Usually sometime during the week after Easter Sunday, a cry of dismay is heard in the sacristy.  The new fair linen, chalice pall, corporal, the priest’s new alb, etc. has come back covered in pollen.  And it does not have to be just Easter with the availabilty of lilies and other heavily pollen-laden flowers all year now, pollen is almost a year-round concern.  But lily pollen must surely be the most treacherous, and very difficult to remove.  The problem comes from the very tips of the long stamens which burst forth from the deep “bell” of the lily.  These thin filaments end in a fat oval-shaped “anther” which is loaded with many grainy particles of pollen.  Pollen stains are usually bright yellow or orange.  When the lilies are very fresh, the pollen is still tightly packed inside and may look harmless, but don’t be fooled! In a warm room, the pollen will soon be bursting out in all its glory, just waiting for someone to brush against it and release a veritable cloud of saffron-colored grains all over the white linen and anything else which comes in contact.

Naturally the best cure is prevention.  The minute the potted or cut lilies arrive, REMOVE all of the anthers on the ends. I hate to pinch out the entire cluster of stamens because they look rather nice left in and will not harm anything. Rather than pinch off the pollen-filled anthers, I prefer to take small, sharp scissors and neatly clip them off over a saucer or dustpan.  Then tie up those little pollen bombs in a small plastic bag to keep it from being touched or spilled by accident, and throw it away immediately.

So, the worst has happened.  Some of the lilies did not get “de-pollened” and over the weekend catastrophy has struck.  How do you get the stains out when the damage is done? 

The first thing is to remove as much of the dry pollen as possible. Shake the textile outside and snap as much loose pollen as possible off the fabric surface.  Then I use a child’s DRY toothbrush because the bristles are thin and soft. Gently flick the brush lightly over the affected fabric stain, and immediately you will see a great deal of the pollen fly out from between the warps and wefts. If there is any pollen left, try using the suction from a vacuum cleaner hose to lift off more pollen by using an up and down motion-not side to side as you will simply spread the pollen. Apply a good dusting of bicarbonate of soda (Arm & Hammer brand) and let it sit for a few minutes and try the soft dry toothbrush technique once more. Sometimes the pollen will adhere to the baking soda. Still no luck?  Take a piece of cellophane tape (duct tape, masking tape, or almost any sticky tape can work) and go over the spot with the tape which will pick up more pollen. Dry pollen is much easier to remove than after it has been wet and “spreads”. Sometimes hot water will set that yellow stain even more and the yellow stain is worse than ever..

When you have removed as much as you can by the dry removal method, and if there is still some residue, here are some old-fashioned remedies which may work after the DRY method has been attempted. 

When you have removed as much of the pollen as possible, rinse the stained area with cold water from the back of the pollen stain. If the pollen stain remains, soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat  until as much of the pollen stain as possible is gone. As a last resort, apply a spot stain remover stick, spray, or gel and wash in the hottest water.  Tide liquid detergent has also produced some good results when applied on the remaining pollen residue, then used in the hot water wash.  It will take a lot of patience and effort to get pollen removed. Makes sense to “nip it in the bud” and avoid the whole process!

* note: I have just heard from a reader that baking soda and a few drops of white vinegar applied to the spot, then left in the sun to bubble up and whiten had good results. Do you have a remedy to share?