Curiosity and a niggling need to find out whether the price tag was worth it for stain removal had then-year eight students Ashlyn Hall and Pippa Murphy on a mission.
Four years later, Ms Hall said the platform and space to properly conduct a science experiment on this issue boosted their confidence and interest in pursuing science.
The reason behind their bugbear was sparked after a rainy, muddy day at football, with the whites on their North Ballarat jumpers disappearing in the muck.
Their exploration won the Peter Doherty Science Award that year, run out of Ballarat Tech School. Ms Hall, who is preparing to join the Navy, is set to speak to the latest crop of finalists on how the experience has influenced her study and career pathway.
"We learnt about the program through Girls in STEM and when that ended we took the project of stain removers further," Ms Hall said.
"We actually loved it. This was the first time we got to do a project like that - in year eight you're not writing up research. We did a lot of research into how to do science research properly.
"It was great because we used the Tech School labs and had a whole day testing and washing and they let us dry it."
Stain remover is back on the agenda among 2023 finalists, with Ballarat Grammar duo Trisha Kaura and Maggi Cai looking at how much can stain remover be diluted before its cleaning abilities are ineffective.
Egg supplements, eco-friendly cling wrap, the warmth of school jumpers, sunlight affecting plastic bags and liquids causing rust on steel will also be in the spotlight for final presentations on Thursday evening, November 23.
Finalists are competing for three cash prizes worth near a combined $2000.
They will present their findings to a judging panel of industry representatives from Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, Ballarat Tech School, infrastructure experts Fulton Hogan, Vitrafy Life Sciences and Committee for Ballarat.
Ballarat Tech School associate director Damon Minotti said the competition aimed to get students thinking more broadly about science and, importantly, being able to interest others in it too.
"We certainly know students are far more engaged in something they have agency over and choice in how they go about it," Mr Minotti said.
"One of the big challenges in science is there is all this amazing research but how does this get communicated - it can be tricky for others to understand ideas and the research that goes with it."
By the time Ms Hall reached VCE, she found she was far more familiar with the concept of presenting science in a way for others to engage.
Ms Hall found a particular interest in environmental science while her teammate Ms Murphy went on to pursue chemistry.
"I would say to students, own your experiment," Ms Hall said. "Be passionate and show your passion and how excited you are and you will find people will become interested and excited, too."
Ms Hall and Ms Murphy had put a brand name stain remover, a home brand stain remover and a home remedy to the test on football mud, tomato sauce (in tribute to their younger brothers' eating habits) and wine (for their parents).
The home remedy worked best, but Ms Hall was reluctant to completely suggest the recipe because the pH levels from the mix were also likely to weaken clothing.
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