When one thinks of Italy they tend to think three things: Roman history, breathtaking monuments and countryside, and amazing food. The first two are spot on. No where else in the world are there as many blatant testaments to mankind’s past. Every corner in Rome is occupied by ancient ruins, centuries old piazzas, and symbols of a long lost history. It is nicknamed the “Eternal City” for a reason. Monuments are also a major attraction, ancient or otherwise. Florence, city of the Renaissance, has innumerable monuments in just about every hole and cubby that attest to the city’s artistic greatness. Great monuments can also be found in just about any piazza of any town, and lend to risk free viewing pleasure. So why do I highlight the first two great things about Italy as G-rated tourist pleasures, but not the last? Half the fun of coming to Italy is eating the fantastic food! Well I have a spoiler alert for all you destined to dine in the old country. Beware the stains! Below are my recommendations for stain removal from life experiences I’ve had in Italy. Trust me that handy Tide pen is not likely to help you here!
Today I’m going to tackle the two biggies: Red Wine and Olive Oil. First up to bat?
Now in a perfect world pastas and breads soaked in olive oil should be relatively easy to eat. You have your fork or you dip your bread, not hard. Remember though you are in the land of passionate expressive people. One well executed hand gesture from a neighbor could very well land that oil topped piece of bread in your lap. Same goes for the pasta. You are enjoying your pasta and didn’t realize you had a drop of oil on your lip and voila, it just landed on your khakis. So what DO you do and what DON’T you do.
Do: Blot the stain with a clean napkin. Use a clean spot of the napkin every time you blot. After you have removed the top layer of access oil, cover the stain with an absorbent powder like Talcum, baking soda, or cornstarch. Be generous with the covering. You will need the powder to absorb the oil out of your clothing. Leave the powder on for at least half and hour before lightly brushing off. If some of the powder sticks to the stain then great! Let it stay there, because it is still soaking up oil. Leave it there till you can properly launder it. Many restaurants do have talcum powder at the ready.
Don’t: Do not immediately go to the bathroom and use hand soap to try and wash it out. The majority of bathroom hand soaps are not grease fighting, and therefore will not effectively remove the stain. Also if you choose to wait to treat the stain when you launder your clothing, add a bit of detergent on top of the stain and let sit for a few minutes. Wash the garment appropriately, but do not dry it in a dryer! Let it air dry to check to see if the stain is really gone. Once you use a dryer you’ve pretty much set the stain for life.
This stain is much easier to imagine. We spill things on ourselves all the time, therefore red wine is a fairly common stain. The real question is how to the people of the land of wine treat this stain? Surely they have some inside secrets on effective removal. The answer is yes and no.
Do: We’ve all heard that club soda is a great way to get fresh red wine stains out. This is true, and fortunately Italy has an abundant supply of fizzy waters at the ready. Order a glass of water frizzante or gassata (gassata tends to be more carbonated, and will work better). Douse your stain with the water then rub/blot the stain with a clean napkin to remove the wine. Absorbent powders also work in this situation. After you have used carbonated water, and the stain is still there, even if faintly, use talcum powder to help absorb the remaining wine. Leave the stain covered with a light layer of powder till you are ready to launder it. If you are still in Italy, go to a regular supermarket and buy something call “sgrassatore”, a white liquid in a spray bottle. Spray the stain generously with this liquid, let sit for a few minutes, then wash.
And don’t forget the next time you pop open a bottle of wine, be sure to give thanks to the generations of Italian grandmother’s who have honed the art of removing food’s delicious reminders from our favorite clothes.