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How To Remove Stains From Clothes…A Cheat Sheet

We’ve all been there – red wine on your favorite blouse from your friend’s birthday dinner, grass stains on your jeans from the 4th of July BBQ, or paint on your kid’s clothes as they return from school boasting about their class art project.  So how do you really remove stains – even the most pesky ones?!

Over the years I’ve thrown away countless pieces of clothing that could have been saved if it weren’t for those stubborn stains.  But I just couldn’t ever seem to get those darn stains out properly.  So a couple years ago I decided to take matters into my own hands and take my wardrobe back!  No longer would I let a stain take the upper hand.  I vowed never to shed another tear over a favorite top I had to throw away.  I finally got wise and created a cheat sheet for the most common stains I tackled.  And here…just for you…is a more detailed version of that cheat sheet thanks to Real Simple!

Print this out and keep it near your washing machine or tacked up in the laundry cabinet.  Be sure to have all the necessary supplies on hand so you don’t get caught off guard.  You will thank me later!

W = Washables   NW = Nonwashables (dry clean only)

Remove Stains: Sauce & Condiment 

Ketchup & Tomato Sauce – W: Apply a combination solvent like Shout. Use an eyedropper and diluted vinegar to remove any remaining color. Finish with a regular wash cycle.  NW: Same as for washables, but instead of washing, thoroughly flush the spot with cool water.

Mustard – W: Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia to lighten the color. Apply a combination solvent like Shout and let sit for 15 minutes. Finish with a regular wash cycle.  NW: Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia to lighten the color. Apply a combination solvent and let sit for 15 minutes. Thoroughly flush the spot with cool water.

Remove Stains: Nature 

Grass – W: Apply a prewash treatment product to your stain and let sit for about 15 minutes. For a more natural approach, you can use a solution made up of one part white vinegar to two parts water. Use a toothbrush to work the liquid into the area. Finish with a quick wash using an enzyme detergent, which breaks down proteins and lifts the stain from your garment.  NW:Apply a combination solvent (a store-bought stain fighter like Shout or Zout) and let sit for 15 minutes. Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia or vinegar to remove any remaining color. Thoroughly flush the area with cool water.

Ink – W: Put glycerin on the spot (hairspray will work, too), then treat with a detergent like Woolite and very little water. Gently rub to form suds and rinse. NW: Same as for washables, but instead of rinsing the suds, just dab water onto the area.

Mud – W: Let dry, then brush off as much as possible. Apply a gentle detergent, such as Woolite, and water. Rub to form suds, then rinse. Next, lighten any remaining stain with a combination of one part white vinegar and one part water. Machine wash.  NW: Let dry, then carefully brush off as much as possible. Use an eyedropper to apply a solution made from one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, like Ivory, and one cup water. Rinse with cold water.

Remove Stains: Drinks & Dessert 

Chocolate – W: Treat the spot with a solution made from a tablespoon of an enzyme laundry detergent and two cups of water. Let stand for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.  NW: Apply rubbing alcohol, let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse carefully. Use a combination of water and a mild detergent to clean the residue.

Coffee – W: Stretch fabric over a bowl and, from a height of about one foot (gravity helps), pour boiling water from a kettle. Follow with an application of an oil solvent (like K2r and Carbona, available at drugstores) if the coffee had milk in it. If it had sugar, treat with glycerin or a combination solvent like Shout and let sit for 30 minutes. Finish with a regular wash cycle.  NW:Apply a gentle detergent and very little water. Rub to form suds, then rinse. Use an eyedropper with diluted vinegar to lighten any remaining stain. Rinse with cool water. If the coffee had milk in it, finish by applying an oil solvent, then rinse with cold water.

Ice Cream – W: Apply cool water at once. Then, use a pretreatment product before soaking the clothing in an enzyme detergent. Machine wash.  NW: Apply rubbing alcohol and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse spot with cold water. Use a combination of a mild detergent, such as Woolite, and cool water to clean the residue. Rinse with cool water.

Red Wine – W: Cover the stain with salt, then stretch the fabric over a bowl and, from a height of about one foot, pour boiling water from a kettle.  NW: Blot with a sponge dampened slightly with a mild detergent, such as Woolite. Don’t rub. Flush spot carefully with cool water to rinse. To remove any remaining color, use an eyedropper to apply a solution of one part white vinegar and two parts water. Rinse well with cold water. If the stain is still there, try one part ammonia and two parts water (but don’t use ammonia on silk or wool). Rinse carefully with cool water and let dry. If there’s a ring, feather the edge with a cloth dampened with a combination solvent, like Shout.

Remove Stains: Arts & Crafts 

Crayon – W: Place the garment stain-side down on a stack of paper towels. Spray with WD-40 and let sit for five minutes. Flip garment over and spray again. Rinse well. Rub liquid dish soap into the stain. Rinse again. If any stain remains, apply a stick or spray stain remover. Machine wash.  NW: Take to dry cleaner for best results. If you can’t, try using an oil like WD-40. Keep the work area small and try using dishing washing soap with a small amount of water. Used cotton swabs to work on the stain and blot with napkin.

Gum, Glue, Stickers – W: Remove as much as possible with a dull knife or a spoon. (To make it easier to remove gum, first rub an ice cube over it to freeze it.) Apply a lubricant, like glycerin, to loosen any remaining residue, then scrape it off and rinse. Rub in liquid dish soap to remove any leftover stain. Machine wash.  NW: Take to dry cleaner for best results. If the glue is water-based glue like Elmers, use water and some dishwashing liquid to break it up and blot the area with a napkin. For epoxy or super glue try acetone, but try a sample test first because it may damage fabric.

Paint – W: Wipe off any dried acrylic or water-based paint residue with a paper towel. Sponge on a solution of laundry detergent and warm water. Once the paint has softened, remove as much as possible with a dull knife or a spoon. Rinse and repeat until most of the stain has been removed. Machine wash.  NW: Try to get to dry cleaner right away. If you can’t, try glycerin or dishwashing detergent. Use a little water and repeatedly blot the stain.

Remove Stains: Health & Beauty

Blood – If it’s dried…W: Apply an enzyme prewash product or soak the clothing in warm water with an enzyme detergent before laundering. If the stain persists, wash with a detergent and bleach that are safe for the fabric.  NW: Dampen the spot with cool salt water, then with plain water. Treat the spot with diluted vinegar to bleach the color. Thoroughly flush with cool water.

If it’s fresh…W: Flush with cold water, then apply a small amount of ammonia with a cotton swab to remove the color. You can follow up by dabbing the stain with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse and finish with a regular wash cycle.  NW: Treat with cold water, then use an eyedropper and diluted vinegar to remove the color. Thoroughly flush the area with cool water.

Lipstick – W: Apply an oil solvent like Carbona and let dry, then remove residue. Treat with a liquid soap like Woolite and very little water. Rub to form suds, then rinse. Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia to remove any remaining color. Rinse with cool water.  NW: Same as for washables, but use diluted vinegar or bleach instead of ammonia, which can corrode wool and silk.

Perspiration – W: Treat perspiration marks with a prewash stain remover, then launder the clothes in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, using an enzyme detergent and an oxygen bleach.  NW: Apply a combination solvent (a store-bought stain fighter like Shout or Zout) and let sit for 15 minutes. Use an eyedropper and diluted ammonia or vinegar to remove any remaining color. Thoroughly flush the area with cool water.

 

 

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