How to get oil out of granite

December 01, 1999

Dear Heloise,

Some very naughty boys have played a prank by dousing some of Antietam National Battlefield's finest granite war memorial monuments with vegetable oil. We think it may be a copycat crime because it mimics vandals who last year anointed monuments at Vicksburg with oil while blowing a ram's horn and announcing they were on a mission from God to reunite the North and the South and thus save the Planet Earth from destruction before the coming millennium.

This isn't the "end of the world," Heloise, but it is a problem because the oil seeps into the stone and discolors it with ghastly dark stains. We've tried everything, but the stains persist. Do you have any hints for removing vegetable oil from granite?

- National Park Service.

Dear NPS,

Ooo, those bad, bad boys. This reminds me of the time some pranksters in the neighborhood decided to play "Moon Kitty" with the family cat by rubber-banding Baggies brand plastic sandwich bags to all four feet and watching her high-step around the house, and naturally the owners wanted to know whether the bags would be reusable, seeing as how the cat's feet had doubtless been in the cat box and other unsanitary places and I told them to simply turn the bags inside out! That allowed them to seal in the freshness without throwing away the bags and saving them approximately .0004 cents off their weekly grocery budget and also served the dual purpose of something or other, which I can't remember right now - what were we talking about? Oh, the vegetable oil stains, right! I recommend vinegar!


This is for the scientific reason that I always recommend vinegar for every problem on the face of the earth, whether you need to clean bubble gum out of gym socks or need a local anesthesia for at-home spinal surgery!

Try it in a slurry with pesto and cornstarch for a great pasta dressing or foot ointment!

Vinegar works for everything! As a matter of fact, my brain is preserved in a big jar of it right now!

But if I may pry, dear NPS, what on earth inspired these boys to use vegetable oil as a vandalizing agent? For vandalism, Heloise recommends spray paint, crowbars and toilet paper! For toilet paper she recommends the new four-ply quilted brands because when it gets wet it comes apart and you get four times the coverage area on the tree, shrub or what have you. What a great time-saver!

But vegetable oil she's never heard of. Canola oil maybe, olive in a pinch. But never vegetable! As for saving the world, Heloise recommends multinational cooperation among the G-7 nations in a policy of collateral containment to break down the military/industrial foundations that feed nationalism and lead to the breakdown of the artificial boundaries that carved up the Levant under the extended Yalta agreements in 1945. She has no idea how greasing up a glorified tombstone is going to perpetuate world peace, one way or the other! On missions from God, Heloise recommends picketing abortion clinics, eco-terrorism or becoming a talk-radio host!

She is puzzled, frankly, why anyone would choose reuniting the North and the South. Not that it is a bad idea, but it's been done! Can these vandals say "Appomattox?" I remember it well! It was 1865 and I had just turned 18 and I was feeling a little ill before my coming out party and I spilled some of Dr. Caldwell's Syrup Pepsin on my gown and vinegar hadn't been invented yet! Actually it had, but not in those handy, plastic-capped containers! You had to swill it out of a wooden bucket with all kinds of decaying apply stems and nasty drowned yellow jackets and - hey, who let you in here with that net! What are you doing? PUT ME DOWN! HELP!

Hugs, (gasp)

- Heloise

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail Columnist

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