Do you like a steaming cuppa sitting beside you while you blog the night away? Me too. Nothing like hot tea. Coffee's great: I love the stuff. But tea just can't be beat when it comes to a nice productive evening buzz.
The only problem is that hot tea leaves tea stains on the cups. It's not a matter of "rinsing right after," because the stains form while the tea is being drunk: in a ring where the tea meets the air; they slowly extend downward as the tea is consumed. These stains do not rinse or scrub off. They do not come off in the dishwasher. Over time, they darken dramatically. They look like hell.
So today I go online looking for household tips on how to clean tea mugs. I see stuff about mixing baking soda and lemon juice and bleach, and I think to myself, fuck, get out the rubber gloves -- this is going to be an ordeal. But then I get a hit that says it's from an old lady in Ireland. It recommends sprinkling a moist tea-towel with table salt and wiping the mugs inside.
I stand up. I go into the kitchen. I moisten the corner of a towel. I sprinkle it with salt. I pick up a mug. Wipe. It all comes right off. RIGHT off. Seriously. This shit that would not budge for years of scrubbing with soap and boiling hot water wiped off like it was dry-erase, with salt.
Pleased? Of course I am! But curious more. I want to know: what strange science is this? What chemical bonds are being broken? Or formed? What ions are being exchanged? How is this possible?
I begin google-searching the phrases "kitchen science" and "tea stain" -- oh sure, I find lots more advice on how to remove tea stains from mugs; most of them having to do with harsh chemicals, or vinegar. A few give the miracle salt solution, but none of them explain why salt works. What's going on here?
Or should I not be so surprised? Have we all been sucked into some massive conspiracy on the part of the chemical companies? Will common kitchen ingredients solve all of our household cleaning needs without the toxic side effects? Can I use pepper to kill ants? Can I use ice cream to heal wounds? Will ketchup get the soap scum out? Are we poisoning ourselves for nothing?!
Someone tell me: Why does a moist towel sprinkled with salt become the magic eraser of the otherwise indelible tea stain?
Where is Mr. Wizard? Where is Bill Nye? I need answers!