Sometimes I feel like I can’t have nice things. Because in a world of nice things, there is also burger grease.
Take, for example, the cautionary tale of my favorite jumpsuit. I loved it, but it was too big for me and had languished, unworn, in my closet for more than a year. One day, inspired to invest in what I had rather than buying new things, I splurged: I took my jumpsuit to an old-school tailor in New York. I watched as he expertly pinned it to fit me just so, paid 50 percent upfront, and went home to await his call.
A week and a half later, my jumpsuit was ready. I’d never had anything tailored to me before, and it was perfect, from the cross-front neckline to the neat seams to the pant legs, which hit just right at my ankle, not a centimeter off. As a finishing touch, the tailor had steamed the green-grey cotton fabric until it was butter-soft and smooth. I was so pleased, I wore my jumpsuit right out of the tailor’s and straight to a coworker’s farewell party a few blocks away. And I felt great in it for a glorious 15 minutes, imagining all the good times to come.
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But then, the sliders came out, and I caught a waft of them as the server dipped the tray beneath my nose.
“Mini slider?” he said.
I can’t turn down a good burger, new jumpsuit or no new jumpsuit, and before he could finish “slider” I was taking my first bite. Which is exactly how the burger grease came into play—all down my front, to be specific.
Fortunately, previous incidents had prepared me for this moment. I beelined to the bar, side-stepping so no one could see my torso, and asked the bartender for some regular old dish soap on a cloth so I could pat the soap onto the stains. When I could duck out, I dashed to the closest convenience store, where I bought a small bottle of the stuff for $1.99 (clear, to be safe), reapplied it generously until I could get home and throw the jumpsuit in the wash.
Dish soap works well as a holdover measure on oily stains because it’s engineered to cut through the fat and food on your plates—and it’s cheap, multipurpose, and convenient. Chances are, you’re within a few paces of a bottle no matter where you are, at home, or at a restaurant or bar. No need to go searching for expensive, speciality laundry potions when time is of the essence.
I’m happy to report that the stains came out, and my jumpsuit has gotten plenty of wear. But now I make sure to stash some dish soap, decanted into a travel-size container, in my bag. Just in case someone comes by with a tray of sliders.
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Here’s a step-by-step recap
- Before you do anything else, blot the stain with a clean paper towel or cloth napkin to get off as much of the excess grease as you can. Whatever you do, don’t rinse off the stain yet—it’s much easier to work on dry fabric.
- Next, as a pre-treatment, apply a few drops of liquid dish soap to the stain and let it soak in, rubbing it gently with your fingers (make sure they’re clean!) or a soft-bristled brush.
- Let the soap soak in for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse it out with warm water.
- Machine-wash the garment on the hottest cycle available with your normal detergent. Add a color-safe laundry booster, if you’d like to play it safe.
- A good tip I learned recently is to air-dry the garment to make sure the stain is completely gone (machine-drying your item might bake the stain in). If the stain remains, repeat the entire process.
There’s also baking soda
Another popular go-to tactic for oily spills on linens, upholstery, and carpets is to sprinkle something absorbent on it—The Spruce suggests cornstarch, talcum powder, or baking soda; Good Housekeeping says you can even use salt or artificial sweetener. These will help prevent an oil stain from setting into the fabric, making it easier to lift when you’re doing laundry later on—just sprinkle on, let sit for a half hour at the minimum, and vacuum up or brush off.
Even better, you can do the absorbent-powder method first, then follow up with the dish soap spot-treatment for a one-two punch. The hot water wash following the two should make the stain entirely disappear. Summer grilling season, we’re ready for you!