the sad tale of an oil stain, or how i was misled by the internet

Last week, while enjoying a lovely lunch at a restaurant with my mom and my partner, an oily sauce jumped out of a bowl and splattered on my shirt. All right, it didn't actually jump out, truth is I can be a clumsy eater. But the sauce went on my shirt. Ugh.

This wasn't one little dot, which can be annoying enough. This was an entire collection of splats, re-decorating the front of my shirt. Double ugh.

Because I was busy with family and friends, I wasn't able to immediately soak or stain-treat the shirt. It ended up sitting for a couple of days before I washed it.

When I got home a few days later, I stain-treated and washed the shirt several times. I used my preferred stain-removing spray, OxiClean, and also soaked the shirt in a solution of OxiClean powder, each time putting it in the washing machine on warmer water than I would normally use. The stains did get lighter, but they did not come out.

Next I Googled "how to remove oil stains from clothing". I found answers at: WikiHow, Wise Bread, About.com/Laundry, and a blog called the Northern Belle Diaries. There were other sources, but I judged these four to be most reliable. (Another source that is generally good, eHow, recommended what I had already done.)

One method was common to those four sources: putting 10W-40 or other motor oil on the stain, letting it soak in, rinsing it out in hot water, then laundering in the washing machine again.

It seemed strange and a bit shocking to put motor oil on my shirt. But the shirt was unwearable in its present condition, so I felt I had nothing to lose.

I followed instructions.

The stain did not come out.

Neither did the motor oil.

My shirt now has huge black oil stains all over it.

If the stain had not come out, but the shirt was in no worse shape, I could have tried another method. But now it's too late.

On reflection and hindsight, I might have tried a less drastic method before resorting to the 10W-40. Some sites mentioned baking soda or baby powder. However, I have tried those methods in the past and found them useless.

So what happened?

Is this idea of removing oil with more oil a myth, kind of like using tomato juice to remove skunk odor from a dog's fur? (Trust me, it doesn't work. Use baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.)

Does that mean people publish how-to articles on sites like About.com and WikiHow without actually trying it first?

Are these websites simply repeating what other sites publish, the way people do with Wikipedia, potentially spreading misinformation along with good information?

Does this method actually work, even though it didn't work for me?

I wish I could post before, after, and after-after photos, but, not knowing that my shirt would be ruined, I never thought to take a pic. Just imagine a lovely cobalt-blue, hip-length, gathered-V-neck cotton shirt (similar to this) with motor oil all over it.


Update. Catching up on impudent strumpet, I've learned there's a word for the internet phenomenon I was trying to describe above: citogenesis, courtesy of the inimitable xkcd.

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