This season, the Nationals have taken up the rather messy celebratory anointing of players with chocolate syrup. The Washington Post put together a explainer that promises “a comprehensive look” at the origins and impact of the ritual dousing of ice cream toppings, as well as instructions for “how you get chocolate sauce out of a baseball uniform.”

The problem is that the chocolate syrup stain removal tips were, um, how to say ... lacking. But we at Deadspin are happy to pick up where the WaPo left off, which is one of the benefits of having a cleaning expert on staff.

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The paper interviewed the good soul who oversees the laundering of the syrup soiled uniforms, who described their stain removal system thusly:

“It’s a new challenge, obviously,” said assistant clubhouse attendant Darwin Beacham. “I don’t know if they’ve quite made a solution for it, or if we just don’t have it.”

Cleaning chocolate syrup off a baseball uniform has proven to be about a two-hour process: attendants first soak the chosen uniforms in a mixture of Tide detergent powder and hot water. They then scrub the uniforms by hand while using Slide Out — a baseball detergent — and/or a pine tar remover. Finally, they run the uniforms through a normal wash cycle. Then they do the entire process again. And then yet again. Nine steps later, the uniforms are spotless.

“It’s probably the hardest one I’ve had to deal with,” Beacham said. “But hey, it’s worth it, because we’re winning.”

I love this attitude! Making a mess in good fun is a thing I can get behind, and I enjoy Darwin’s spirit of seeing the syrup stains as a challenge he’s happy to rise to. I feel like Darwin and I would have a hell of a good time over a few beers. (Darwin! Give me a ring, first round’s on me.)

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The thing is, though, that there is no reason that removing those chocolate stains should involve three laundering cycles. In fact, Darwin himself mentions that he’s not aware of a solution for chocolate stains. But I am, so in the name of service journalism, here’s what you need to know about removing chocolate syrup stains from baseball uniforms.

  1. Chocolate spills lead to what’s known as a “combination stain.” That means there’s more than one stain type that needs to be treated; in the case of chocolate, the stain is both oily and pigmented.
  2. Darwin is onto something with that Tide soak—he just got his soaking agent wrong. Regular detergent, even one as good as Tide, won’t do a whole lot to treat the problem. So we need to get a little more specialized. A laundry booster, such as an oxygenated bleach or Borax, is going to be a better product to use for that presoaking, and I bet doing that, followed by the hand scrubbing with the Slide Out and then a whirl through the washing machine will get the uniforms back up to bright white without needing to engage in the proverbial rinse and repeat.
  3. I do think Darwin’s soak-scrub-launder is the right routine. A longer soak, in addition to experimenting with soaking agents, may also be the ticket to busting those stains while cutting back on the effort, if not on the time, that the cleaning process takes.
  4. Another pre-soaking agent that may do the trick on oily chocolate stains is ammonia. Ammonia, it’s important to note especially in a laundry setting, should never be mixed with bleach.
  5. A few other pre-treatment products to try: Pine Sol, Lestoil, a grease-cutting dish soap like Dawn. Fels-Naptha, which is a laundry bar that you rub directly on stains, is another alternative. In the case of working with any of these, with the exception of dish soap, wearing protective gloves is a good idea since that’s a lot of cleaning agent coming in contact with your skin.
  6. And finally, oh yes, there are absolutely dedicated chocolate stain removers! Carbona Stain Devils Formula 2 (for ketchup, mustard and chocolate) is one; Motsenbocker’s Lift Off Stain Remover is another. I’m sure Darwin could pull some strings and get industrial sized versions of these products sent to the clubhouse for mass laundering purposes, which I will suggest to him over beer.

I’m really serious about this offer to go drinking, Darwin. My email is jolie@deadspin.com. You bring the Slide Out, I’ll bring the Stain Devils.

Image by Alex Brandon/AP


Jolie Kerr is Deadspin’s resident cleaning expert and the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume).