Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Removing Subway Grease from Clothing

Morning commutes in NYC are a battle. Rushing to a train, stuffing oneself in through the needle-hole size space left between the people who refuse to move from the doorways, the overpowering scent of too much and too many perfumes, and the bright lights of the subway car glaring at the commuter who's eyes just finished adjusting to the underground platform are all routine. On some days, train delays, extra stinky cars and strangers loosing their balance into one's lap add to the circus that is New York. But on a few, very special mornings, one can also enjoy the rush of pride to have jumped in just before the doors closed... Only to realize her skirt didn't make it with her.

Today was one of those morning where my fellow strap-hangers, comfortable with their spots, did not move into the open section of the middle of the car. I drew the short straw and ended up sandwiched between a man and his luggage, a few women with oversized pocketbooks, and the doors. At first I thought this was just fine: My stop would be the next one where the doors would open on my side of the car, so although I'd be compressed into an odd shape and clutching at the skinny edge of the doors' windows to keep my balance, I would be rewarded with a quick exit.

But as the doors chimed and closed, I realized the white dress I was wearing had a fuller skirt than I thought, and I was now not only jammed into the car, but also stuck to the doors. I wiggled and tugged, and my dress broke free, but not without a scar from its own bit of combat -- a near foot long streak of black grease slashing its way across the side of my white dress.

Thankfully, there's a very simple remedy to the physical marks the subway tries to leave behind with its grease: Dish soap -- the kind that's used for hand-washing dishes. Dish soap is made to cut grease on dishes, so it works well if the grease on clothing is cleaned right away. There are suggestions out there that one must first soak up the excess grease with a layer of cornstarch, or salt, or baking powder, but the subway doors don't usually leave enough grease to make that necessary.

When I arrived at work I dropped my purse and headed straight to the office's kitchen, where I poured enough soap to cover the length of the stain. Adding a little water, I rubbed the fabric together, and the grease came right out. It was easier than washing a pot.

Honestly, I wasn't sure it would come out so easily from the white cotton, so I was very surprised and pleased. I have also heard that colored dish soap isn't the best choice, but the kind I used was orange, and even on white fabric it was just fine.

Taking the MTA may still be a morning battle, but at least our clothing can easily win the fight when it comes to wrestling the subway doors.

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