Vaseline + Back pack = OMG anger!


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Old 10-24-10, 12:00 PM
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Vaseline + Back pack = OMG anger!

I type this to you all with glistening hands after my sixth failed attempt to once and for all clean Vaseline off of my camping backpack. I need help very very badly.

Got married a few months ago and my groomsmen thought it would be funny to hide some Vaseline for me to find in my hiking pack which I keep in my car. Problem is I didn't find it until two months later after the summer heat had melted it all over the inside of the pack. This is a big backpack. Lots of zippers (now with Vaseline in all the little spokes). Lots of pockets (now with Vaseline in every little corner). Bottom line: lots of Vaseline all over.

Here's what I've tried:
  • Dawn detergent applied liberally in our bath tub
  • Baking soda applied liberally in our bath tub.
  • My tears applied liberally in our bath tub.

There's still Vaseline on it. It's still kind of slick. And the worst is the zippers. I just can't figure out how to get it out of the zippers unless I floss every freaking spoke. Is there anything that dissolves Vaseline? Should I just take it to a dry cleaner to do it? Could a dry cleaner actually do anything to help? Should I just call it a loss or figure that any time I use it my clothes will end up with greasy stains?

Help me DIY Forums. You're my only hope.
 
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Old 10-24-10, 12:45 PM
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If the groomsman is half the man your hubby thought he was he (groomsman) will buy you a new pack.

If you can't pay the fine don't do the crime.
 
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Old 10-24-10, 05:57 PM
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brake cleaner will eat that stuff right off there. its in the auto dept. i have used it to clean lots of things, and the only problem is with some plastics. so, go buy a can and try it on one of the lesser zippers, just in case it does damage, but i don't think it will.
 
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Old 10-25-10, 04:20 AM
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Detergents and solvents will cut oil and grease. Dawn should work, but agitation, pressure spray, brushing (toothbrush, paintbrush?) will be necessary. Solvents will not require as much work, but be careful. Test first and wait at least several days before assessing.

Is there any possibility that your bpack can go into a front loading washer, run it on hot wash/rinse, max soap, gentle cycle, pre-soak, max extract, etc.?

When I find a piece of eqpt that I like a lot, I find it hard to replace, especially if it has memories. Good luck.
 
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Old 10-26-10, 12:35 AM
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Chris:

Vaseline is Petroleum Jelly, and it's really nothing more than the fraction of crude oil that has about 25ish carbon atoms in each molecule. Petroleum Jelly has a melting point of about 167 degrees F, and the fact that it melts at one temperature and not over a temperature range is because all the molecules are about the same size, and that's because it's made by distilling crude oil.

Because it's a "petroleum distillate" you can use any other petroleum distillate to dissolve it. So, mineral spirits (aka: "solvent", which you can buy at any paint or hardware store) will dissolve it, as will heavier petroleum distillates like Goof Off and Goo Gone, which are much more expensive. If you opt for mineral spirits, get the "Low Odor" stuff. You see petroleum consists of both straight chained (called "aliphatic") hydrocarbons and benzene ring based hydrocarbons (called "aromatic" hydrocarbons). The aromatic hydrocarbons smell very much more than the aliphatic hydrocarbons, and "low odor" mineral spirits is made by simply removing the aromatic hydrocarbons (and selling them separately) which cause most of the smell.

The reason why the Dawn liquid dish washing detergent didn't work well is because of the way soaps and detergents work. Both are really nothing more than a long "dirt" molecule with something on it's end that's highly hydrophillic (or highly soluble in water). Just as birds of a feather flock together, similar kinds of molecules are attracted to one another. When you mix a detergent molecule into the soil you're trying to remove, the dirt end of the detergent molecule wants to bury itself in that soil. If the surface you're cleaning is also wet, the hydrophillic end of that molecule wants to remain outside the soil in the water.

Then, you have to SCRUB the soiled surface in water order to remove the soil from the surface it's on. Once you do that, microscopically small "micelles" form. These are small amounts of the soil you've removed from the surface suspended in water because the micelle is surrounded by those hydrophillic ends of the detergent molecules sticking out of the micelle, and they all want to stay in the water. It's that hydrophillic layer on the outside of the micelle that prevents the soil from being redeposited on the surface you're cleaning.

