This time of year is chock-full of chocolatey decadence — in the form of a gift from a loved one, something homemade, or a sweet treat purchased at the February 15 post-holiday sales (who, me?). But don't let it ruin your sugar buzz if half that truffle accidentally lands on your shirt or your couch. Here's what you need to know to remove stains from anything your cocoa-covered fingers may touch.
Understanding Chocolate Stains: Two-for-One
"Chocolate typically has both cocoa powder and cocoa butter," explains Mary Gagliardi, aka Dr. Laundry, Clorox's in-house laundry expert. "The cocoa powder is an issue because it contains dark-colored tannins, while the cocoa butter (or whatever oil is used to make the chocolate) is an oily stain-removal problem."
But don't freak out: You can still get chocolate stains out, so long as you're methodical about it! "You shouldn't just throw any chemical at it, because it just won't work," says Craig Kalucki, owner of Simple Clean, a commercial cleaning services company in New Jersey. "There is a scientific factor to removing and dissolving stains that we tend to forget about."
The Best Way to Get Chocolate Stains out of Regular Laundry Items
First, you want to cut the grease from the fat (which isn't water-soluble), and then target the tannins. Gagliardi recommends dabbing straight liquid laundry detergent or grease-cutting dish soap, and massaging it in well. Let it sit for a full five minutes, then rinse with warm water.
"For lighter chocolate stains, next you should machine-wash with detergent and either bleach for whites or color-safe bleach (like Clorox 2) for colors and items with spandex content," she says.
Darker chocolate stains, however, will need a second step. The darker the chocolate, the more tannins (and more deliciousness, right?), but the worse the staining. Dab the stained area directly with either a gel bleach pen or color-safe bleach, and rub in gently. For white items, wash right away; for colored items, let it sit for five to 10 more minutes before washing.
Keep an eye on your item as it dries — and never put anything stained into the dryer. "Damp fabric can make it look like a stain is all the way out when it isn't," Gagliardi says. "Heavy stains sometimes need a repeat treatment to get a stain all the way out, and your chances of success go way up if you keep the item away from dryer heat."
The Best Way to Get Chocolate Stains out of Dry Clean-Only Items
You might not have 24/7 access to professional dry cleaners, but you can buy their magic solution at the store. Pick up some, made by Oops!, Energine, K2R, or Goddard, suggests Kalucki, so you have it in the unfortunate circumstance that you need it.
The other thing you'll need: mineral oil. "The phrase we use is, 'like dissolves like,' so you want to use oils on stains that have actual fats in them," explains Kalucki.
Start by sponging the dry-cleaning solvent onto the stain. Then dab at it with a folded-up cloth dampened with one part mineral oil to eight parts of the solvent — a drop or two of the oil to a splash should do it.
As the stain comes out, use a clean pad or different section of your cloth (reapplied with cleaner and oil). Give the spot a final rinse with just dry-cleaning fluid. Then get it to the actual cleaners when you can.
The Best Way to Get Chocolate Stains out of Carpets and Upholstery
For home furnishings that can't be easily transported to the cleaners, you'll follow a similar routine with the dry-cleaning solvent, plus mineral oil with solvent, as above. However, you'll need to take a couple other steps to be sure the stain is fully removed.
Dab on a solution of mild laundry detergent (like Woolite) with a few drops of ammonia to remove any oils that are left. If the material is color-safe (test!) and the stain was really bad, you can add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Finally, rinse with either dry-cleaning solution (if the material isn't water-safe, like silk or wool) or a water-dampened cloth (if it is). This sounds like a lot of effort, but it's worth it!