The Secret Ingredient That'll Eliminate Stains Around Your Collars

If you're a baking whiz and regularly produce angel food cake and meringues, then you've probably already got this stain-removing ingredient in your cupboard. This cook's best friend helps stabilize egg whites and makes baked goods rise. And yet, somehow, it also helps with your laundry? Yup, specifically, it helps remove marks or rings around the collars of your shirts. The secret item to eliminate those collar rings is an old-fashioned baker's secret: cream of tartar. That's the regular name for potassium bitartrate, a mild acid. What we know about natural cleaners that are acidic is that their stain-lifting power comes from attracting or pulling out the stain molecules through an electrical charging process. That likely is the mechanism behind cream of tartar's magic.

"My neck is cleaner than anyone else's neck," you might be thinking, "so why am I getting rings around the collar?" You can take three showers a day and still get those little marks on your collar — it's not your fault. If you're human, you perspire, and if you use grooming products on your hair, moisturizer or sunscreen on your skin, wear perfume or cologne, or treat a skin condition with cream medications, those marks are likely to show up on your collar, particularly on a lighter color fabric. 

How to use this hack and preventive measures

The great thing about cream of tartar is that as long as it's sealed and kept away from humidity, it's a near-eternal ingredient. Get your box of tartar, then you'll want to assemble any shirts that need treatment. By the way, if you button your cuffs, you may find similar markings near the wrists. Go ahead and wet the collar with some water, then dust the area with cream of tartar. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the marks. To keep the nap of the fabric intact, don't overscrub. Then, toss the shirt straight into the wash with the laundry detergent you normally use. 

Although some preventive measures are possible, like wearing a T-shirt under your shirt, that's not always possible or the right choice. The truth is the oils from our bodies get deposited onto our clothes no matter what but won't be visible after wearing something once. Do you know how heat from the dryer can set a stain? The same principle is at work here. If you wear your shirt a second time without laundering it in between wearings, your body heat may set the stain. If it's white, it's best to launder it in hot water after each wearing, but for any other color, it will get just as clean using cold or warm water. Also, consider reducing the use of lotions or cologne around your neck.