dear internet, please lend me your common sense...
June 12, 2019 7:25 PM   Subscribe

... and tell me how/if ruined these shirts with mysterious yellow stains are. Context inside.

Shirts: Button-up shirts with prints I really adore and cuts that fit really well. They are all light colored: light blue, grey, and pink.

Stains: all on the front, not armpit/collar, all near the buttons. They are pretty obviously eating/drinking stains. I sometimes zone out while eating and drinking. They are not exactly GLARING but are definitely noticeable, especially in bright lighting. They are yellow, and a little brighter than tea, and are very possibly turmeric stains. I've tried every kind of stain removal products to no avail.

My questions: how socially acceptable is it to wear one of these shirts? Do people notice other people's shirt stains? I've never noticed stains on other people, but I don't know if it's because everyone else somehow knows how to not stain their clothes while eating. My work dress code is pretty casual, but I am trying really hard to generally be more of a put-together human.

Are there other ways to get the stains out that I should try? Any other way to salvage the shirts?
posted by redwaterman to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Turmeric is a commonly used fabric dye, so that should tell you what a bitch it will be to get it out of fabric. It does fade with time, and is somewhat acid sensitive, so you can try white vinegar or vinegar and baking soda if you haven't already.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:31 PM on June 12, 2019

If your put-together-ness would include vests, you could hide the stains.
posted by inexorably_forward at 7:39 PM on June 12, 2019

If you have not tried straight Dawn dish detergent, put a good glob on each stain (if it goes all the way through, apply from the front and back to the stain) and work it in with your finger and let it sit a couple hours or days, then wash them in a small load + slightly more water than a small load (so they move a lot) + double detergent.

These are almost always yellowed grease stains.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:40 PM on June 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Any other way to salvage the shirts?

Dye them with a light turmeric wash.

I wear lightly stained shirts all the time fwiw. I figure people don’t notice, and if they do, they likely assume it was some mishap at lunch, which happens to everybody.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:47 PM on June 12, 2019

How "lightly stained" are they, really? Have a friend take a few candid picture of you in the shirt in natural light and in bright overhead light, then show the pictures to a second friend and ask them if the shirt looks dirty to them. If the second friend says they look stained or dirty, then it's too stained or dirty to wear.
posted by erst at 8:19 PM on June 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Maybe you had some turmeric on your hands when you buttoned it? Have you tried soaking overnight in a bucket with hot water and oxy clean?

I’d consider dying them... or keeping them to wear under sweaters.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:52 AM on June 13, 2019

If you can hang or lay these shirts in direct sunlight for a couple of days, the stains should fade somewhat at least. Whether it's going to be enough, I don't know. But it's worth a try.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:35 AM on June 13, 2019

If it’s turmeric, my experience with turmeric stains is that they don’t wash out until suddenly they do if you just keep up regular washing for like a year.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 2:21 AM on June 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seconding "soak overnight with hot water and Oxy Clean." It has salvaged some clothing I've had that had mystery tough stains.

(If the shirt itself is a colored shirt then maybe "warm water" instead.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:14 AM on June 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Turmeric, as a dye, is remarkably sensitive to light, including both visible and ultraviolet light. Leave the shirt out in direct sunlight for several days (preferably not through window glass), and you should see a significant improvement. Of course you should do the washing, too, but sunlight is more effective.

When turmeric is used as a fabric dye, it must be reapplied on a yearly basis, because it fades so badly in the light.

Hot water is more effective than cold or warm water, at washing out direct dyes like turmeric, because heat significantly reduces the substantivity of the dye, which is its tendency to stick to fabric.
posted by chromium at 11:51 AM on June 13, 2019

To clarify my "warm water" comment - if this is turmeric stains on a light pink shirt, say, my warm water suggestion was just to spare all the light pink dye from also bleeding out as well.

If it's a white shirt, though, hot water definitely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:58 AM on June 13, 2019

Thirding the recommendations for sunlight if it’s turmeric. I have had sunlight completely vanish a turmeric stain on a pale pink sweater, and that was after leaving it just a few hours outside on a cloudy day. It was truly impressive. Turmeric is not photo-stable at all.

(Though the sweater hadn’t been through the dryer. Have these shirts been tumble-dried? I don’t know how much the dryer would set turmeric.)
posted by snowmentality at 7:54 PM on June 16, 2019

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