Monday, April 14, 2008

Ancient American Secret

Recently my sister-in-law brought over a Boppy for me to borrow. Mind you, I had a Boppy. I hadn't even gotten rid of it during the great we're-done-having-kids purge of 2007, which was followed closely by the oh-dear-we're-having-a-third-kid realization that same year. But I did ruin the Boppy by throwing it in the washer, which those liars at The Boppy Company say you can do, but which I found to matte the stuffing to both ends of the horseshoe, rendering it basically lumpy and useless.

But, as always, I digress.

My sister-in-law dropped by her Boppy, and also brought me a present: A bar of Fels-Naptha soap. (Yes, it thounds like you're lithping when you say it.) The soap quietly sits in the grocery store, devoid of corrugated displays and celebrity endorsers. In fact, I'd never heard of it, although my mom, who was in town at the time, was amazed to see the soap and packaging. She remembered her mom taking a paring knife and cutting off little pieces to use as laundry soap back in the 1940s. Her best friend Gloria's mom also used Fels-Naptha for laundry, grating the soap into the washer using a bell-shaped cheese grater. The soap, now produced by Dial Corporation, has been around for about 100 years.

Laura, my SIL, swore by this as a stain remover, and I was interested to try it after I worked through the Spray and Wash Stain Stick I'd recently purchased. My experience told me that it would be about 17 hours before the stain stick was gone, based on the number of spit-up/blow-out incidents a newborn brings to the table.

So when Sylvia took a five-hour nap and woke up having unspeakably soiled her lovely pink "Fun to Be Me!" onesie and polka-dot pants, I held my nose and stain sticked the mess. Later, I crossed my fingers and threw the clothes in the laundry. As I'd feared, they came out largely clean, but with an unmistakable shadow of the stains. Sigh. I know from experience these shadows don't go away, but with nothing to lose, I wet the spots down and rubbed some Fels-Naptha on them, Laura's praise for the soap fresh in my mind. Then a bit later, threw them in with some laundry.

And hand-to-God, the stain was gone when the clothes emerged from the washer. Just gone. Sylvie's wearing the outfit today, and she can hold her wobbly head high.

I did a little web research, and learned that Fels-Naptha has been a miracle elixir for frugal families for years. The site carries 12 five-star reviews, along with customer-supplied and traditional uses and laundry recipes for the soap for everything from an aphid deterrent to a face wash. (I'm going to trust them on that last one; I don't see washing my uber-sensitive skin in something that can power out set-in diaper stains.)

You can buy the soap online at, or at select grocery stores. My sister-in-law found the bar she gave me at Kroger. The cost will be between $1 and $2 for a huge bar that will take out stains for the next several years.

The big question now is what do I do with the half-used stain stick?


Anonymous said...

Hi I got your name over at Hooked on Houses.

What a blast from the past my Grandmother always had that soap on hand. I didn't know they still made it....

Thanks for this post,
nice to meet you I'm Kathy

Kathy :)

Hooked on Houses said...

No way! I never heard of this stuff. I wish I'd had it when my daughter was still in that spit-up stage. Think of all the clothes I could've saved...

I'm glad you're blogging again, Cindy!

Anonymous said...

The joy of having kids is that I can learn from them. Laura re-introduced me to FelsNaphtha and I have a bar in my laundry area which will probably outlive me. It's a subject for another time what I've learned from Laura's smart, eloquent big brother. Leneta

Amateur Tightwad said...

Hi, Kathy, thanks so much for stopping by. Hooked on Houses is one of my favorite guilty-pleasure blogs to read every day. :)

Yeah, Julia, I can't think of how many of Max and Tommy's little clothes hit the rag pile because of those stains. If only I'd known about this sooner!

I thought the same thing, Leneta: I'll be passing this bar down to my kids. ("Max gets the house, Tommy gets the car, Sylvia gets the half-used bar of Fels-Naptha...") I appreciate Laura passing this $1.29 tip onto me; I'm meeting a new-mom friend for lunch tomorrow, and am bringing her a bar. :)