I was always a grubby kid (and am still a messy adult), but my mother always had a solution for making me look spick-and-span. I remember taking off my soccer uniform one day as a 9-year-old, covered in a strange Rorschach of blood and grass stains. My mother whipped out the plastic bottle of Lestoil — a thick, goopy multipurpose cleaning product that looks like castor oil and smells like the gas pump — and the soccer uniform might as well have been brand-new.
When I went to college, I attempted to find an alternative with a slightly less noxious odor, but one after another — Tide to Go stain-remover pens, Shout Triple-Acting Stain Remover, good old-fashioned Clorox — failed to have the same stain-removing power as Lestoil. The frat sludge remained on the bottom of my jeans; the wine stains on the front of my shirt; the mud splatters on my tennis whites. My only hope to remain somewhat presentable between keg parties and study sessions was my mother’s original go-to. Here’s a pro tip: Lestoil works wonders even when you don’t have time to do laundry. Rubbing some of that caramel-colored oil on a stain can get rid of it without a wash.
Never mind that the stuff smells like toxic car fluid. It’s not, I promise: Lestoil was introduced as a dry-cleaning laundry fluid in 1933 by a high-school chemistry teacher and former Wall Street Journal proofreader in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It became something of a New England cult product, but since then it’s become harder and harder to find in stores. Now, of course, I can just buy it online. It’s successfully scrubbed hair dye from my hardwood floors, and when I dressed up as Jill Masterson in Goldfinger for a pal’s Bond-themed 30th birthday, it was Lestoil that removed the head-to-toe liquid gold latex.
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