits, and it's starting to get warm enough out that just leaving his jacket on the whole time to cover it up is becoming pretty uncomfortable. Is this shirt salvageable, or should I be sending him out to buy a replacement?
I have an answer to this question! I do, I promise.
But before I give it, I want to ask a question of you all: Do you think this question is fake? I honestly cannot decide! My first reaction upon reading it was, "Oh, come on." Well, wait, no. My first reaction was to howl like a loon, then to say, "Oh, come on," then to pause the episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta that Husband of Clean Person and I were watching so I could read him the question to get his take on whether or not it's a fake. He feels that it's real.
The more I considered it, the more I agree with Husband of Clean Person, and here's why: For all the ways this scenario makes the stain-removal expert in me curl up in a ball and go, "No no no no no no no nope!" there's also a part of me to whom the orange-rubber's logic makes utter sense. Like, I can completely follow the thought process here. Which is worrisome in and of itself, but we're not here to consider my mind; we're here to consider cleaning. So! With that stated, let's get to it.
Since it's early June, this is a good time to revisit my MONSTER POST on removing pit stains of the more general variety. There are a number of good options out there for eliminating those kind of crusty, yellow stains that blight so many of our lighter-colored shirts, among them an OxiClean soak, the use of sunshine, white vinegar (of course, of course), hydrogen peroxide, and on and on. Seriously, go read it! There's a ton of information in there.
In the case of this particular shirt, though, something more heavy duty is probably required. Which brings me to one of my favorite tricks: The Cascade Method.
The Cascade Method was brought to my attention by a caterer, actually. Yup! Cascade, the powdered stuff that is meant to go in the dishwasher. It turns out that it also works well as a pre-soaking agent for whites, in part because it has a bleaching effect. I've used Cascade to bring a set of white towels that came out of the wash sporting black spots back to their original state, and was thrilled with the result, so I can tell you from actual experience that it really does work.
To use it, dissolve a cup or so of the stuff in very hot water and then soak the stained item(s)—in this case, the orange-y, pit-y, BO-smelling shirt—for several hours, possibly overnight. Time is really of the essence here, in that you want to allow a lot of it to pass in order to see the best results. You can do your soaking in a sink, or the tub, or just in a plastic bucket or bowl if you don't want to sacrifice the use of the kitchen sink for so long. Post-soaking, run the shirt through the laundry without detergent; the Cascade will have impregnated the fibers such that adding extra detergent will be unnecessary.
Now, getting back to the matter of whether or not the question is fake: What say you? I actually don't mind if the consensus is that I've been had, for two reasons. 1. The question was freaking hilarious, and 2. it gave me a good excuse to revisit the pit-stain post and to talk to you about my beloved Cascade Method!
First-time writer, longtime reader. I was sitting on a rooftop that turned out to be covered in tar, which stained my jeans and my coat that is a polyester/cotton/nylon blend. How can I get it out?
WD-40. Yup! Of course, since you're a longtime reader and all, you'll know that I love love love WD-40 (best Twitter account in the biz) and its many, many uses.
When working with WD-40 on clothing, the one thing you want to remember is that you do need to wash it out fairly quickly, which you can do by flushing it under cold running water and applying a small amount of dish soap or liquid laundry detergent. If for any reason the WD-40 leaves behind an oily-looking residue, you can treat that with either Pine Sol or Lestoil, which are our go-to products when it comes to treating oil and grease stains.
That's also a good thing to keep in mind if you choose to follow Lifehacker's method, which advocates for the use of olive oil to remove tar from clothing. Hey, better than oranges.
Jolie Kerr is the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha (Plume); more cleaning-obsessed natterings can be found on Twitter, Kinja, and Tumblr. Squalor appears on Jezebel and Deadspin on alternating weeks.
Image by Sam Woolley, photos via Shutterstock.
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