The Stains of Summer

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Happy summer, Smartmamas! You and your lovely brood are no doubt enjoying plenty of barbecues and days in the sun (don’t forget the sunscreen!). One thing I don’t love is that weird white/yellow film left by my sunscreen that discolors my favorite white t-shirt. Or even the mustard stain on my son’s swim team shirt from dinner last night. And the night before that. And the night before…

Here are a few easy steps you can do to get rid of those stains that don’t involve throwing summer clothes out every August and starting over again every May (ka-ching!).

Since it’s summer, let’s start with sweat stains. First, do not use regular chlorine bleach! It can start a chemical reaction that will turn your stains even more yellow! Then, determine if the stain is actually from sweat or from your antiperspirant. If it’s just sweat then a remover like Zout or Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover is enough to do the trick. But the stain is more likely to come from your antiperspirant, which calls for an oxygen bleach like OxiClean or Clorox Oxi Magic.

And then, of course, there is sunscreen: Oh sunscreen, how I love and hate you at the same time! As a fair skinned woman, I appreciate sunscreen for the freedom it gives me during the summer. But wow, has it ruined some well-loved clothes. Turns out, you can avoid that, and pretty easily, too. Most sunscreen products are made with look even worse if you treat them with chlorine or oxygen bleach. When it comes into contact with anything containing iron — like water — avobenzone will convert to what is, essentially, a rust stain. And get this – rust stains will look even worse if you treat them with chlorine or oxygen bleach.

You need to treat these stains like what they really are – rust- and to do that you can use a rust stain remover like Carbona Stain Devils #9 Rust & Perspiration.

page1image3682496But you can also treat these stains easily and cheaply with simple lemon juice and salt. Really! Just rinse the stained part with cool water and lay it flat. Next, squeeze lemon juice on the stain and top it with a mound of table salt (enough to generously cover the stain). Let it sit overnight and then brush away the salt in the morning, wash the garment and voila! Saved bathing suit, shirt, shorts, whatever!

For stains from grass, dirt and mud, again The Zout and Krud Kutter products will work. There are also two other products, BIZ laundry detergent and Puracy Natural Stain Remover, that can work. But remember, do not put clothes into the dryer unless all the stains are gone! The heat from the dryer will just set the stains even more.

Do you find yourself at barbecues with your kids wondering if they got any ketchup or mustard on their burger or hot dog or did it all wind up on their shirt? I know I do. Your best bet is to try to swipe away as much as possible off with a knife or spoon, and then dab some water or hand sanitizer that can help keep the spot from really setting in. The salt and lemon juice technique can also work with mustard stains, which are the hardest to treat out of all your condiments.

And for dessert there’s the ever popular popsicles. Until they melt onto your kid’s baseball uniform, anyway. For that, you can try Wine Away, a product designed for treating red wine stains, that can also remove other fruit stains like cranberry and blueberry.

And ice cream? Easy, use cold water as hot will make the stain set.

Enjoy the rest of the lazy, hazy, stain-free days of summer!