Wednesday, April 12, 2006

chocolate anonymous

Ms. Pea is out this week performing her civic duty to the state (jury service). In her place we bring you a much-requested commentary from guest columnist Flems.

I can see that many of my chocoholics in arms, "Hello my name is Flems and I am addicted to chocolate," need the savvy that I have learned through trial and error over the years about how to destroy the evidence after a good chocolate binge.

I cannot guarantee this advice because there are many different kinds of chocolate in the world, from single origin bean to Hershey's syrup. I will try to group all this into three main categories of stain removal: Dark Chocolates -- like the kind you get and leave in your purse or pocket too long; Milk Chocolates -- consumed rather quickly but when melted are drippy; and the all too well known chocolate sundae varitials -- that can be used on ice cream or in naughty places in the dark. Once you have established what kind of chocolate stain this is, there are several ways you can deal with the unwelcome remembrance of a fun dinner or comfort snack left too long in the sunlight.

All chocolates from all groups should NEVER be WASHED and DRYED in THE DRYER! Either kiss your clothes goodbye, or know they are going to have a stain and find a nice flower pin to place on top of the stain (if you dropped the chocolate in your lap -- best not to cover with a flower.) At this point you can go to your local dry cleaner and beg them for mercy -- but many will laugh, shake their heads, give you a little "tisk-tisk," and say they will do what they can. You will receive your clothes back in two days with a little card on the hangar featuring a balding cartoon man with his arms outstretched as if to say, "We're sorry, we did all we could -- you're f&*ed."

First and foremost my pets, chocolate is a greasy bean! That shiny beautiful color comes from the natural oils in the plant. The greasier the chocolate bar, the fresher the chocolate. Therefore, against all you may think, water from your glass at dinner will make things worse! It will spread it out into your fabrics and leave a stain that will hurt you every time you see it because you can't comprehend why on earth that little drop of chocolate could have made such a big stain. Seltzer water, on the other hand, is some magical elixir that has emergent grease fighting powers ... bubbles, salt, water ... I don't know, but if you can't find it ... DON'T USE PLAIN WATER. (side note: Water has harsh chemicals and water hardeners and stuff that will ruin your clothes too ... that's why detergents have water softeners in them.)


75%-100% Silks -- Do not pass go, do not collect $200, and go directly to your local dry cleaner. This means skip the seltzer and let the stain dry where it is. Remember that part about grease? Well this is where you can leave it with confidence and texture will stay the same in your clothes. It will not dry out. I know we all care about mother earth here, but dry cleaners are a necessary evil to keep harmful dry cleaning chemicals away from the hands of teenagers who would otherwise inevitably find a way to get high off these things and force us all to give up red wine, chocolate, and breezy summer silks. We can't have that now can we? These chemicals are not sold on the retail market, and there is nothing that you have at home or in some Mother Jones article for cleaning without chemicals that can work like the dry cleaning stuff can. Enviro-friendly dry cleaners will also use the stuff for spot treatments, so you can take your precious items there and know they are safe for you and future generations.

Wool/Silk Blends -- Delicate and touchy area, because most of them say that the fabric is dry clean only. I made the mistake of reading an article somewhere about how the fashion industry had gone into cahoots with the dry cleaning industry to put "Dry Clean Only" onto all women's clothing and that you could wash pretty much anything. This was not true, and my favorite wool skirt never forgave me for this betrayal of trust, and today hangs solemnly in my closet taunting me to put it on. Needless to say, no amount of steaming, pressing and lord only knows what else will ever put that skirt back into shape, but I can't bring myself to get rid of it. On the other hand, what does hold true is that you can "spot treat" a Dry Clean Only wool/poly/silk blend if the area you are cleaning isn't the size of the whole sleeve. Some people will tell you to soak the stained area. I don't think this works, and it ruins your clothes. If you put a nice cotton hankey, folded into quarters, behind the stain, and take a little seltzer and palmolive dish detergent and work in a circular motion with another cotton hankey, you will start to see results. Working a stain from both angles, front and back, always helps release the stain from the fabric. If you need to let the stain "soak" do so by leaving the cotton hankey behind the stain and the soapy area on the stained part overnight. Also I can't stress enough how important the hankey is to the stain removal equation. It keeps the fabric in shape, water from spreading, and other things like dish towels and paper towels can leave bits and pieces when you scrub too hard, or worse -- another stain.

The first category of Dark chocolates are most definitely going to need a little help from some dishwashing soap, but possibly depending upon quantity, milk chocolates can come out with seltzer and some good hard elbow grease. Cheap syrups like Hershey's have sugar and things in them, which can make them harder to get out. Do not be disappointed if you cannot remove the stain from these items 100%. The dry cleaners can finish it off, or you can yourself with some Dry-el stain remover. I love this stuff. It just got out soy sauce out from my BRAND NEW white jacket that I wore out to dinner with my boyfriend for sushi last night. I was flabbergasted (to be honest though, I had pre-treated with a Shout scrubby stain remover thingie).

Hang to dry and steam the garment back into shape. Wait a few days before you wash it or take it to the dry cleaners thinking that you have removed the stain completely (sometimes stains have a shadow residue that comes out later when the fabric is completely dry). At this point, you will need to take the garment to the dry cleaners for stain treatment. Here's the thing though: they need to know about the stain and you have to point it out to get them to treat it.

I hope all this helps! This information parlays into other food items as well: soy sauce, strawberries, and for those of who consume meats, the detritus that comes from the drunken haze of a perfectly cooked filet mignon.

Happy Stain Removing my friends, and I hope you will consume your chocolates more enthusiastically knowing that only you or your dry cleaner will know you had it -- not your weight watcher's circle.

Flems is a Raleigh-based fashionista who served as Johnny Depp's personal stain-removal consultant on the set of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. She still bears the scars. But hey, you don't see a mark on that burgundy velvet suit, do you?


  1. sound advice from a master! my finer garments thank you, flems!

  2. i think this posting should win a prize!


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