Friday, February 17, 2017

The wisdom of the Internet

The Internet is a great source of entertainment, a good source for news, and pretty good source of information about how to do things. The value of the information we get when we try to learn how to do something will vary, largely because of the quality of what we find, but sometimes things actually work. This was one of those times.

When we stained the deck week before last, we both put on sunscreen, being SunSmart Kiwis, and all that. But there’s a problem with this: The smell.

For some reason, nearly all sunscreen and related projects have a smell of fake coconut oil. I have no idea why that is, though I think that maybe it’s a holdover from the days when it was called “suntan lotion” and was pitched as tropical. Whatever the reason, to me it's a stench, and I hate it.

What I hate more, however, is that it doesn’t wash out—like, ever. I washed the t-shirts we were wearing, and a couple cloths we’d handled, hung them in the sun, and washed them again. They still reeked.

I wasn’t surprised by this: I had a shirt that had been “contaminated” several years ago, and despite repeated washing, hanging in the sun on the clothesline, the smell was still there, though fainter, years later. I wouldn’t wear it.

And so, yesterday I turned to the Internet.

The first bit of advice I got was to put white vinegar into the final rinse cycle of the wash machine and let it soak for 15 minutes. I don’t actually have any idea how to do that with a front loader, so instead I soaked them in the laundry tub (photo up top) in white vinegar and hot water for a good half hour. I used about a half bottle of white vinegar—though I didn’t measure; I just made sure I could smell it a bit.

I was a little concerned that the clothes might reek of white vinegar, even after I put them through the washing machine, or, even worse, a combination of vinegar and coconut. So, I decided to move on to the second bit of advice.

I drained the sink, rinsed the items, the refilled the sink with hot water and laundry pre-soaker (an oxygen-based one), maybe half a cup at most. I let that soak nearly an hour.

Finally, I drained the sink, rinsed the items, and put them in the washing machine, using relatively hot water (60c/140F) with my ordinary detergent and a bit of the oxygen pre-soaker (I doubt it was even a tablespoon).

I put the stuff in the dryer, like normal, and when it was done, they were okay. There’s still a hint of the icky fake coconut smell, but I can tolerate it (and I suspect that over time the smell will gradually go away). The items were saved!

I’m well aware that this wasn’t scientific in any way, not the least because the intensity/"objectionableness" of the stench is entirely subjective (and I know there are certainly some people who like the smell). Also, I did two solutions I found, so there’s no way to know for sure if just one would have done the trick. Still, I think the two pre-treatments were probably a good idea.

I also rejected a bunch of other advice, mostly because it called for using American products that aren’t available here (and I couldn’t be bothered figuring out if a product here was similar enough). And, some people just said to wash the clothes with detergent—as if no one ever thought of that before…

This isn’t the first time I’ve turned to the Internet to learn how to do something, and I’ve had some successes, like learning how to fold a fitted sheet, or maybe how to fold t-shirts, and even some useful tips for smartphone photography. But I’ve also encountered false, misleading or just confusing information on how to deal with gout, which I’ve talked about here and also here.

This time, the Internet delivered. But for another problem, to remove a water ring on a sideboard (photo below), so far none of the methods I've found—and I’ve tried about five so far—have worked. Maybe there is no hope other than refinishing, I don't know.

One thing I’m sure about, though, is that the wisdom of the Internet will deliver again—and sometimes it won’t. That, and I really should buy odourless sunscreen.

One ring to fool them all: The Internet has provided no successful treatment solutions to remove this.

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