The Most Common Question

In the course of my over 30 years in dry cleaning, I was asked a lot of questions. A LOT!!

How much is it to clean a formal gown? How much is it to shorten a pair of pants? What is dry cleaning anyway? How long does it take to get something back? But, the most common question by far was…… Can you get this out? Typically this question was asked when the customer had already tried every home remedy they could think of, or it was an expensive garment they didn’t dare risk trying on their own.

The most difficult common stain to remove is food grease. You know the ones, they are “not there” when you put them into the wash and then magically appear when you are folding them up out of the dryer.

The typical dry cleaning solvent will generally take these pesky troublesome spots out with little effort. The petroleum base solution works wonders of grease stains. But what about a home remedy for the every day cotton or polyester blend items?

The reason the dry cleaning solvent works so well is because of it’s petroleum base. So, in order to try this at home, you need to use a petroleum base product you have on hand. A couple that I have tried and used are WD-40 and lighter fluid. Ok, this sounds a little scary, but a few drops will do the trick.

Here are the supplies you will need to tackle those food grease splatters from cooking or the accidental spill at dinner.

  • 1 piece of cardboard
  • a few Q-tips
  • WD-40
  • baking soda
  • Dawn dish soap

Slide the piece of cardboard in between layers of fabric, leaving it directly under the area of the stain. Pour a dab of the WD-40 (or lighter fluid) onto a Q tip and gently tap the affected area of the garment. You may need to do this a few times depending on how saturated the Q tip gets. You want a enough to cover the entire stain. Apply the WD-40 to each stain, making sure the card board is safely between the layers of fabric. Then you will sprinkle baking soda onto the area you just applied the WD-40 to draw the petroleum base liquid out of the garment. Sometimes I will use a tooth brush to carefully work the baking soda into the fibers. Next, get rid of any excess baking soda on the garment and apply a few drops of Dawn dish soap directly onto the stain area. Remove the protective cardboard and rinse the affected area under cold water while gently massaging with your fingers. Wash and dry as normal.

This trick works best on cotton materials, but I have also had success with polyester blended fabrics and rayon as well. It may take more than one try. Just as with any spotting techniques, try an inconspicuous place first to make sure your color won’t be effected.

Happy Spotting!!! Hope this helps!!

Photo by Charlotte May on

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