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Reference Question of the Week – 7/5/15

   July 11th, 2015

pinesapThis was actually a reference question I asked myself, but it's sort of summery so maybe relevant to other people - and, hopefully, helpful.

I was outside playing one day a few weeks ago and ended up with pine sap on my favorite pair of shorts. That's the worst because I don't like going shopping, and I thought that sap meant pretty much the end of clothes.

I was sad, so I put them aside in the hopes that the sap would just evaporate naturally. I came across them last week, and was able to determine that sap doesn't naturally evaporate out of shorts.

Since no laundry experts were around to ask, it occurred to me search online for "remove sap from clothes" to see if the internet had any ideas. I figured they did, but also figured it involved vinegar - which seems like the magical cure for almost anything, but is too bad because I can't stand the smell of vinegar.

So, with the optimism appropriate to any new trip on the internet, I started clicking links.

There was no shortage of tips and old school remedies, as you might suspect. The consensus seemed to be rubbing (or soaking) the spot of sap in anything from laundry detergent to cooking oil to WD-40 (surprisingly, vinegar was not mentioned).

Most of the options were either things I didn't have, like nail polish, or didn't actually trust, like peanut butter. But one that kept coming up - hand sanitizer - sounded interesting.

I don't have any at home (because, you know, super-bacteria), but it seems to be everywhere else so it was worth a try. I was especially swayed by this guy's video:

My shorts are cotton, but if it works so magically on his, why not mine, right?

And holy cow, it worked! Mine took three applications - my guess is because it was a big blob that had soaked through the cotton (and I had already washed and dried them) - but it worked. In just a couple minutes, it was as if the sap was never there. I don't know where it went, but it went away.

Besides the magic, it must be the alcohol in the hand sanitizer breaking down the sap, but I couldn't be happier to be able to wear my favorite shorts again stain-free.

Yay for internet research.

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7 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 7/5/15”

  1. Theo Says:

    While it is super easy to find cleaning ideas online, it’s so hard to know which ones to trust (peanut butter?). I really like Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson (http://www.worldcat.org/title/home-comforts-the-art-and-science-of-keeping-house/oclc/41612500&referer=brief_results) for breaking down the different kind of stains or soiling and the different kinds of cleaners or solvents and what works with each. She goes into the basic science of it, too, so it really makes sense.

  2. Sunflower` Says:

    I found out blue Dawn dish soap will take oil stains out of clothes. Thought I ruined my favorite shirt when I was deep frying egg rolls!

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Theo: that is exactly the kind of resource I’d be interested in. I think the most helpful thing would be a table showing which solvent is best for which compound, and then kind of a “dictionary of stains” explaining the chemical makeup of common stains. That way, I could just match things up – like @Sunflower said, dish soap is good on pizza stains because they’re designed to break down grease (this is one I’ve used before). Thanks to you both!

  4. The Librarian With No Name Says:

    The closest thing to your “dictionary of stains” that I’ve ever found is “Removing Stains at Home,” a PDF created by the Cornell University College of Human Ecology. The actual cleaning procedures involve some heavy-duty cleaners you probably don’t have at home, but it’s great for cross-referencing weird stains with chemically similar ones you can actually google.

    It would be really nice to have a single-serve website for stains and solvents, in the style of thistothat.com, but I’ve never come across one.

  5. Mandi Says:

    I can vouch for peanut butter removing tree sap – I have 40 acres in Northern British Columbia and two dogs, and I’ve had to use this a few times (my Australian Shepherd has an ongoing feud with the resident squirrel – in fact, I need to clean the sap from his paws tonight).

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @The Librarian: YES! How about an IfStainThenCleaner.com website – you just type in “strawberry” and “cotton” and it would tell me how to clean my pants after my lunch today. That is a great idea.

    @Mandi: huh – I was surprised at the hand sanitizer, so I shouldn’t be surprised at peanut butter. I am surprised, though, that the dogs let you get anywhere near them with peanut butter without licking it all up first. That has been the treat-of-choice in the Kong for every dog I’ve known.

  7. Jordan Says:

    You could check out Cleaning Institute’s website; they have a stain removal chart (doesn’t include sap though, but seems pretty legit otherwise):