• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Friday, November 19, 2010


*deep breathe, adjust chair, get glasses*

Are you ready? I am done, done, done and done!
(Except telling you about removing stains.)

If you only want the short answer, fast ... go to comments here.
You can also see the victims and culprits there.
Now for the rest of the story.

The shirts are saved.
The pj's functional, the sweater is history,
and  my washer clean -
amazingly it did not get any ink inside!

Just to be sure, I washed a dark jean batch first
and then a batch of dark colors. (Naturally I scoped it out first).

Yes I do always sort - carefully -
I like my clothes to stay the original color.

Hmmm - one of these days I will tell you about how I learned to get clothes clean and keep them that way.

The ink in Fountain pens and gel pens are water based so wash out more readily, especially when wet. Regular ball point pens use a synthetic colorant with an alcohol solvent in a thick paste and are usually oil based. They tend to dry quickly and set to a permanent stain easily. A sister sent this link and it was very informative. Another sent me some tips and tricks - Thanks to both - I think I got it out.

My first line of defense against stains, especially food on clothing, is SUNLIGHT Dishwashing Liquid with lemon. Rinse out all the spot you can, as soon as you can, with cool water and rub the Sunlight in. It will remove grease spots, spaghetti sauce (even on whites) and all but the toughest, dried on or in, set stains.  Occasionally grease on polyester/synthetics may need a second treatment or TIDE. I air dry suspect items until I know the spot comes out.

It did not remove these ink stains.
No color came out when I rubbed it in or rinsed it.
I did not really expect it to but I usually try it first.

I must state that I like Tide laundry detergent. My mother used it and survived washing for 11 children  and a husband on the farm (manure be gone).  Dad also did construction and sheered sheep.  His clothes always got washed last in the old wringer washer. Water was precious, hand pumped, heated on the stove, and used and reused to wash many batches of clothes: first whites and baby stuff, then light colors, then mediums colors, next darks and last (and always nasty) were the jeans and work clothes.  There was a separate tub of rinse water. The electric wringer swung between the washer and the rinse tub to squeeze - literally wring - the water out. The rinse when replaced was dipped back into the washer for a load or two of some of the colored and dark batches (with the addition of soap and fresh water to bring it back to the needed level and temperature). If you have never used such contraptions or bucketed all your water count your blessings ... and they were so much nicer than washboards and riverbanks!

But I digress.

And did I mention the tiny ink spot on the shoulder of one of his new shirts that was also in the batch?

I put Tide on that and it came right out.

TIDE is an effective stain remover for almost every stain on every fabric.

Just make a paste, (or use the marvelous, modern miracle of liquid) rub it into the stain and launder as usual.  Before drying, check to be sure the stain is completely gone.  If not repeat. I admit it openly - I believe in TIDE! And yes it does cost slightly more - small cost for clean laundry! BTW - use much less than the cup in the box. I never use more than the lowest mark on that cup so I chose a dipping cup that size and discovered my soap lasts much longer, and cuts the cost.

I always soak very deep, large or dark stains for a minimum of 30 minutes. Some difficult stains persist through several tries but get lighter each time.

Tide did not remove the larger ink stains. It did remove the small superficial marks surrounding the large soaked in one.

No color came out when I applied the paste or rinsed it.
I actually did hope.

I figured there was little point in trying lemon juice, vinegar, milk, baking soda, or salt as some stain removal guides suggested.  I also felt that starting with mixed compounds and detergents was a bit extreme or might set it so chose to use the simplest things I had on hand. Please do your own research as to what mixes involve.
I also saw no point in spending money to purchase various stain removers that I don't use otherwise anyway - and that none of you recommended. If I needed to spend money I would rather buy a NEW item of clothing. Some friends loaned me some products - that did not budge any ink/color.

All sources available suggested rubbing alcohol or hairspray.

First I tried the pj's.

I saw little difference in the effects but both did loosen the ink and cause it to bleed into the pad underneath AND the pad I blotted it with. Hairspray (I tried several kinds) seemed to really spread it quickly and created a messy halo effect that did hand wash out using a paste of Tide. The stains were now slightly smaller and lighter - and purple - they became a fairly bright shade of purple while in contact with the alcohol.

A word about padding: Use it - lots of it and then a little more.

Protect all surfaces and be careful to keep your hands ink free.
I choose a couple of worn out hand towels.
Most of my towels are white. Some are ready to replace.
*mental note: answer the why on laundry post*

When I became careless I nearly stained my white counter merely by setting things down

and I got it on my hands and made a mess on my green shirt that had to be spot cleaned before I could continue.

I started the alcohol process on my shirt - dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, dab, dab,dip, dab, dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, spill, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab - ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

There was no other way! put the cloth behind, put drops of alcohol on the spot and blot.  Move towel pad to clean spot and repeat. It was getting lighter though. It was coming out.  I was bored! I could only stay at it for short bursts and then go work on something else - and that isn't exactly how I had planned to spend my day, much less my week!!! I persisted because I really do like that shirt.

