How to Remove Flower Pollen from Washable Fabrics

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A Vixen asked: How do I clean flower pollen off of clothes? While delivering a cut flower arrangement, the lilies brushed against my cotton shirt and left quite a bit of reddish pollen on the shirt. What would work best to clean this off?

Fresh flowers are beautiful to give and receive, but the pollen they hold is not always so lovely. This pollen contains natural dyes that are difficult to remove. Some pollens, such as those found in delphiniums and fuschias, are water soluble and will easily be removed with washing. Other pollens, like those found in lilies, have pigments which are fat soluble and will require additional methods to remove them. Without proper cleaning techniques, they will stain the fabric fibers permanently. Follow these steps to remove the pollen before you wash the shirt and set the stain.

You Will Need:

  • Cold water
  • Bucket or sink
  • Stain remover (Shout, Spray ‘n Wash, etc.)
  • OxyClean or oxygen bleach

Steps to Remove the Pollen:

  1. Begin by shaking out the shirt to remove as much of the loose pollen as possible.
  2. If you can’t shake it out, use a piece of tape. Gently press the adhesive side against the pollen and lift to remove. Repeat until no more pollen adheres to the tape.
  3. Soak the shirt (or just the affected area) in cold water for 30 minutes. If possible (especially for red pollen stains), add a small amount of oxygen bleach  to the water.
  4. Rinse completely with cold water.
  5. If the stain remains, repeat the soaking one additional time.
  6. After rinsing completely, treat any remaining stains with a spot stain remover.
  7. Wash the fabric using warm to hot water, whichever the fabric can tolerate.
  8. Allow the piece to air dry to ensure there are no stains left. Once you are sure the stain is gone, it is safe to launder the piece as usual.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Never try to brush off the pollen with your hand or a wet cloth. This will only push it further into the material fibers and possibly spread the stain.
  • If the garment is dry clean only, have it professionally cleaned. Be sure to point out the stain ahead of time so that it can be properly treated.
  • Red pollen stains can also be blotted with 99% Isopropyl Alcohol (available from a pharmacist or hardware store). This may also work on carpets and other non-washable fibers.
  • Another alternative is to lay the garment in direct sunlight. This works as a natural bleach to remove any staining.
  • To prevent stains, cut off the anthers, which hold the pollen, as soon as the flower opens.
  • Another quick fix is to spray a small amount of hair spray on the anthers. This will hold the pollen in place and avoid it from brushing onto other surfaces. This should only be used in arrangements that will only be used for a short time (such as a corsage or wedding bouquet) as it will shorten the life of the flowers.

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