How to Clean Lily Pollen Stains from Fabrics

lily pollen stains

Got a lovely bouquet of gorgeous smelling flowers? You rush to put them in a vase, of course, only to find on the following day that some pollen has escaped and stained your sofa or carpet. Tulips, fuschias, orchids can all readily become the culprits behind the colourful mess on nearby surfaces or of the unsightly stain on your white shirt.

But lilies are by far the biggest offenders.

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With their long filaments, decorated with plump anthers full of pollen on top, the spectacular lilies will shed their pigmented powder generously at the slightest movement of air. It’s Nature’s way of sustaining its beauty, in this case, at your cost.

To remove lily stains from fabrics is not as hard as you might think. And as long as you stay well away from the hasty idea to wet a cloth and start rubbing the stain, you will have every chance of succeeding. So, firstly, here’s what not to do.

Things that will make matters worse

Don’t touch!

Kids do this. In anticipation to see what will happen. So, restrain your innate urge to touch the vibrant dust and check if it tints your index finger. Your natural skin oils will worsen the situation by turning the dry matter into a smudge.

Dabbing is a no-no, too.

Don’t reach for the kitchen roll to dab the mark! You will only embed the pollen deeper into the fabric. The adhesive material that encases the pollen grains, called pollenkitt, will stick to the textile fibre if you try to blot the stain out with some paper.

Wiping?

Not a good idea. Regardless of what you use to wipe the yellow or orange lily dust, it will just “help” you smear the substance further into the garment, upholstery fabric or carpet. With wet wipes being the worst to use.

Water won’t help, either!

Using water may be helpful at a later stage but if you rush to wet the pollen stain as a first line of action, you will find that it will spread. Although pollen is not necessarily water-soluble, the powder mixed with water will easily form a much larger splotch.

So what can you do to eliminate plant pigment marks from clothing, carpets or mattresses?

Pollen removal from clothes and fabrics

Whether some pollen drops on a cushion while you are unwrapping a bunch of lilies or you accidentally touch the flowers with your sleeve, the orangy powdered hue will inevitably set in and tinge the fabric, leaving you with a stain to deal with.

So, here’s a list of things that you can do if this happens to you:

  • Shake. Clothes, pillowcases, linen and throw-overs can be shaken energetically until most of the dust falls off. Or use a soft brush and try to stoke off the pollen without rubbing it.
  • Tape away. Gently lift the coloured powder from the fabric with strong sellotape or velcro tape.
  • Rinse or soak. Rinse your garment under cold water or soak large pieces of fabric, again, in cold water for a couple of hours.
  • Use sunlight. Put the piece of clothing or fabric under direct sunlight for two to three hours before and after rinsing it with water. The carotenoids that make up the organic pigment of pollen undergo a process, called photodegradation when absorbing the natural UV light from the sun.
  • Get a UV torch. Have a go at treating small pollen stains with a UV torch if the day is rather overcast. The phytochemicals will decompose and the stain will fade away.
  • Pretreat with an enzyme cleaner. Enzyme spot cleaners are designed to break down biological substances, so they are especially suitable for use on organic stains.
  • Wash in the washing machine. Once pretreated with the appropriate stain removal, the pollen blotch will not stand a chance if washed in the washing machine at high temperature. Then, use the sun again to naturally bleach the mark, if any, and make it disappear for good.
  • Buy a dry cleaning kit. This method is your only solution if the stubborn lily stain has damaged a piece of clothing that can be only dry-cleaned. Follow carefully the manufacturer’s instructions but if unhappy with the result, you know where to go. Take your garment to the nearest dry cleaners!

How to remove lily pollen stains from your carpet

As you’ll find it tricky to soak your fitted carpet or air it under the sun, you need to use a slightly different pollen removal approach if your floor covering ends up with a lily stain. The same goes for upholstery fabric that can’t be removed from your furniture and put in the washer.

  • Vacuum Use a vacuum cleaner without any attachments to pull away the pollen dust. Make sure that the tube doesn’t touch the carpet by holding it half an inch away from the surface. If powerful enough, the machine should suck most of the lily pollen.
  • Sticky tape. Apply the adhesive tape method and carefully remove any remaining fine dust. Skip this step if the mishap has occurred on a deep pile carpet or shaggy rug.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the material your carpet or upholstery is made of, you may achieve some success if you blot the lily stain with a cloth, dipped in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, diluted with water (50/50). The method is generally safe to use on synthetic colourfast fabrics. Still, test on an inconspicuous patch, first.  The oxygen part of the compound substance helps the degradation of organic dyes and stains through the process of oxidation.
  • Soda crystals. Soda crystals, or also known as washing soda, can also help remove stubborn bioactive stains. An acid salt, the compound will absorb the essential oil pigments of the pollen. Dampen the stain with some liquid soda crystals and pat dry with a clean white cloth. Agan, test the fabric for colour fastness, first.
  • Enzyme cleaner. Use an enzyme stain removal or a laundry detergent to treat the pollen mess. Remember, however, that Oriental rugs and other types of naturally dyed carpets may be damaged as the enzyme cleaner will break down the plant-based dyes, too.
  • Isopropyl alcohol. A strong solvent, such as isopropyl alcohol, will also do the trick of disintegrating the pollen oils that have stained your beige sofa or rug. But along with the removal of the orange lily stain, you may also inadvertently ruin your furniture or flooring, so maybe better if you leave this method alone.

***

There you have it, a bunch of effective methods of getting rid of pollen marks from fabrics and carpets. Still, to avoid doing more damage than good, always check the label on both the chemical solution you are about to use and the item you intend to treat.

On that note, isn’t it much safer to leave the task of cleaning your carpet or removing tricky stains from garments to the professionals? Take our word on this!

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Posted in Cleaning Guides

Last update: August 23, 2018
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