Ever since I have been doing my own laundry, I have wondered what -- if any -- the difference was between many of the stain removers on the market. I had always used Oxiclean to soak my linens and cotton dresses until a few years ago I read Alligators, Old Mink, and New Money by Allison and Melissa Houtte, vintage clothing store owners in Brooklyn. In the book, they have a section of some of the tricks of the trade and one of them was about cleaning vintage garments. The Houtte sisters' stain remover of choice was BIZ. They claimed it was gentle yet powerful, so I bought a box and never looked back. That is until a few weeks ago, when I was discussing cleaning methods with a friend who was going to soak a rayon dress. That got me to thinking: Is there a difference between Oxi Clean and BIZ?
I found these napkins at the thrift store and thought they would be the perfect samples to test out the differences between the two cleaners. In all the following photos, the napkin on the left is the one soaked in OxiClean and the one on the right was soaked in BIZ.
While the napkins were soaking, I did a little research on the differences between the two and apparently they are completely different in regards to how they remove the stains.
OxiClean is an oxygen based cleaner, which reacts and activates when it comes in contact with the stain. This reaction actually alters the color of the stain chemically at the molecular level.
How it works: the oxygen breaks away from the H0 (hydrogen peroxide) to clean the stain. This reaction lasts as long as the cloth is damp and submerged in the solution. Works best on colored satins and odors.
BIZ is an enzyme cleaner, which breaks down protein, starches, and oils until the stain is gone. This type of reaction breaks down or "digests" the stains until the stain molecules are gone.
How it works: the enzymes need moisture and "food" (i.e. the stain) in order to break down the molecules. This reaction lasts as long as there is "food" and as long as the cloth stays wet. Works best on organic stains and odors.
For my experiment, I followed the directions on the box to a T, using the amount of water to cleaner ratio that was recommend. I soaked them for the same amount of time and during the soaking process I discovered something really interesting. The OxiClean water never really got brown or showed any signs of release of the dirt that was in the napkin. This makes sense because of the way OxiClean works. In fact, the water continued to lighten during the soak -- with some initial sings of the dirt at the beginning and that quickly disappeared the longer the item soaked. The napkin also got almost completely lighter upon contact with the water. The BIZ, on the other hand, showed major signs of the dirt in the napkin: the water got brown quickly and after a while I changed it out. And, it did take a little longer for the napkin to lighten. This also makes sense after I learned how the BIZ works.
While both cleaners worked to remove the stains, I feel one worked better: BIZ. In the photo above you can see how the napkin cleaned with the BIZ came out a brighter white than the napkin soaked in OxiClean, which came out with a slight yellow tint to it. Although it's very slight, you can definitely tell that one is more yellow than the other. I feel like the way each of these cleaners work is the major reason for the difference in the results. To be honest, I don't really like that OxiClean alters the color of the item, especially with my vintage pieces where I want to be as gentle as possible.
I think I will continue to soak with BIZ. It might take a little more effort (with the changing of the water and a longer soaking time to allow the enzymes to completely "eat" all the "food") but I think the way it removes the stains is a much better method for cleaning my vintage pieces.
I have a few other this or that stain removers planned, so stay tuned! ;)