Kitchn Love Letters

The Former Curator of the Met Costume Institute Swears by This Stain Remover — So I Tried It on My Dirty Dish Towels

published Apr 6, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I love reading articles about famous people (or, in this case, even semi-famous people). But I’m not really wondering what their next gig is — I’m admittedly more concerned with the minutia. I want to know about their favorite Trader Joe’s snack, their best organization hacks, and the brand of dog food they feed their pups.

So when Harold Koda, the former Costume Institute curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, spoke to New York Magazine’s The Strategist about his favorite stain remover, I was all ears (er, eyes!). He explains that he owns incredible vintage placemats (decorated with lobsters and green parsley sprigs) that are gorgeous but were stained. A friend borrowed them and used L.A.’s Totally Awesome Pre-Wash Stain Remover, and voilà — decades-old stains were gone but the colors of the placemats remained vivid.

Koda has worked with plenty of vintage fabrics for a living, so if he’s impressed, so am I. (And yes, that was a gutsy friend!) I ordered a bottle from Amazon (at a whopping $9) and gave it a go. 

Credit: Erica Finamore
Pre-treating my towel's stains with L.A's Totally Awesome.

I decided to try it on a dish towel — you know, the most intensely stained item in my home. My hot pink cotton Turkish towel was covered in greasy stains courtesy of a sloppy brunch-making situation, so I put it down on my tiny dining room table and followed the instructions on the bottle.

Credit: Erica Finamore
Better than it was before.

I sprayed the remover in an inconspicuous spot and rubbed it to make sure there was no discoloration. Once it was good to go, I sprayed the solution directly onto the stains, totally saturating them. There were a lot of stains so I had some intense spraying to do. I did this part, then that part, then opened it up to make sure I hadn’t missed any additional stains. I let the towel sit for a few minutes. Then, I threw the towel in the washing machine and used my typical detergent on a cold “colors” cycle and awaited the results. Koda had said it might take a few treatments and washes to really see a difference, but I was hopeful.

Credit: Erica Finamore
Ta da! Straight out of the dryer!

After the wash, I took the wet towel out to inspect it before tossing it in the dryer. All of the gross egg and oil stains had completely vanished from my pink towel. That was pretty impressive because they were really soaked into the fibers. After a drying cycle, you would never have known I was the world’s sloppiest breakfast chef.  

What do you use to battle tough stains on your dish towels? Tell us in the comments below.