Now, in order for the detergent to work the best on a particular stain, you have to have as strong an attraction as possible between the soil you're wanting to remove and the dirt ends of the detergent molecules you're using. That means they have to be as chemically similar as possible. And that's why the Dawn detergent didn't work as well as you'd hoped. (Dawn is used to remove oil slicks from coastal birds and animals because it's gentle on the animal's skin, not because it's the best at removing crude oil.)

Dawn (and all dish washing detergents) have dirt ends that are chemically similar to plant oils and animal fats, all of which are "triglycerides". That is, Dawn is better at removing corn oil and chicken fat from a dish than it is at removing Petroleum Jelly or crank case oil from that same dish. In order to remove Petroleum Jelly or motor oil most effectively, you need to use a detergent who's dirt end is chemically similar to CRUDE OIL, not cooking oil, like Simple Green. By the same token Simple Green would work, but not as effectively, at removing cooking oil and chicken fat from a dish.

So, the way to proceed is as follows:

1. Use low odor mineral spirits to dissolve the Vaseline. Put your back pack into an empty 5 gallon pail and pour in a gallon of low odor mineral spirits. Churn for 20 minutes and remove the back pack, leaving most of the Vaseline behind dissolved in the mineral spirits.

2. Empty the 5 gallon pail, put the back pack in and pour in a gallon of Simple green. Churn for 20 minutes to ensure all of the residual mineralspirits/Vaseline solution has the dirt ends of Simple Green molecules dissolved in it. Remove the back pack from the Simple Green and empty the pail.

3. Now, put the back pack in the pail and pour in a gallon of water (or use a bathtub full of water). With the back pack soaking wet, scrub the surfaces of the back pack with any kind of brush. This doesn't have to be done underwater, but the surface you're scrubbing needs to be wet with water.
4. Remove the back pack and hang it up to drip dry, or shake it out and throw it in the dryer.

PS:
I expect brake cleaner might dissolve the Vaseline, but the stuff evaporates so quickly that it wouldn't be very practical to use for cleaning the back pack of Vaseline. Here's an MSDS sheet for someone's aerosol brake cleaner:
*******************
You can see that it's 50% Acetone, 35% toluene (which is the primary constituent of lacquer thinner), and 8% methyl alcohol, all of which are very fast to evaporate. (The 5% carbon dioxide in the aerosol can is the propellant.) The only way that I could see using this stuff effectively would be to soak the back pack in a pail of brake cleaner and hope all the Vaseline dissolves in it, and then letting the back pack dry. Whatever Vaseline didn't dissolve in the brake cleaner, or remained dissolved in the brake cleaner that remained on the wet back pack would remain behind on the back pack as the brake cleaner evaporated.

PS2:
You can learn about the chemistry and way that bar soaps, detergents and other cleaners work at the web site of the A**********
Much of the educational material is what they call the "Kids Korner".
 

Last edited by Shadeladie; 10-26-10 at 06:37 AM. Reason: Links removed
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Old 10-26-10, 04:59 PM
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Nestor: Fascinating answer, thank you for your time and knowledge. I showed it to my chemist (I'm not) wife (P-chem) and she agrees completely-I guess like minds think alike, too. She was talking about micelle's here at home the other night.

She asked me to forward these posts to her office-she may use these as a basis to set up a problem and solution scenario for students. Again, thank you.
 
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Old 10-26-10, 07:20 PM
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Thanks for the thanks, PAbugman. I just joined this board, so this is one of my first posts in here. You're likely to find more of my posts that deal with chemistry in the paint forum, as I know a little about the chemistry and manufacturer of latex and oil based house paints (although I'm certainly no paint chemist).

I own a small apartment block in Winnipeg, and have made a full time job of repairing, renovating and managing it for the past 25 years or so. As a result, I've had to wear a lot of hats, and I've learned a little bit about a lot of different things.

Nice to have met you.
 
