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Remove Any Stain With This Unexpected French Trick

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Welcome to Spring Clean Your Life, your one-stop shop for gotta-try-those tips & bookmark-me inspiration to spruce up your kitchen and home this season—and well beyond.


It might be hard to muster up the excitement to do laundry week in and week out (unless, of course, you’re one of those envy-inducing, wash-loving master folders―we see you), but maybe what you need is a little shake-up in your routine.

We’ve all heard of stocking a proper pantry, including a spice cabinet, to set yourself up for cooking success in the kitchen. But what about applying that principle, somewhat, to your laundry routine? Danielle Postel-Vinay introduces us to the French art of making a home in Home Sweet Maison, where she includes a section about the methodical way French people (like her discerning mother-in-law) manage la laverie.

How to Organize Your Spices So You Don’t Lose Your Dang Mind
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How to Organize Your Spices So You Don’t Lose Your Dang Mind

One particularly interesting note was the way in which the French pre-treat their stains. Instead of grabbing the nearest all-purpose stain treatment spray as I usually do, the French rely on a host of stain-specific détachants, or spot removers.

“I once opened a cabinet in her laundry area and saw a dozen small bottles standing together on a shelf, each with a different colored label, arranged together like spices in a rack,” writes Postel-Vinay of her mother-in-law’s setup. “Examining the bottles, I saw pictures of chocolate, blood, oil, rust, ketchup, and ink. These, I realized, were customized stain removers, or détachants. I was amazed.”

“When I asked my mother-in-law about her stock of products, she acted as if it were the most obvious thing in the world to treat different stains with different chemicals. And, of course, looking at it from a scientific point of view―which is precisely how the French view laundry―this makes perfect sense. Grass stains are not the same problem as ballpoint pen ink, and olive oil is utterly different on a silk blouse than coffee. How could one expect to remove all these different stains with the same chemical?”

The détachants (like the ones above shown) are inexpensive and commonplace; you can find them filling an entire wall or shelf at any French supermarket for about a Euro or two per bottle. If you won't be making it to a Carrefour or Monoprix anytime soon, you can create your own “spice rack” of spot removers here stateside; Postel-Vinay recommends brands like Carbona, which offers up stain-specific potions for everything from chocolate, grass, oils, gum, rust, and more.

You Know What You Need After Doing Laundry?

How do you pre-treat your stains? Let us know below!

Tags: Laundry, Spring Clean Your Life