How to clean cat pawprints from silk?
March 6, 2012 9:13 AM   Subscribe

A cat left two paw prints on a 100% silk pillow cover. How do I get them out?

So we have these pillows on the couch that have pillowcases made from 100% silk. The label says dry clean only.

A few months ago our neigbor's cat (the one I mentioned here, obligatory photo here) came for a visit and left two paw prints on one of the pillowcases. They were hardly visible at first, but have now become a bit more visible. I can't really say what kind of stain they are (dirt, cat saliva?), but they look like slight discolorations, especially if looked at at an angle. They are not visible on the inside of the fabric, though, so I don't think they actually are discolorations of the fabric. Here are two photos of the pawprints, taken at an angle: one, two.

I decided to have the pillowcase dry cleaned, but the paw prints are still there. Any ideas on how to get them out? I'm in Germany, so please keep that in mind if you recommend cleaning products. Thanks!
posted by amf to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Best answer: Are you sure these are paw prints? They look like the kind of discolorations I used to get on my towels and shirts because of acne products I was using (if I recall correctly, benzoyl peroxide was particularly bad).

Could the culprit have been a human laying on the pillows?
posted by hermitosis at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2012

Best answer: I was just going to chime in that those look exactly like the benzoyl peroxide stains I get on t-shirts, pillowcases, and sheets if I forget to wash off my acne medication. They do also look like cat-foot prints, and, while I can't imagine what homeboy would have been walking through, they look very much like chemical bleaching of some kind.

The "paw prints" look lighter than the fabric—if that's the view after cleaning, then I'm pretty sure they're there to stay, unless you want to dye the pillowcases.
posted by wreckingball at 9:24 AM on March 6, 2012

Response by poster: hermitosis: Yes, I'm sure they're cat paw prints. We caught Benny in the act, but at first there were only indentations. I noticed the actual discoloration later - either because of the poor lighting at first or because they got more prominent.

Wouldn't the stains show up on both the outside and the inside of the pillowcase if they were actual discolorations/bleached spots?
posted by amf at 9:28 AM on March 6, 2012

Not in my experience, no. The stuff usually comes in cream form, and it only takes a very little bit to get quite pronounced bleaching, so it wouldn't necessarily have had to soak into the fabric at all (or been able to) to achieve that kind of effect. Here's a photo of a benzoyl peroxide stain for reference—your stains are much less pronounced, but otherwise they look the same to me.

It would not surprise me if a cat was able to touch the face of somebody who'd recently applied acne cream, walk onto a pillowcase some time later, and have those kinds of discolourations show up hours or even days afterward. Does anybody who would have been in contact with the cat use those kinds of treatments? It could probably be some kind of household cleaner, too, but my money's peroxide or similar.
posted by wreckingball at 9:35 AM on March 6, 2012

Best answer: (FWIW, I just checked one of my own pillowcases—they're cotton rather than silk, but the stain did not penetrate the fabric, and that was with my face all mashed up against it, presumably for several hours).
posted by wreckingball at 9:39 AM on March 6, 2012

Generally speaking, any time there is a lighter spot on a fabric rather than a darker spot, you are talking about bleaching and not staining. No amount of cleaning will help a bleached out spot. Your spots look like bleaching.
posted by slkinsey at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2012

This doesn't help with the peroxide possibility, but 100% silk is much, much tougher than it appears.
I travel to China every year & often buy gifts from silk factory outlets (these outlets are for tourists, so the prices are higher than locals would pay, but still bargain basement compared to the US.) When you get a sales tour, you are always told that ordinary shampoo is by far the best method for washing 100% silk sheets/pillowcases/t-shirts. (All the tourists invariably make surprised/disbelieving faces).

Anyway, because I know I can always replace silk items on my next trip - I have become incredibly casual about putting silk through a "normal" cold wash (in my ordinary machine) with a large glop of shampoo. It works brilliantly on standard grime.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:52 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Alas, the consensus seems to be that these actually are bleached spots. I'm not sure if I'll dare to wash the pillowcase in the washing machine as per your instruction, Jody Tresidder, but if I do, I'll post an update here.

Thanks, everyone!
posted by amf at 1:31 PM on March 8, 2012

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