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Old 10-27-10, 10:32 AM
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Since we haven't heard back from the OP...could I throw this out....

What about Goop hand cleaner or one of those type products? That stuff will remove some of the blackest greasiest stuff from hands and clothes after working on cars. How will that affect Vaseline? Matter of fact...how does it work period?
 
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Old 10-27-10, 12:29 PM
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Thanks everyone

Hey everyone. Thanks so much for posting your answers.

This weekend, when I finally have some time to breathe, I'm going to try out Nestor's suggestions. The pack is too large to fit in a 5-gallon bucket so I'm hoping that going at it with a sponge will work okay. Nestor, if you think not, just let me know.

I'll let everyone know how it went after I try it out this weekend.
 
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Old 10-27-10, 06:59 PM
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Chris:

You don't need to use mineral spirits.

I just smeared some Vaseline on the outside of a clear glass jar. I then used mineral spirits to clean my finger, and that confirmed that the Vaseline was readily soluble in mineral spirits. But, it's not necessary to use mineral spirits to dissolve the Vaseline before using the Simple Green.

What I did was use an old tooth brush and some Simple Green to clean the Vaseline smear off the outside of the jar. It seemed to clean right up. I then ran water over the jar and I couldn't find any remnant of smear looking through the wet jar. I then dried the jar with a towel and the jar glass appeared to be perfectly clean. If the Simple Green hadn't removed the Vaseline completely, I would have pervcieved an oily smear looking at my ceiling light fixture through the glass. That is, the towel would have just smeared the Vaseline around more, but you'd still be able to percieve a greasy film by the way light passes through he glass jar. I saw no greasy film; the jar both looked and felt perfectly clean.

So, you don't need to dissolve the Vaseline in mineral spirits first. Just pour some Simple Green into a small pail and use scrub brushes of various sorts (including a tooth brush for zippers) to scrub the surface of your back pack with Simple Green, and throw the back pack in the washing machine and that should do the trick.

My experience is that it's better to use brushes than a sponge when doing this kind of work. The reason why (as I understand it) is that when you squeeze out a sponge, you can break those micelles causing the Vaseline and mineral spirits inside them to smear out inside the sponge. Then it's hard to get that stuff out of the sponge, and you're working with what feels like a greasy sponge. You can ruin a sponge like that, but brushes are easy to clean up after using them for this kind of work. You just get the bristles wet with detergent and cause them to rub against each other by rubbing the bristles with your hand. Then rinse them out with water.

Gunguy:
If you can provide a link to the MSDS for Goop hand cleaner, that will tell us what it's made of. Once you know what it's made of, it isn't hard to make a pretty good guess as to how it works. If I wanted to make an all purpose hand cleaner for garage mechanics, I'd mix some sort of water soluble solvent (or alcohol) with a soap or detergent. That way, you have a solvent or alcohol in the produuct to dissolve the grease, and a soap or detergent to suspend the solvent/grease mixture in water, all combined in one product. Scrub your hands with that kind of mixture, and then all the soil should become magically encapsulated in micelles and wash off your skin easily when you run your hands under water.

It's just that you can't use any solvent or alcohol with any soap or detergent. They have to be stable when mixed together and not immediately form those micelles right off the hop. That is, in Chris's case, he couldn't just mix mineral spirits with Simple Green to make a cleaning solution for his back pack because as soon as he mixed the two, those micelles would form with mineral spirits on the inside and Simple Green on the outside, and the mineral spirits wouldn't be effective in dissolving the Vaseline any more. But, if you could get the solvent or alcohol and the soap or detergent not to form those micelles until you added water, it would work. So, I expect something like Goop or any other cleaner that mechanic's use to remove grease from their hands would probably work well too.
 

Last edited by Nestor; 10-27-10 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 10-28-10, 07:53 AM
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No MSDS that I can find on their site. Label says isoparafins, water, oleic acid, surfactants, triethanolamine, glycerine, fragrance, BHT. I know fragrance(smell), BHT (preservative), and surfactants (soap?), but not sure how the others would work. All I know is it really works. Also, a small amount thoroughly rubbed in before starting work seems to also help.
 
