When I went into the very thorough security at Indianapolis International Airport, the density of my box of business cards triggered the security device, and the TSA attendant had to pull my bag aside and search it. I attentively watched—aching in defeat—as he removed shoe after shoe, folder after folder from my thoughtfully packed carry-on. After identifying the box of business cards as the culprit of a false alarm, he brought my things over to me and asked if I wanted him to repack my luggage or if I wanted to do it myself. “Thank you, sir, for the thoughtful offer. But after the countless trial and errors I went through to pack it in the first place, I will take it from here. It’s a system.” It’s a good thing I was able to take my time with repacking the carry-on; I sure needed it.
After arriving in Pittsburgh International Airport, I went directly to baggage claim. Having just made that journey by myself, successfully, with no problem whatsoever, I was feeling a sense of pride—a sense of accomplishment. That was until I claimed my bag. As I hoisted it up and over the rotating belt, I felt something wet, something slippery, something greasy. Yes, my new and dear-to-my-heart luggage had airplane grease on it! I was furious, steaming, angry, disappointed, and sad; unbeknownst to me, apparently this is somewhat common for fliers. But I had no idea, so you could imagine the shock when my luggage looked like this.
The next day, Kristen, the wonderful researcher she is, found some at-home remedies for this sort of problem. This tip (for nylon bags) is what I tried:
1. For nylon or other soft bags affected by grease, DesChamps recommends dry cornstarch. "Rub the cornstarch into the fabric, let it sit for as long as it takes to absorb the grease, and then brush it off, repeating as necessary," she says. She recommends getting as "much of the grease off as possible this way before you try to clean the suitcase with detergent."
2. After you've done all you can with cornstarch it's time to break out the soap. Horst recommends mixing Ivory Snow with water—a good option because it won't bleach out the color or degrade the fabric of your suitcase. Fill a pan half-full with warm water and add just enough powder or liquid to make suds with gentle splashing, he says.
3. Next step: apply the suds to the bag (again, using a soft rag or sponge). Heavy soiling may require a minute or two of scrubbing and repeated applications.
I strayed from these directions, but the cornstarch was a good tip. Messy, but effective.
Then I used a degreaser, Goof Off. I tested it on the fabric before spraying it on, but I’m not sure how effective this was by the time it was all done.
Lastly, I used some good ole Dawn dish liquid. If they can use it to clean oil off the penguins and ducks, it can surely clean a suitcase. After this whole ordeal, it’s sadly still apparent that an accident occurred on my suitcase, but it’s not AS apparent. I guess it’s an improvement.
Note to anyone who passes a luggage plastic wrap station in the airport and thinks to herself,
“Hm. I’ve never seen one of those before. Why would I need that? I will take the chance, because I've never heard of such a thing.”…use it. Because you thought that thought, you’ll need it. That’s how it—like anything in life—works.