Superfluous Travel Item I Need (Kinda): Talcum Powder

Posted on
May 4, 2010
Posted in: Advice, S.T.I.N.K.s
Dont leave home without it.

Don't leave home without it.

I was stuck this morning. Absolutely stuck. It’s yet another sunny day in San Francisco, my cold is almost gone, and I’m not letting myself enjoy this crazy city until I get a post up. Ill-advised, perhaps, but also noble. Which just my be my personal motto. Second only to, “If it’s fried, I’ll eat it.”

But I digress (when don’t I?). Rand had to tear out of here quickly this morning, and since my  blog post simply wasn’t coming to fruition, I decided to give him a hand. Rinsing out the berries we had crammed into the hotel fridge so he could have some breakfast, ironing his shirt … trying to figure out exactly what that nearly imperceptible but still definitely there stain was on his left shoulder (I think it might be a detergent stain. Figure that one out). And when I was done ironing, I dabbed a tiny bit of talcum powder on the stain … and it hit me: I would be lost without this stuff.

I’m not sure if it’s a by-product of my Italian up-bringing, or just weirdness inherent to my family, but I always use talcum powder before putting on my shoes. I sprinkle it into my flats or sandals, or, if I’m wearing socks, right onto my toes. It keeps my feet dry and smelling nice, and prevents my shoes from sticking to my feet.

I remember once a co-worker lamenting a pair of ballet flats she had just bought.

“They fit fine at the store … and they’re okay with stockings, but they feel too tight with bare feet,” she said, frustrated.

“Did you try talcum powder?” I asked.

She hadn’t. In fact, she hadn’t even known that was something you could do. The next day, she came to work in her new shoes, acting as though I had discovered America.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “They’re so comfy, now!”

Besides making what is arguably one of the most horrifying parts of our body less putrescent (yeah … I have issues about feet. But that’s another post), I’ve found other uses for talcum powder in my travels.

Dry shampoo: I keep swearing I’ll buy some dry shampoo for those days when I just don’t have time to wash my hair, but it’s yet to happen. In the meantime, I just sprinkle a bit of talcum powder on my roots and brush it in. This works far better if you have lighter colored hair, because it can make darker locks look a dull grey (and use only a little at a time, because if you sprinkle on too much, it will be an absolute mess). It absorbs the extra oils in your hair, making it seem less greasy, and it smells great.

Oil stain pre-treatment: I often wonder whether my husband and I should just resort to wearing bibs, because we so frequently manage to stain our clothes with oil. I’m not sure how it happens. A tiny speck or two might fly onto our shirts as we cook, and it will magically grow as it sits in the hamper, usually eliciting a WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-THAT? sort of response from me when I finally do laundry. Oil stains while traveling are even worse, because you probably won’t be washing your shirt until you get home. My pre-treatment is pretty simple:

  • Lay the piece of clothing flat, stain facing up.
  • Dab the stain with a bit of water.
  • Sprinkle a ton of talcum powder on top and pat it down.
  • Let dry and shake it off. Repeat if necessary.
  • Later, launder as usual.

Usually, as it dries, the talcum powder will suck the grease up. I’m not kidding. You’ll actually see the outline of your stain in the talcum powder. It’s awesome. Yes, cornstarch works better (but who travels with cornstarch?), and sometimes the stain won’t budge no matter what. But it’s always worth a shot.

Untie a knot. Have your shoelaces woven themselves into a untenable mess in your suitcase? Or perhaps the necklaces you shoved into a plastic baggie for your trip are now tangled beyond comprehension? Relax. Sprinkle some talcum powder on the offending knot. It will help loosen the mess and you should be able to unravel it without wanting to pull your hair out. And at the very least, your hands will smell nice.

So, that’s it. My indispensable, absolutely fantastic, inexpensive Superfluous Travel Item I Need (Kinda Definitely). Shoe powder, dry shampoo, grease stain pre-treater, knot detangler. All available in a convenient travel size, and often for less than a buck.

Now, please excuse me while I sprinkle some on my toes and venture off into the city.



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