cherry stain

Summer hack: fruit stain removal

1 June 2016

June is freaking me out.

I’m a week away from being the parent of a high schooler. The two minor graduations we have next week – middle school and elementary – are reminders that in four years our household count will start shrinking. My heart hurts just thinking about it.

It sounds silly that end of the school year is such a freak out time for me. I started my career working in mergers and acquisitions on Wall Street, a cross between spreadsheet sweatshop and frat house. It was brutal hours and high intensity. But in retrospect it was easy, because it wasn’t emotional.

The weighty emotional load is both the loving gift and the daunting responsibility of parenthood. I don’t harbor fantasies of providing perfect childhoods for my kids. The pressure comes from knowing moments will be remembered. Like forever.

We strive to be our better selves for our kids. But it’s not the countless hours you spent reading to them, feeding them, teaching them to ride a bike, helping them with math homework that the kids remember. What they remember is when someone spilled an entire box of cereal on the kitchen floor and you lost it and “used the S-word” (stupid).

At first this seems maddening. But then you realize it’s the sign of a generally happy household that these are the moments that stand out.

My husband and I took the kids for an incredible spring break in New York City – Statue of Liberty, top of Rockefeller Center, Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Bridge, Hamilton, for crying out loud.

But the one thing they tell everyone is how our third grader rushed onto the subway train alone while some of us were still stuck at the turnstile, and we all froze as the doors shut, our 10 eyes locked in horror on his full-on Macaulay Culkin look as the train pulled away.

You need a sense of humor to survive parenthood.

The end of the school year, with recitals and tournaments, projects and parties, is packed with it-all-comes-down-to-this final events. The kids may not remember that you were there. But they are likely to remember if you were not.

Aside from the extra demands, the school year end is a poignant turning of the page. The start of parenting is long, those exhausting years of no sleep and chasing young kids. Then there’s a brief, glad pause in the middle, when kids are more self-sufficient and you feel like a more experienced hand at parenting.

But suddenly puberty hits, kids transform overnight, and the years fly faster than your mind can comprehend. And the finish line somehow rushes up to you, even as you try with all your might to slow your pace.

I’m a wreck, people. No wonder I can’t write. I’m too busy praying that I taught my older kids enough while they were still young enough to listen. I’m gearing up for the big problems of my big kids – because growing up ain’t easy – and reminding myself to be glad for the little problems of my little kids.

Little problems are awesome.

And on that note, I have a happy solution today for one of the little but irritating problems of summer: stains from all that irresistibly juicy summer fruit.

Summer fruit season is my happiest eating time of year, but I always make a mess of it, especially when I’m wearing white. Some fruit stains are obvious, like this cherry one, but some (like peaches) are nearly colorless when fresh and turn brown only later.

I used to use cold water on stains, for fear of setting the stain more permanently, and a collection of laundry sprays. But it turns out the best trick to removal is actually non-detergent, non-chemical: just lots of boiling-hot water.

If you do this while the stain is reasonably fresh, it’s like magic.

cherry stain

You want to pour the boiling water through the stain, not soak the stain in it. I like to set up in the sink for safety. I’m using a colander here, but you can also use a large bowl.

sink prep

Gently scrape off any solids before you start (don’t be like me here). Slowly pour the hot water through the stain.

boiling hot water

Keep running the water through until the stain disappears. So easy.

hot water stain removal

This works for fruit and vegetable (eg tomato) juice stains, but don’t use it on any artificial colorings, or the hot water may set in the stain. I’ve also read that hot water works for red wine stains, but I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe in the coming years.

June, end of school year, is followed by June, beginning of summer. Just a few tears next week, and a lot of celebration, and I’ll be ready.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah 3 June 2016 at 12:58 pm

Great post! Can totally relate to the kid stuff (as the youngest of our four just finished his freshman year in college). Empty nesting this year was an experience. Just wait till you’re confronted with that one! In the meantime, will try your tip the next time red wine finds itself on my clothing or tablecloth instead of in my mouth. Though, here’s a tip for you about red wine stains that I know works – seltzer or any carbonated water. Pour it on as soon as you can and blot up stain until gone. Worked like a charm on my once new sofa. Guessing it would work as well on fruit juice stains. Have a great summer!


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:48 pm

hi leah – thanks for the empathy and the seltzer vote! happy summer to you!


Kellie 3 June 2016 at 3:40 pm

I’ve been through this…my boys are 23 and 25 now. It’s amazing the personal growth that occurs in the teens. Take it from me, it’s really good to keep a good sense of humour. Before you know it, they’re done high school and off to college. Time just seems to speed up. Family time is so precious…enjoy it!
Great tip about the boiling water and timely, too…I’m sporting two tomato sauce stains on my new shirt. I’m a messy cook and it was lasagna making day today. Will give your technique a go after dinner.


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:46 pm

hi kellie – thank you for the been-there perspective! hope the tomato stains worked out…but i’m sure the lasagna was worth it all. =)


Selina 3 June 2016 at 4:25 pm

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I totally understand your experiences as a mother. When I’m at work, and the children are at school, I totally miss them and can’t wait to pick them up. When we get home, the yelling and disagreements begin. In a few years, it will be totally quiet in the house all the time. My heart hurts just thinking about it. I so enjoy reading your posts. 🙂


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:45 pm

hi selina – mom-to-mom fist bump! thank you.


George 4 June 2016 at 10:27 am

Darling – I’ve been a fan since I greeted you
at the Hog Island Oyster Co. TED Women
afternoon, but I’m here to give you a big
heads-up! I’m at my son’s college graduation,
and sister, you ain’t seen or felt nothin’ yet.
Do your emotional push-ups and squats
starting NOW – you’ll need all the strength
you can muster when you watch the diploma
handover and realize, like your child, you
really have NO IDEA about what’s coming
next!!! Thanks for all the great tips and
food thoughts all these years.


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:44 pm

dear george – aren’t you sweet, and i remember you from our delectable hog island stop! congrats to you and your son on college graduation…deep breath, real world! yikes. sure makes baby care seem easy. thanks for the heads up and the encouragement! XO


Wolfsbane 4 June 2016 at 6:38 pm

Hope you recaptured your 3rd grader. I have visions of the kid riding the train still, with his face pushed against the glass. If not, I’ll keep an eye out for him.

Here’s a tip. They’re never too old for those backpacks with the leash attached. My 14 year old nephew whose going to be starting high school in the fall doesn’t appreciate this suggestion to my sister. But since he’s now officially a user-surly teen, it doesn’t matter.

I do try to tell my sister to chill out and not get worked up over little unimportant things like our mom did. Usually after the obligatory yell at the kids breaks when we’re on the phone. I keep telling her, without much success, that she doesn’t want her nickname to be Old Yeller.


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:37 pm

hi wolfsbane – argh, my kids will probably also remember me as old yeller too. though i read a quote from reese witherspoon recently, “if you aren’t yelling at your kids, you aren’t spending enough time with them.” truth to that!!


Brooke Rakow 10 June 2016 at 10:52 am

Thank you for this post. Two weeks in to summer vacation with my kiddos I needed this!


cg 19 June 2016 at 10:24 pm

love to you, brooke!


mich 13 July 2016 at 8:00 pm

Love this post, especially about the kids. My oldest is 13 and I will be facing the same stage in a year. The years are slipping away too fast. But then the constant squabbling between the 13 yr old and 11 yr old drive me up the wall and I have “lost it” more often than I like to admit.


mm 20 July 2016 at 8:12 pm

Great tip, CG, thanks! Oh to have little problems again – time flies, enjoy these years ; )


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