Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and author of the New York Times bestselling book, My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Her flagship column, “Ask a Clean Person”, debuted in 2011. Here on Lifehacker we’ve launched a new iteration of it, focusing on parenting and all the messes it brings.
Through a series of predictable mishaps, I have several pairs of pants with nappy rash cream stains (Desitin zinc oxide) on them. Some of these pants have been through the wash. Is it too late? This only happens when I wear my good pants. It’s like he knows. Help.
I gotta tell you guys, of all the great – great! – questions I’ve been asked since we rolled out Ask a Clean Person for Parents, the one that’s come up the most is a variation on “Help oh my God there’s nappy rash cream everywhere.”
So today we’ll talk about some products and techniques you can use to deal with this necessary but very stain-y stuff, and also as always, you should chime in to let your fellow parents know what’s worked for you. Or just tell us your own nappy rash cream horror stories!
Before we get into the products to use on nappy rash cream, let’s talk a bit about the technique for tackling these messes, both large and small.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to wipe up as much of the nappy rash cream as possible using paper towels or rags. Baby wipes are also good, but ideally you won’t want to introduce moisture of any kind until you’ve gotten as much of the gloppy cream off the surface or fabric in need of cleaning as possible.
Then, once the cream has been reduced to a mere stain rather than a spill, if that makes sense, you can turn your attention to applying stain removal products to it.
Here are some of the products you can use for nappy rash cream stains; you’ll want to consider what the item that’s been stained is made of and pick a product according to what will be safe to use, and also you’ll naturally take personal preference into account.
Degreasers and Goo Gone
Most nappy rash creams are going to leave behind a grease stain, and grease stains should be treated with products that can cut through grease. In a pinch, a good dishwashing liquid will do (more on that in a sec), but nappy rash cream is some serious, no-joke stain-y stuff, and dishwashing liquid alone probably won’t do the job.
Enter degreasers such as De-Solv-It or CitraSolv. My old pal Pine Sol is also a good choice, but a quick note on using it, as well as the degreasers, for those of you who have HE washers: Because of the low-water sitch in those machines, the smell of products such as can linger quite stubbornly even after laundering. So either use an alternate product, be very sparing, or run a second wash cycle with a small amount of Dr Bronner’s to nuke the strong smell of the stain-fighting degreasers.
Rubbing Alcohol or White Vinegar
The Desitin that made such a mess for our letter writer is the zinc oxide kind, and actually there’s a pretty easy fix for zinc stains: Rubbing alcohol.
Yup! If you don’t already have some on hand, I want to mention that rubbing alcohol can be found in spray bottles and it’s a real game-changer when it comes to using the stuff for stain removal. Of course, if you already have rubbing alcohol or if you prefer to buy it in bulk for cost savings, you can always decant it into a spray bottle of your own.
For launderable fabrics, spray the alcohol on the stain, hold it taut under cold running water, and then rub the fabric against itself under the stream, adding more alcohol as needed.
Then, wash the garment and allow it to air dry, which is always recommended when dealing with grease stains, as a wet garment can obscure a lingering grease stain. The heat from the dryer will set a stain, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and air dry so that you don’t end up with a rotten surprise at the end of your efforts.
White vinegar also works on nappy rash cream stains, though the technique is slightly different from the rubbing alcohol.
You’ll want to start with dishwashing liquid; massage a small amount into the stain with your fingers or, ideally, a toothbrush.
Then, soak the item in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and cool water for 30 minutes before laundering as usual.
OK! So now it’s your turn to chime in with what’s worked, or just to share your nappy rash cream horror stories with the group.