Dear Tom and Ray: Help! How do I remove melted hot-pink lipstick from the fabric upholstery of my '95 Nissan Maxima? I need an answer quickly, before my wife discovers the rubbed-in pink splotch. The fabric was Scotchguarded when we purchased the car. What's more, we're talking about an entire melted tube on the front seat on a sweltering day. Please help. You're my only hope.
Tom: Gee, Lee. You may be too late. We just got a letter from a woman who found pink lipstick on the seat of her husband's '95 Maxima. She wanted to know whether the car was worth claiming in the divorce, or if she should just sell your gold-plated golf clubs and buy herself a Lexus.
Ray: If memory serves me, lipstick is basically grease. So what you probably need is a grease remover.
Tom: Whenever Ralph, or one of the other guys at the shop, gets his lipstick on one of our customers' seats, we use a product called Brake Kleen (made by Chemical Rubber Co.), which is an industrial-strength degreaser.
Ray: Two warnings, though: It's designed to take grease off brakes, and although we've used it on upholstery, I certainly wouldn't guarantee it won't ruin the fabric, and it contains tetrachloroethylene, a nasty chemical that may kill you. Of course, if you don't use it, your wife will kill you, so that's a wash, Lee.
Ray: But before you get into the nasty industrial toxics, we suggest you try these home-style remedies from Heloise (of "Hints From Heloise").
Tom: Heloise says that the first thing you need to do is scrape off the excess with a dull knife or spoon.
Ray: Then go to your local hardware store and get a paint/oil/grease remover.
Tom: Heloise doesn't mention brand names, but when we posed this question to people in our office, they suggested several "de-greasing products" that they say work. We've never used any of these (our wives say we've never used any cleaning products), but the names that came up are Goof Off, Dissolve-It, Sharpshooter and Lestoil. And I'm sure there are others.
Ray: Whatever degreaser you choose, Heloise says to put some on a clean cloth or paper towel and blot the lipstick. Don't blot with the same part of the cloth more than once, since you'll just be blotting the lipstick back into the seat again.
Tom: If that doesn't work, you might try some spot remover/dry-cleaning solvent, which you can also get at the hardware store, or a mixture of 1 teaspoon clear mild dishwashing liquid to 1 cup warm water.
Ray: And if none of that works, I'd just cut the spot right out with a razor blade, Lee. After all, you'll have an easier time explaining a big hole in the seat than a melted tube of pink lipstick. Good luck, I suppose.
A question of frequency
Dear Tom and Ray: I change the oil and filter every three months on my '85 Olds. I usually have 1,500 or fewer miles on it between changes. Can I wait longer between changes?
Tom: Any recommended oil-change interval is just an estimate anyway. The idea is to change the oil before it loses its ability to properly lubricate the engine and hold contaminants in suspension. And most car manufacturers think oil can perform those duties for at least 7,500 miles.
Ray: We happen to recommend an oil and filter change every 5,000 miles (or about every six months).
Tom: That's from a purely automotive point of view, of course. If, on the other hand, doing that oil change is keeping you out of trouble, George, and the alternative is to spend Saturday at the track losing $100, then you might want to leave well enough alone. But you'll have to factor in all the "holistic" variables yourself.
Write to Car Talk in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Tom and Ray can't answer your letter personally but will run the best letters in the column. Their radio show airs at 7 and 10 a.m. Saturday on WBFO (88.7).