Ease of use: 0
Tide to Go, $3.99
Claims to clean: "Works well on fresh food and drink stains, including tomato juice, ketchup, BBQ sauce, grape juice, coffee, wine, tea, chocolate syrup. (It does not work well on greasy stains.)"
As its name suggests, the Tide to Go stain pen is an on-the-spot stain treatment (rather than something applied to laundry before washing) meant to be carried on one's person at all times and used immediately after stains occur. Like an invisible ink pen, Tide to Go is supposed to magically draw your stain away. But I quickly discovered it was virtually useless on blood, coffee, mustard, and lipstick. Also, after going to work on just a few stain adversaries, the pen tip quickly became dirty and discolored. Then the hard felt tip dropped out of the pen, disappearing on my apartment floor. Its greatest victory was against the salad dressing, and, of course, whatever that mysterious liquid was at the dinner party.
Ease of use: 1
Schweppes Club Soda, $1.59
Claims to clean: This article in Scientific American discusses club soda's efficacy on red wine.
Like me, you've probably heard that club soda can get stains out. Since club soda doesn't come in a spray bottle, I tried mounting a sprayer gun on top of my 1-liter bottle. This turned out to be—much like the club soda was at fighting stains—not so effective. It was, however, better than nothing in fighting the barbecue sauce (2 points). Based on the Scientific American article, it seems that club soda is best on wine stains, and best when used quickly and in somewhat large quantities; hence, I'll admit that my spray-and-wash methodology was probably faulty.
Ease of use: 1
Shout Wipes, $3.29
Claims to clean: Consult the Shout Web site's interactive and very fun to use Stain Solver.
I like Shout Wipes. They make sense. Similar to the wet-naps you receive after a big lobster dinner, Shout Wipes are individually wrapped, and like the Tide to Go stick, are meant to be carried by reckless eaters like me at all times. I was, however, surprised and disappointed to find the wipes had little luck with coffee, mustard, or lipstick (to be fair, no product was successful against the mustard or the lipstick), and they had very limited success with the blood (1 point) and the barbecue sauce (2 points).
Ease of use: 2
Claims to clean: "wine, blood, dirt, tomato, grass—even set-in stains."
OxiClean "starts to work before your eyes," reads the bottle. It's true! When I sprayed it on my blood stain, the formula's hydrogen peroxide fizzed away—giving the impression that serious stain eradication was in progress. As it bubbled, I imagined the peroxide erasing the blood away, but in fact, it barely eliminated it (earning only 1 point).
Ease of use: 2
Spray 'n Wash, $3.49
Claims to clean: "Greasy foods, grass, tomato sauce and a wide variety of others."
Spray 'n Wash was the stain remover of my childhood. I can recall my mom drawing it like a gun from a holster against the multifarious messes I'd make on my clothing. Its packaging declares Spray 'n Wash has "powerful stain fighting ingredients that penetrate, loosen, and eliminate the toughest stains." It earned 3 points for nearly removing the barbecue sauce, and also a 2 for ease of use. What's easier than spraying and washing?
Ease of use: 2
Claims to clean: A call to Shout's 800 number (800-991-7468) revealed that while Shout Wipes and the Shout trigger bottle do have slightly different ingredients (both are detergents) and are designed to be used differently, they are intended to be effective on the same stains.
The No. 1 stain remover (according to AC Nielsen data), Shout claims that its "triple acting formula clings, penetrates, lifts stains away!" The product does have my favorite absurd instruction on the back of the bottle, which reads, "1. Do not operate when tip is in OFF position." The test results? The blood was partially removed (2 points) and the barbecue sauce was nearly eliminated (4 points), for an overall score of 13.
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