The “Tannin Bed” Edition

In Advice, Fashion, Life, question on October 24, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Emily, of Minneapolis (Minnesota) wonders,

Dear Ally:

If one were to have a pristine, snow white hoodie of the most stunning nature, and one were to be so unfortunate as to spill some coffee onto that pristine, snow white hoodie, how would one remove such stains from said article of clothing?


*   *   *   *   *

Dear Emily,

Well, this hoodie of yours certainly sounds like an enviable piece of fleecy joy! I hope that this coffee stain was relatively recent – the best time to remove a coffee stain is, obviously, immediately after the spillage has taken place.
If this is the case, then lay the affected area with the spilled-on side face-down on a cloth, and then use another cloth to blot at the stain. If the stain persists, try using a commercial stain remover until at last the stain has disappeared, and let the hoodie air dry.
Never use any sort of heat-based drying method as this will set the stain, and unless the stain has taken on the visage of the Virgin Mary I highly doubt that this would be a profitable venture for either you or your fantastic hoodie.

Our Lady of the Caffeine Overdose

If, as I suspect, the stain is not brand-spanking-new-fresh-outta-the-box variety, then there are several recipes for a homemade stain remover. Some involve a solution of 1 tsp white vinegar to 1 qrt water being sponged on the wounded article of clothing, while others involve sprinkling baking soda onto a damp cloth and sponging the area with that.

However, when it comes to stained, slightly-less-than-pristine-snow-white hoodies, there can be a danger in following any advice – the smallest mistake can leave your hoodie maimed in the worst possible manner – a mistake such as the temperature of the water.
Some remedies mention cold water; some mention hot – is there a difference?
Well, short answer: yes, you tit.

Long answer: yes, you tit, let me explain why.

When it comes to stains, there are predominantly four types. Coffee falls under the category of


“Tannin” (which, despite what you may think, has nothing to do with sunny beaches or melanoma) stains – when fresh – must be treated using cold water, followed by a general wash in the hotter side of the fabric’s temperature limit.
When dealing with dried, set in tannin stains, DO NOT USE SOAP! Stick to detergent only – I know that when working hard at the office it can be tempting to just dab a little bit of that Dial Anti-bacterial on there and be on your merry way, but this can very easily lead to a shrinking wardrobe. Just keep working away at set-in tannin stains using detergent only, and soaking as many times as it takes.
Tannin stains include tea, coffee, red wine, soft drinks, and washable ink.

Watch out for those babies, baby. They can stain.


Another main kind of stain are “protein stains”. These stains include ice-cream, cheese sauce, baby formula, milk and related dairy products, and essentially every form of bodily fluid that you can feasibly imagine accidentally secreting and getting on your clothes (even some of those that you wouldn’t really think would ever end up on your clothes).
Protein stains can be soaked in cold water and then laundered – similarly to tannin stains – in the hottest water the fabric will stand before it gets up and leaves without even a “Dear John” letter.


Then there are “oil stains” – if you need me to tell you what an oil stain is, then your brain is obviously too stupid to work out what these complicated squiggles are, and you probably gave up long ago.
Oil stains generally require a heavy-duty detergent or an aerosol, petroleum based spray. If you don’t happen to have some handy, use powdered detergent with a bit of water to make a paste, and let that sit for a bit. Use HOT water with oil stains – much like washing greasy dishes.


Finally there are “dye stains”. These are bad – stay away from them. They include felt-tip inks, Kool-Aid, those dark fruits that are so good for you, grass stains, or dye transfer from being silly and washing blue jeans in hot water with a white shirt. When it comes to dye stains, you can rest your hopes on heavy-duty detergent but it’s likely that bleach is going to need to come into play.

Well Emily, I sure do hope that you get those stains out of your hoodie – it sure sounds just grand! Wish I could have one of my own just like it…

Until next time!

An Unknown Danger


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