Yellow Pearl

Behold this beauty:

I nabbed this gem of a vintage clutch at the Goodwill for $2. It didn't look this squeaky clean when I bought it. In fact, it was marred by lots of marks, including a very prominent black streak. However, I figured that since the surface is vinyl, I can wash most of it off with soap and water, then take care of the rest of it with a relatively safe organic solvent: nail polish remover.

Common household chemicals can come in very handy in the lab. Clear nail polish is commonly used used to seal slides for immunoflouresence. Conversely, I serendipitously discovered the useful properties of nail polish remover back in college. In an organic chemistry lab course, I accidently yanked a waterhose, causing a flask of cyclopentadienone to come loose, spill all over a pocket on my lab coat, and dump its remaining load onto the floor. Fortunately I didn't break the flask (or else I'd have to pay extra for it), but I made a huge mess. When I got back to my dorm, I tried to wash off the huge purple stain that stuck to the white fabric, to no avail. The nonpolar purple stuff just isn't soluble in a polar, inorganic solvent. While I was steaming at the bathroom sink, a lightbulb went off: acetone is an organic solvent, and my roommate had a bottle of nail polish remover. As it turns out, the nail polish remover brew wasn't all that strong (it is, after all, a mix of chemicals), but some of the stain did come off. From then on, nail polish remover has been a part of my cleaning supplies. If you can use it on your hand, then it should be mild enough as to not destroy your belongings.

Back to my present-day cleaning enterprise: I first cleaned the bag with a wet paper towel and some hand soap. As for the streaks, I scratched them off gently to the extent that I could, then I followed up with a nailpolish remover-laden tissue, wiping in a circular motion. Most of the marks came right off, and whatever is left isn't very visible. Good as new!

One word of caution: the fingers I used to hold the acetone-soaked wipers now has dried and crackly skin. It's not good to be overexposed to chemicals, so use it only if other methods have failed. Besides, who knows if you're stripping off the parts of the surface on your bag as well? In the aforementioned lab accident, I used acetone to clean off the floor where the flask dropped. Sure, I sopped up a lot of the chemicals, but I was also stripping the wax off the floor. Oops. So, be careful, and use sparingly. Test on some nooks and crannies before wiping down the rest of your bag.

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