Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

Out, Damned Spot!

Absolutely, perfectly idyllic weather aside (the lows have been dipping just below 70 degrees at night lately), life in the tropics can be harsh – especially if you are living right on the sea. The otherwise blessed sunlight permeates everywhere (as sunlight is wont to do) and fades everything. Any claims to the contrary, even Sunbrella® fades – though in all fairness at a slower rate than your average cotton blends. And whatever the sun doesn’t bleach out, it browns. Friends back in the States always comment on my tan. Whatever tan I have, though, I must be acquiring in the brief exposures between the house and the car or the car and the grocery store because I never just sit still basking in the sun anymore. The sun’s rays simply find you wherever you are. 

Just like the salt in the air that settles on anything and everything: mirrors, table tops, fabrics and floors. As a result, everything (even glass) corrodes. The impact on metal is just the most dramatic. I’ve mentioned before that our corrosion-resistant window mechanisms were ridiculously rusted within months of moving in to the house; and the fashionable, hi-tech pendant lights hanging in the kitchen in the back of our house were quickly so badly pitted that the company representative in California assumed we have mistakenly installed them outdoors! Stainless steel, galvanized steel, it makes no difference.  Towel rods, bathroom faucets, light fixtures all succumb. An overlooked screw out on the veranda overnight will be rusted on the stone tile by morning. 

Of course, you would expect fading and rusting to be issues in this environment even if you couldn’t begin to imagine just how much trouble they would cause. What about spots, though? What about those strange, orange spots that mysteriously show up on white linens and towels that are safely tucked away in cupboards. Not on white furniture or even on white shirts hung on hangers in my closet….only on folded sheets and towels. There are numerous theories as to what causes these spots. Some folks claim they are the result of cockroach droppings, but I hardly ever see a cockroach in my house and why wouldn’t the spots show up on furniture or hanging clothes. Other people blame gecko eggs, but if that were the case wouldn’t I find remnants of little broken eggs? Personally I subscribe to a mold theory. But whatever causes them, nobody seems to know how to get them out of the fabric. Bleach doesn’t help. Oxyclean does precious little. Nothing works reliably to get rid of them. 

I’ve been fighting these spots this week. This is the time of year when folks tend to come to visit us (reference that opening statement about the weather). So I’ve been getting out the good sheets and towels – some of which have never ever been used. And sure enough, there they are….stupid orange spots.  In my frustration, I was asking the guy at the grocery store what causes the spots and what takes them out. Well, according to him the staining is not from geckos or roaches or mold. What causes it then? It’s just what happens to white fabrics  – like a natural aging process, like going gray. It happens to everyone (or every linen in this case) so his recommendation was to just not fret about it anymore. 

You know, I really wish I could because he’s right, of course. The discoloration isn’t hurting anything. The best thing would be to simply quit worrying. But I can’t. I know I’ll keep fighting the stupid spots just like I know I’ll keep coloring my gray.

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