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Old 10-28-10, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
No MSDS that I can find on their site. Label says isoparafins, water, oleic acid, surfactants, triethanolamine, glycerine, fragrance, BHT. I know fragrance(smell), BHT (preservative), and surfactants (soap?), but not sure how the others would work. All I know is it really works. Also, a small amount thoroughly rubbed in before starting work seems to also help.
That word "paraffin" doesn't mean wax, it just means any hydrocarbon molecule that has single bonds between the carbon atoms in the molecule. Polyethylene is a perfect example:



Since carbon has a valence of 4, every carbon atom in a paraffin molecule (except the ones at each end of the chain) has to be simultaneously bonded to two hydrogen atoms and the two carbon atoms on either side of it, just like polyethylene. The carbon atoms at each end of the chain are bonded to three hydrogen atoms. So, all paraffins would have the chemical formula CnH(2n+2) which simply says that there are two hydrogens for each carbon, plus another two hydrogens for the carbon atoms at the ends of the chain. So, short polyethylene molecules only two carbons long (ethane) and super long polyethylene molecules hundreds of carbon atoms long would all be considered "paraffins". (And "iso" simply means "same", and all that means is that there are no bends in the hydrocarbon chains.)

Paraffin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It's only if the length of those carbon chains are between 20 and 40 carbon atoms long that we refer to the stuff as "paraffin wax". If the carbon molecules are shorter than that, then they'd exist in liquid form at room temperature rather than a solid, and would fall under the general heading "petroleum distillates" because they're made by distilling petroleum. But the phrase "petroleum distillates" would also include other hydrocarbon molecules, like those that have benzene rings in them.

So, I expect that the "iso-paraffins" are hydrocarbon solvents in the Goop that are put in there to dissolve grease.

And, you're correct; surfactants are soaps. The word "surfactant" is short for "surface active agent", or anything that affects the "surface tension" of a liquid. Detergents and soaps are surfactants because they lower the surface tension of water. You can float a razor blade on water if you're very careful. The razor blade doesn't actually "float", it's actually the attraction between water molecules (the surface tension) that prevents it from sinking. The razor would have to separate water molecules in order to sink, and the difference in density between water and steel isn't enough to overcome the force of the water molecules wanting to stay together.

The difference between a detergent and a soap is that soap is made from natural materials like plant oils and animal fats (typically Palm oil and Olive oil) whereas detergents are made from chemicals, but they all have similar structure and they all work the same way.

So, I think it's a safe bet to say that the reason why Goop works well is that it has solvents in it (the iso-paraffins) that dissolve grease and detergents (the surfactants) in it that suspend that dissolved grease in micelles so that they remain suspended in water.

But, you should be able to achieve just as good cleaning results by using a solvent to dissolve the grease on your hands first, and then cleaning your hands with a soap to emulsify the solvent. Goop just does it in one step instead of two.
 

Last edited by Nestor; 10-28-10 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 11-01-10, 06:21 AM
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It worked!

Hey everyone. Thanks so much for the help with this. On Saturday I spent about 45 minutes in our bathtub scrubbing the heck out of my pack. I went ahead and used mineral spirits too since I had already bought a gallon of it. Aside from a few tight spots that I missed with the brushes, all the vaseline came off. Tonight I'm just going to go back and hit those spots once more to get it out of some of the seams, buckles, and corners. But there is a noticeable difference in the pack after using your instructions, Nestor. There's no more slick sheen on the pack, and after I get these last couple of spots, I won't have any reservations about putting clothes etc. back in the pack.

Thanks a ton. You literally saved me a couple hundred bucks and a lot of heartache by not having to get rid of my pack.
 
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Old 11-01-10, 07:04 PM
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I expect Goop would have worked equally well since it's intended to remove grease, which is chemically very similar to Vaseline.

You must be a pretty serious outdoorsman to pay hundreds of dollars for a back pack.
 
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Old 11-02-10, 05:40 AM
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Chris: Start planning for April Fools Day now!

Nestor: I've learned a lot here, many thanks.
 
 

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