Martha's Quick Tip for Removing a Fresh Oil Stain from Clothing Is Genius
The next time a bite of food leaves its mark on your favorite top, give this clever method a try.
Before you followed Martha on Instagram, you looked forward to learning from her on the air—and you still can. The Best of the Martha Show takes you right back into our founder's studio to rediscover her most timeless homekeeping tips and Good Things, galore.
As you'd expect, Martha has a tried-and-true trick for one of the most frustrating mealtime experiences: a blob of oil landing on a favorite blouse or go-to pair of pants. Luckily, you don't have to part ways with a beloved piece of clothing due to this seemingly tough-to-tackle stain. Believe it or not, Martha shared this always-applicable tip in the clip above years ago, while on their air; together with stain removal expert Jonathan Scheer, of J. Scheer & Co., she taught her audience—and now, us!—to banish one of the trickiest stains, sans a trace.
It all starts with a bit of cornstarch. Whether the stain occurred on linen, denim, or terry cloth, pour a healthy dose of cornstarch all over the impacted area and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes (this will help absorb the grease, instead of allowing it to set fully into the fabric). Next, try to slough off as much of the cornstarch as possible with a soft-bristle brush—a toothbrush works well for this.
During the segment, Scheer reminded us to work from "the least invasive and the least aggressive" method when treating a spot, and move on to a "more aggressive, and more aggressive, still" approach only if needed. That's why he and Martha first reached for a gentle laundry detergent mixed with water to treat the leftover stain—they use Orvus ($38.59, amazon.com) in a five-percent solution, a water soluble detergent or shampoo, commonly found at tack stores, says Martha; your typical liquid laundry cleanser can be substituted in for this, as well). It's important to note, they say, that this detergent-and-water method is only suitable for water-tolerant fabrics and on fresh stains.
With your solution, attack the stain from the back of the fabric and place a white cloth beneath it; this makes removal more effective. Once you apply the solution, tap the surface with a hard tool, such as a spatula, several times, checking the white cloth for runoff. Then, over a basin or sink, drizzle the spot with water (just a touch!) and before dabbing the wet area with cheesecloth, which is very absorbent. Continue with this procedure several times until the clothing appears to be stain-free, before throwing the piece of clothing into a cold-water wash—never hot.
The fabric you're working with matters, advises the duo. Scheer recommends against trying this method with fabrics that resist water, such as protein-based fabrics, like silk or wool, or those containing dyes that are water soluble. It's always a good idea, they say, to test the dye composition of the textile before you work with water or a dry solvent.