General Thoughts...

Carpet Cleaner Doesn’t Work

It had been a long weekend of being poolside with the Otters, officiating as a swimming technical official.  Being a family affair both Mrs Otter & I had been dressed in our finest whites whilst the smaller and larger Otters were competing. The fairly regular soaking in pool water from some enthusiastic dives and turns in an environment of near 100% humidity takes its toll on the whites, which were promptly flung into the washing machine at the end of the day. All was going well, grabbing some dinner and some TV, relaxing after a busy weekend. And then the washing machine finished…..

Mrs Otter was ‘quite unhappy’ that I had (accidentally) left my black biro pens in my trouser pocket, and that the contents of the pens had leaked tarry globs of ink all across her white polo top. But on a second look it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity, and it was my polo shirt and trousers alone that had caught the contents of the pens, which apparently was ok, and followed by much laughter from the other three-quarters of the household.

The ink was reasonably confined, so I thought that it shouldn’t be that difficult to salvage my kit. The evening of unplanned entertainment began with neat washing powder and some gentle agitation and another trip through the washing machine. Results were not promising, so I moved on to a little toothpaste (useless), and rapidly on to vinegar that started to give some hope. But short of spending the rest of my days gently removing ink from a white top, I thought that it would be a good idea to capitalize on the early indications by heading to the cupboard under the kitchen sink – the home of all sorts of household chemicals and the promise of success.

Neat bleach was next. And with nothing much happening, it was time to up the ante, but reaching for the carpet cleaner hope was beginning to fade, and then the final thought – nail polish remover. Rather than burning the ink off with weak acids and bleach, perhaps a solvent based approach would give better results. Some distant memories of school chemistry classes flashed passed my eyes – solvents – yes, they were good for dissolving things weren’t they, yes, this will work. A test patch was successful in removing most of the ink, so raiding the bathroom cupboard I poured all the remover I could find into sink to gently remove the remains of the ink, confident in a successful outcome.

So it turns out chromatography was the chemistry lesson I was dimly recalling. Struggling to remember that solvents when applied to ink separate it into constituent and characteristic colours blooming as the solvent is wicked along by the fabric. Evidenced in the results of my, now purple, whites. The laughter resumed. But the lesson was learnt – always check the pockets of the whites when washing!!