Yesterday, I did a presentation on DIY cleaning at my local library. I think I learned as much as they did. Having to explain the stain routine and answer questions really helped me refine it. The best contribution, though, was a lady who knew what old-timers used to use for enzyme cleaners before the fancy bacterial versions started going in detergents. MEAT TENDERIZER! So here’s the new routine, streamlined from the previous.
Gather your kit.
- PETROCHEMICALS: This is the item most people are missing these days. ”I can get out everything but grease!” This is why. Grease SETS in water. You have to dissolve it in something non-water, which means FUMY. Lighter fluid, mineral SPIRITS, or an AEROSOL brand name stain cleaner. The brand name spray bottles are water based and will not work on grease. So, pick your poison. The only alternative I’ve found to petrochemicals is ZOUT, which isn’t always easy to find. It contains lipase, an enzyme that EATS grease. It’s the only product I’ve found like that. If you have a source of lipase, you can skip the petrochemicals.
- ALCOHOL: If you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you already have a spray bottle of this. You will use it to get out ink, but more commonly to rinse out your petrochemical above.
- ENZYME: Many stains include protein. Protein needs to be EATEN by an enzyme. Zout, Biz, and other stain-fighters have it. For a DIY version, you can use a shake of meat tenderizer. It’s almost pure protein enzyme. There are other alternatives that I will go over in another post, but they’re really work intensive.
- NON-SOAP DETERGENT (Dawn and the like): Plant TANNIN stains set with soap. Dunno why. So, coffee, tea, berries, wine, juice, chocolate, mustard, will all have a TANNIN component. Tannin SETS PERMANENTLY in “real” soap. I don’t, as of yet, know how to manufacture non-soap detergent at home, so you will have to buy some Dawn or the like.
- Oxygen Bleach: Again, if you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you have peroxide. Another alternative is dollar store oxiclean.
- Acid and Base: If you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you have a spray bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda already. you won’t often use these for stain fighting, but sometimes, you will.
Learn the (new) drill.
1. Is there GREASE (or ink)? (If yes on grease, start here. If no grease, but there is ink, use the alcohol rinse in this step. If no grease or ink, skip.) OPEN A WINDOW. Put stain face down on absorbent surface, apply waterless solvent, tamp the back to transfer stain to other cloth, rinse with alcohol.
2. Is there PROTEIN? (If no, you can skip this step. If YES, be sure to do this step ’cause protein SETS in heat.) If you suspect a protein component, then soak in tepid water an hour or two with a generous shake of meat tenderizer. Rinse.
3. Is there TANNIN? (If no, you can do this step with regular soap,but TANNIN sets with “real” soap.) Treat/Soak stain with warm or HOT water and a non-soap detergent, like DAWN. Some tannin stains respond beautifully without detergent if you pour boiling water through them. Rinse.
4. Is it still there? (If no, or you did this already, skip this step.)Apply an oxygen bleach, like peroxide or dollar store oxiclean. In fact, you can toss some of this in the previous step, if you’re soaking. There is no reason that this has to come AFTER the Dawn.
5. Still? (If no, skip this step.)You have some options here. Just be sure to rinse in between attempts. Some stains dissolve in acid (vinegar). Some stains like bases (baking soda). But, if I get to this point, it’s just not going to happen for me.
6. Launder as usual in the hottest water allowed.