Removing Stubborn Stains

It’s always best to treat stains as soon as possible after they happen. Sometimes just rubbing a little of cold water on the stain will take it out (washable fabrics).  Following are tips to help remove some of the most common types of stains on washable fabric:

Blood Stains –

For fresh blood stains, it is as simple as soap and water – just wet the stained area with cold water and with a clean cloth, work in some soap (liquid soap, bar soap or even shampoo).  Rinse in with more cold water and repeat, until the stain is gone. If you catch the stain quickly enough, you might not even need the soap. I once grabbed a few ice cubes when a little blood got on my shirt, rubbed it into the stain, and it was gone in seconds! Remember to air dry only – the dryer will set in any stain. When the item is completely dry check it for any remaining stain and retreat if necessary. If the stain is still there after using soap and water, sponge the stain with equal amounts of ammonia and water, use a laundry pre-treatment such as Oxi-Clean and launder as usual. I have also heard of using a solution of equal amounts of Hydrogen Peroxide and water. If you are considering using peroxide, test the fabric in an inconspicuous area first, as it can have a bleaching affect.

Dried blood stains may be very difficult to remove completely. Scrape off as much of the dried blood as possible and soak the item in cold water and a laundry pre-treatment containing enzymes. Launder as usual and air dry. For remaining stains, try mixing 1 tablespoon of meat tenderizer with 2 tablespoons of cold water to form a paste, spread it onto the stain and work it in. Let the paste sit for 30 minutes to one hour. Shake off the excess and wash again in cold water and air dry. Other suggestions include the ammonia and water combination, or a combination of one part vinegar to two parts water. If the item is colorfast, try a paste of 6 tablespoons baking soda and ½ cup water. If your next step is to discard the item, try the peroxide solution, but it will probably end up in the trash anyway.

Grass Stains –

Treat with a pre-wash stain remover, or soak in an enzyme containing product. If the stain remains, you can try sponging the stain with rubbing alcohol (test fabric in an inconspicuous area first). If stain still remains, launder in hottest water safe for fabrics, with bleach that is safe for that fabric.

Grease, oil, mayonnaise and salad dressing stains –

Apply stain remover to the back of the stain and blot with a clean white cloth and rinse. Wash clothes in the warmest water allowable for fabric.

Ketchup and Barbeque Sauce –

Run cold water through the back of the stain as soon as possible, to try and force the stain out of the fabric. Gently rub liquid detergent into the stain, then rinse and let air dry. For any remaining stain, pre-treat with a laundry stain remover and launder with a bleaching product, safe for the fabric.  Lemon juice may work – but use on whites only.

Mildew –

If you cannot use bleach on the fabric, you may not be able to save it. You should launder the item in bleach that is safe for the fabric and in the warmest temperature allowable. Use Hydrogen Peroxide on any remaining stain, rinse and launder again. Drying the item in the sun may help to lighten the stains, but it will also lighten the fabric. Mildew is very difficult to remove and many times the fabric cannot be saved.

Mud and Dirt –

Scrape off as much of the excess as possible.  Soak in a laundry pre-treatment product for 30 minutes for a fresh stain, and up to 2 hours for an older, dried stain. Wash as normal and line dry. Repeat if necessary.

Sweat Stains –

Pre-treat the area with an enzyme containing product and rub in well. Wash in the warmest water allowable for fabric. Air dry the item until you know that the stain has been removed.

Pen and Pencil Marks -

For pen on washable fabric, hairspray ususually works. You might also try rubbing alcohol on the stain and follow up with one part liquid dishwashing detergent (like Dawn) and one part water, work into the stain and rinse clean. For lead pencil stains, first try erasing as much as possible. Then rub a little Dawn into the stain, followed up with a few drops of ammonia, rub in, rinse and launder immediately.

Urine, Vomit, or Feces –

Pre-treat the fabric by soaking in an enzyme containing product. Launder with bleach safe for the fabric, in the warmest water allowable.

Wine stains –

That dreaded red wine stain is one of the most popular questions asked by those looking for laundry help. If you can get to it right away pour cold water, or cold soda water through the back of the stain. You can also try a mixture of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dishwashing detergent (test a hidden area of the fabric first for colorfastness!) and dab it on the stain, rinse, launder and repeat if necessary before drying. I have heard the theory of using white wine to remove a red wine stain – it doesn’t make sense, so never tried it and wouldn’t recommend it. There are also commercial products available specifically for wine stains.

Laundry mishap –

Your red sock was mistakenly mixed in with your whites and now you have a load of pinks!  Whatever you do, DON’T DRY ANYTHING YET!  Accidents happen, which is why I always keep a box of Rit Dye Powder- Color Remover 2 Oz in my laundry room cabinet; it’s not expensive and a good idea to have on hand. This product helps to remove color from dye-transfer stains on washable 100 % white fabrics.

Again, these suggestions are for washable fabrics only. If you stain a dry clean only item, it is best to take it to a professional dry cleaner for stain removal, if you value the garment.