How to Remove Stains from Clothing

Woman with Load of Laundry in Her Arms.

Removing a Variety of Stains from Clothing

We all know that stains are unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stain that happened when the kids were playing or if it’s a stain that happened while the adults were playing -stains happen.

The success of stain removal from clothing depends a lot on what kind of stain you’re trying to remove. Different stains need different methods of removal.

And remember, the fresher the stain – the easier it is to remove.

Different Types of Clothing Stains

The trick in removing stains is to know what category of stain you’re dealing with then getting to work on removing it. Stains can be generally categorized into three groups:

Grease and Oil Stains

Grease and oil stains can consist of things like salad dressing, gravy, chocolate, lotion, gel, makeup, lipstick, motor oil, mayonnaise and so on.

Protein Based Stains

Protein based stains are things like blood, milk, egg, yogurt, grass, baby formula, meat juice, perspiration, sweat, vomit, feces, and urine.

Organic Based Stains

These might also be referred to as earth-based stains or tannin stains but they consist of things like coffee, tea, wine, soda, juices, dyes, ketchup, mud, mustard and so on and so on.

Stain Removal Solvents

  • Water
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Dish Soap
  • Detergent
  • White Vinegar
  • Hairspray
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • WD-40
  • Ammonia
  • Shampoo

These are just some of the solvents you can use but you see they are items you probably have in the house already.

Stain Removal Tips

  • The sooner you get to a stain, the easier it is to remove the stain.
  • Always blot or tamp a stain. Do not rub as it will spread the stain.
  • Place something between the fabric you are treating so the stain doesn’t transfer to a clean piece of fabric.
  • If you are not sure about a stain removal product or method, test in an inconspicuous spot first for colorfastness.
  • If laundering is possible (read item tags), after washing, air dry the item before putting in the dryer to make sure the stain is gone. If you put the item in the dryer before a stain has been removed, you may permanently set the stain and it can be near impossible to remove it.
  • Some stains require more work, don’t give up.

How to Remove Grease and Oil Stains

  • If necessary, remove any blobs of spillage with a dull knife – like a butter knife.
  • Using absorbent material, blot up as much of the excess grease as possible before pretreating.
  • Rinse the stained area.
  • Mix together 2 Tablespoons water and 2 Tablespoons degreaser (like Dawn dishwashing liquid) and gently blot, tamp the stained area.

For some stains you can add in about 1 Tablespoon nail polish remover. Do not use acetone on acetate fabric as it will melt the fabric. Let sit a bit for tough stains.

How to Remove Protein Based Stains

With protein stains avoid using hot water until you know the stain has been removed as hot water could set the stain in.

  • Rinse the stained area in cold water
  • Make a mixture of 2 Tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon liquid enzyme-based detergent (like Tide or Wisk) and 1 teaspoon ammonia.
  • Blot, tamp the stain until gone. Repeat if necessary.

For tough stains, soak in cold water overnight and then treat again.

Removing Earth Based Stains

Coffee and Tea Stains

  • Rinse the item in cold water.
  • Make a mixture of 4 tablespoons each of dishwashing liquid, white vinegar and water.
  • Tamp until stain is gone. Repeat if necessary.

This also works on mud stains and many of the other organic stains listed above.

Juice and Dye Stains

There are enormous numbers of different juice and dye stains that can happen from items like:

  • Dyes in foods and beverages – like wine and orange soda
  • Jelly, jam, or syrup
  • Dyes in medicines

Blot up as much as you can with absorbent material then use one of the following solutions:

  1. The method listed above for coffee and tea stains.
  2. 1/4 cup baking soda and 2 cups of cold water
  3. 1/4 cup mild detergent and a quart of cold water

Blot or tamp until the stain is gone, repeat as necessary.

These are just a few ideas for different types of stain removal methods from clothing. There are others but this is a handy list to keep in your laundry room when you’re not sure what to do.