Some sources suggested fingernail polish remover.
I rummaged in my cupboard and found some.
I vaguely remember buying it perhaps at the $ store.
I think its name brand  (at that price) piqued my brain -
AMES brand - I am not kidding! made in Ames CT.
It was a non-acetone protein enriched remover. That means it had glycerin and, among other things, fragrance - really? -
 Pheww - these smells are very strong and I ventilated the area.

I stared at it awhile before I decided to actually apply it. I decided not to waste anymore time avoiding David's shirt. I got some cotton swabs and tentatively applied it to the tiniest spots on the back (far right) I didn't want to damage the fabric - oh yeah - I didn't mention these before because I found them later.

The first and most amazing thing that occurred was a strange yellowy residue that blotted out almost instantly.

(The next day I saw the yellow spreading out of spots treated with alcohol.)

I was a bit afraid of the polish remover on the green cord but tried it too. It made it look like a scab.

The stains generally did not lift significantly until the yellow blotted out.

JOY! Astonishment!

The smaller spots, on the tan shirt back, almost disappeared in 4 or 5 dabs, but they were only the size of a glass pin head.

I moved on to bigger stuff and decided to use paper towel on the top side. The ink seemed to be more on the outside so I began from that way.  A first application looked like an ugly bruise. I could see the yellow crud coming out first.

The nail polish remover mostly did not bleed through to the pad on the back - or rather the ink didn't.  It seemed to almost peel the ink off the fabric. I checked the label.  100% cotton just like my cord shirt but this one has a smooth finish of some type that launders like PermaPress. [There's another blessing! I remember when there was no such thing.]

In an hour or so I had most of the ink gone from that shirt.

When the ink was a light gray-blue, hairspray seemed to become more effective.

 Half an hour later a grey blue spot identified each stain - still.

I took a break.

The now lighter and smaller 'w' shaped spot on the front would not budge. I tried everything.

Putting more on by tipping the bottle directly onto the stain.

Soaking it in alcohol, nail polish remover, etc.

I started combining stuff according to directions.
I tried the more radical ones on the pjs first.
Between each attempt I hand washed the area out, sometimes only rinsing, sometimes with a paste of Tide. It lightened, slightly.

My green cord shirt was not fairing as well.  The nap was holding the ink. When I saw the area start to lose some color I decide appliqué/embroidery was the best option for it. A small berry over one and a leaf traced from the original design for the other (both on upper right).

I started trying and combining anything and everything even solvents.  Sometimes I washed it out, sometimes I didn't. I spilled the remover.  My friend loaned me some that was different from mine. I was willing to risk a hole in the fabric to learn what might or might not work. I tried the harmless acidic foods. I even tried the stuff on the other fabrics. Nada, zip, nothing helped.

BTW - that is when the sweater became history.

So far I hadn't tried anything on it. I applied the polish remover and it wicked ink into a huge spot. I attempted  to wash it out just to see if I could but admit that I was not diligent or persistent in treating it.  I couldn't be bothered. I did learn to be very cautious about stains 'wicking' into surrounding area in the future. It is always good to work from the outside to the middle - often the stain is not as heavy on the edge.  Other things to consider would be color fastness and fabric types.  Some solvent type of treatments would harm, shrivel and/or dissolve some fabrics. Some fabrics are fragile enough that abrasion might cause thread breakage or other signs of wear.

Finally I washed it thoroughly and started again with my friend's remover.  It lightened a bit more.  When it stopped lifting again I decided to see if sunshine might help.  I put lemon juice on it and laid it outside on my back step for a couple of hours in full sun.  Next I washed it out completely in the machine. It was light enough that I had to look for it.  I left it with a paste of Tide on it overnight, washed that out and put Sunlight Dishwashing liquid on it and left it for several hours and then washed it out again.

I decided I am done.
It is good enough- not perfect but OK.
If I don't have my glasses on I can't see the light grey w shaped spot or find the small spots left on the back.

It is air drying on the back of a kitchen chair. I will treat it again before the next wash.

Oh and since it is staying so blue/gray I decided to experiment on my royal blue T-shirt.A few months back bleach accidentally flicked a few tiny spots on the front.
They turned completely white.
I tried writing on them with a blue pen on purpose.
It laundered out.
I wear my green shirt buttoned there anyway.
I asked David to retrieve the pens (he wore gloves).
After I wet the shirt I carefully pressed the ink onto the white spots. They look absolutely black.

I intend to let them dry completely, heat set them with my iron,
 and see if I can 'stain' my white spots blue!

Can I deliberately do what happens accidentally?
Wish me luck.