Yet here’s a spot.
Hark! she speaks. I will set down what comes
from her, to satisfy my remembrance the more
Out, damned spot! out, I say!
Any chance I have to work a performance by my favorite actress, Judi Dench, into this blog, I will seize. The clip is worth watching, if for nothing other than the eerie scream at the end.
I don’t usually share many moods with Lady Macbeth, but this week, I am feeling her pain.
After changing my shirt for third time as a result of not wearing an apron while working with chocolate, I have a small pile of brown splattered clothing, including one of my favorite green tops.
I read a cookbook years ago advising the aspiring chocolatier to purchase a wardrobe of brown clothing. “Very cute,” I thought at the time.
I have to say, after working on last week’s chocolate leaves with their many short steps, rest periods between, and not wanting to be bothered putting on and taking off an apron, I should have listened to this wise author.
I am now wearing an apron and am determined to get the many chocolate stains out of my clothing, without resorting to toxic solutions or dry cleaning.
This could prove to be more challenging than tempering, but since I have also become a devotee of make-your-own, natural cleaning products, I have most of what I will need on hand.
I started making my own liquid laundry soap last year, with great success (the combination of boiled soap flakes, borax and washing soda with just a hint of lavender oil works like a charm), moved on to dish soap (backed off that a little, as my family said it didn’t work well and I want to encourage their dishwashing willingness), and regularly brush my teeth with baking soda.
I love baking soda. With its partner in cleaning – white vinegar – it forms the cornerstone of my arsenal. When the boys were little, it was a super-fun way to get them to clean the sinks, and our house became known as the place to make volcanoes, both in the sink and outside.
I like to think we had the cleanest sandbox in our neighbourhood.
But these stains are annoying, and to make matters worse, I have already washed some of them, then dried them, thereby pretty much insuring they are “cooked” into the fabric (heat is the enemy of most stain removal). No matter. I will once more enter the kitchen laboratory, apply some basic chemistry, and with no expectations of success, see what “comes out in the wash”.
I have lined up on my counter: borax, washing soda (this is sodium carbonate – baking soda is sodium bicarbonate – it is more corrosive than baking soda and you cannot use it in baking!), white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide (the bottle must be fresh, as hydrogen peroxide loses its effectiveness rapidly, once opened), dish detergent, and heavy cream (I kid you not).
I have a stack of clean rags, for placing underneath the layer of soiled fabric, and to dab on the various solutions, along with some old, clean decommissioned toothbrushes and a couple of surgical scrub brushes from Lee Valley tools.
There are a plethora of tips and videos on the Internet, with some great, some doubtful advice on how to remove stains and I spend a whole afternoon watching them. The “anguished face acting” in some of them, I find highly entertaining. I think I managed to incur another stain while laughing, watching a particularly engaging British one about cleaning your toilet with Coke.
The first stain I work on is a milk chocolate and heavy cream ganache, which I stirred a little too vigorously, and splattered my walls and shirt front.
Apparently, you should treat milk chocolate and dark chocolate stains differently, because of the milk proteins. Because there is milk protein in this ganache, I follow the “fight milk proteins with milk proteins” tip.
It pains me to sacrifice heavy cream to stain removal, but I do as they suggest, and using a clean toothbrush, paint on and gently scrub the stain with fresh heavy cream. The cream sort of turns to yogurt as I agitate it on the stain, and I am not sure if this is working, but I move on to the next step, and soak the stain in a small bowl of cream for 20 minutes. I then rinse it out, with cool water. Hmm. Still not convinced, but I throw the shirt into my magical Miele front-loading washer (our Elder Son is correct – I have turned into an incredibly boring person, as I get excited over things like dual-flush toilets and high efficiency washing machines), where it will be joined by the other stained garments for the penultimate step.
Now, for the dark chocolate stain. This one gets a dish soap (1tsp), vinegar (2 Tbsp) and cold water (1 cup) treatment. I dab the mixture onto the stain with a clean cloth, from the underside – having turned the shirt inside out, and placed a clean cloth under the stain. The idea behind this is to push the stain out of the fabric, rather than pulling it through to the other side – which works especially well with fresh stains, which haven’t had the chance to penetrate all the fibres.
Well, the stain is certainly lighter after this treatment, but once again, I am a little skeptical. After rinsing this one with cold water, I follow it up with a good soak of hydrogen peroxide (another good reason to have a clean cloth underneath the fabric layer – it catches the excess). This garment joins the milk chocolate stained garment in the washer.
The final stain is a coloured cocoa butter stain that I am pretty sure is going to remain on Younger Son’s favorite shirt. It has been there for a while, but I have a go with another clean toothbrush, and some toothpaste and baking soda mixed together. I leave this paste on either side of the stain for about a half hour, then throw this shirt into the washer to join the others.
I set the machine for a NO HEAT wash cycle, and add ½ cup washing soda, dissolved in a cup of warm water, and ½ cup borax to the detergent dispenser. Then, I turn it on and hope for the best.
And blimey, if I don’t have two out of three successes! The milk chocolate based and dark chocolate based stains have lifted, and after careful scrutiny with my nearsighted eyes, I am satisfied they are stain-free. Younger Son’s shirt did not fare as well, but the stain is lighter, and perhaps I will have another go, tomorrow.
I am feeling smug and impressed with the non-toxic solutions to these stains.
And I will wear an apron from now on, I promise myself.
As a precautionary measure, however, I have purchased what I think is the ideal shirt for my innate ability to produce stains.