Out, vile, uh, crazy black streak!
April 13, 2006 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Help removing unknown black streaks from a 100% cotton white shirt. My friend works as a waiter and periodically black marks show up on his work shirts, particularly around the cuffs. They're not ink or food--are they sweat stains? They almost look like dark pencil streaks. They've come out in the past, but this time they're all up and down one sleeve and bleach and stain removal spray aren't doing anything. Any recommendations?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total)
This is a major long shot, but if he wears them in the car, check the seatbelt. I used to get mystery black marks on my clothing and it turned out that I, an idiot, was frequently letting the seatbelt get closed in the car door, where it picked up a very small amt. of black grease.

And if so, maybe liquid dishwashing liquid would help.
posted by theredpen at 4:07 PM on April 13, 2006

I meant liquid dishwashing soap. I mentioned already the idiot thing.
posted by theredpen at 4:07 PM on April 13, 2006

Response by poster: He takes the bus down, so the car thing is out. :/
posted by Anonymous at 4:14 PM on April 13, 2006

Strange - does he carry a messenger bag (perhaps with leather straps)?

If the bleach doesn't do anything, perhaps try hydrogen peroxide (the highest % you can find).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:19 PM on April 13, 2006

Are they thin shirts? Sometimes thin t-shirts can get caught around the bottom of the agitator in the washer, and the machinery there will streak the fabric. As for getting them out- you might try rubbing them with some Dawn and salt (or just rub the Dawn in with a toothbrush) before laundering again.
posted by headspace at 5:06 PM on April 13, 2006

Could the stains be coming from a food tray?
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 5:06 PM on April 13, 2006

I was a cashier and had to wear a long sleeved white tux shirt back in high school.

I'd get the same kind of stains all the time.

Never did figure out what caused them, but usually some hardcore scrubbing with something like a nail brush and dish soap would eventually get them out.
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:22 PM on April 13, 2006

Response by poster: The shirts are not particularly thin, he doesn't carry a messenger bag, and he carries the ceramic plates directly on his arms--the only trays they use are for drinks, and those are carried on the hand, over the shoulder. Curiouser and curiouser!
posted by Anonymous at 5:23 PM on April 13, 2006

I'm a waiter myself and I wear white button down oxfords to work every day. The same thing happens to my shirts all the time (especially around the cuffs). The cuff marks are usually caused by sweat and oil/dirt from my skin. Sometimes, however, my apron (which is black) causes these as well. I'm constantly removing things from the apron pockets: money, change, pens, lighter, etc and by the end of the day, the entire cuff area is black.

Maybe his apron?

I know this might be a long shot: but I've leaned up on the swinging doors to the kitchen before and pencil like streaks have appeared on my sleeve...it was grease from the hinges.
posted by gummi at 5:23 PM on April 13, 2006

I used to get this, too, and I'm pretty sure it was from drink/food trays, the round, kind of plasticy/rubbery rimmed kind you see in restaurants. I'm pretty sure they just came out well enough in the wash, but you might try a grease/oil/other-petrochemical-byproduct stain focussed cleaning product.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:33 PM on April 13, 2006

Best answer: I'm guessing it's a transfer from the passthrough window. I was a server for many years and often experienced these types of stains on my shirts. The stainless steel on the passthrough picks up dirt and grease as the evening wears on. If you wipe it with a cloth at the end of the shift, you will notice a black residue, I think that this is what is on your friend's shirts. No great suggestions for removal except the usual, scrubbing, pre-treating stains, hot water wash and maybe a little bleach in the wash water.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2006

I work part time as a waiter and get the same thing. I use dish soap(Dawn). I scrub it into those or any other marks with a little water as soon as I get home. You can wait to wash them at this point and the stain won't set. I never use bleach on my white waiter shirts and they are stain free.
posted by thenextword at 3:36 AM on April 14, 2006

bleach and stain removal spray aren't doing anything

I don't think you're bleaching enough. Are you just running the shirts through a load in the wash (+ some bleach)? That's incorrect.

The advice I got from an old Sicilian restauranteur (and former waiter) worked well for me when I had the same problem. You need to soak your shirt in bleach/water solution overnight. 1/4 bleach, 3/4 water (yes, that much). Let it soak overnight, then wash as you normally would.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:03 AM on April 14, 2006

If it's greasy, try some lighter fluid on it right before you wash, with a chaser of detergent or stain product. The solvent makes the other stuff work better.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:15 AM on April 14, 2006

the stainless steel on the passthrough picks up dirt and grease

Yep -- it's stainless steel that does this. It doesn't even have to be dirty/greasy stainless steel; the spray stainless cleaner that many places use leaves those grayish black marks.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on April 14, 2006

Also some aluminum alloys that haven't been annodized or otherwise surface treated will leave black marks on everything that touches it.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on April 14, 2006

go to the nearest auto store and pick up a degreaser - that should do the trick!
posted by Jujee at 12:15 PM on April 16, 2006

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