Removing Stains like Blood, Ink, and More From Fabric and Clothing

Some tips, tricks, and hints from removing tough substances, and food and drink stains from your clothes and other fabrics. Many using natural and environmentally friendly solutions and products commonly found in your home.

Here's some specific advice for specific types of stain removal techniques:

Blood Stains
Use a gentle shampoo to pour on stain and rub. Allow to soak in cold water. Then launder in cold water. Repeat if necessary. Alternatively, try Ivory or other "pure" soap. Enzyme detergents also work well on biological and protein-based stains like blood.

Candle Wax / Crayon
Apply ice to wax, then peel away surface wax with knife. Place fabric between two paper towels and apply warm iron. Replace paper towels as needed and continue pressing. Launder. If spot remains, launder with oxygen bleach

Chewing Gum
Place item in plastic bag and put into freezer. The gum will harden which will allow it to be chipped off. Alternatively, use a bag of ice cubes. Launder as normal.

Chocolate
Gently remove excess and wash in enzymatic detergent.

Coffee Stains
Use warm water and soap or an enzyme detergent. Presoak.

Cosmetics (oil-based – foundation, mascara, lipstick)
Apply denatured alcohol to remove stain. Then launder as normal.

Curry Stains
Apply a solution of equal parts water and glycerine to stain and allow to sit for one hour. Rinse and launder in product containing enzymes.

Dye Stains
These are really tough for obvious reasons. If you have found that one fabric has bled onto another, immediately run the affected item back through the wash using an enzymatic cleaner (or whitener for white fabrics).

Egg Stains
Use an enzyme detergent on raw eggs. For cooked eggs, soak in a salt water solution, rinse well, then launder.

Fingernail Polish
Place fabric face down on paper towels and apply non-oily nail polish remover before laundering.

Fruit / Fruit Juice Stains
Apply the juice of a lemon directly to the stain and presoak in cold water. Rinse well and follow with plain soap if the stain persists. Alternatively, use an enzymatic detergent.

Grass Stains
Spray grass stains with 3% hydrogen peroxide. Let soak in cold water. Then wash in cold water. Enzymatic detergents work great on these stains. If the stain persists, try dabbing it with denatured alcohol before laundering again.

Grease Stains
See Oil Stains

Ice Cream
Launder in hottest water possible for fabric using an enzymatic soap.

Ink Stains (Ballpoint Pens)
For white garments and fabrics, dampen with cold water and apply a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice. Allow to sit one hour, then wash in cold water. Alternative, apply denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) with cotton ball or clean rag to the ink stain, then wash as normal in cold water. The denatured alcohol solution also works on felt-tipped pens.

Latex Paint
For fabrics, if paint is still wet, immediately flush with lots of water. If paint is dry, but fresh, trying one of the following might work (you will need to rub fabric): rubbing alcohol, turpentine, white vinegar, dry cleaning solvent, Goof Off2® remover.

Mildew
Wash in warm or hot water, depending on fabric type, with oxygen bleach. Line dry in the sun. For light fabrics, use 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons salt and work into stain. Wash and dry as per above.

Milk Stains
Soak in warm water with enzymatic detergent. Launder as usual.

Mud / Red Clay Stains
Apply paste of white vinegar and table salt. Rub. Leave for 30 minutes, then rinse. Launder in an enzymatic detergent. If stain still remains, do not dry and wash again in oxygen bleach.

Oil Stains
Apply cornstarch or baking soda to stain. Iron with hot iron on wrong side of fabric, being sure to place a clean rag under the item. Alternatively, eucalyptus essential oil is said to remove grease and oil stains. Apply to back side of stain before washing and wash in hot water. (Heat is necessary to dissolve oil and grease.)

Perfume Stains
Treat with solution of equal parts glycerine and water. Launder as normal.

Rust / Iron Mold Stains
Use a solution of equal parts lemon juice and water and apply to brown rust spots. Sprinkle salt on stain. Let sit for one hour. Rinse well. Wash as normal in cold water.

Sauces (such as tomato or catsup)
Use cold water to thoroughly rinse. Presoak in enzymatic detergent. Then launder.

Semen / Sperm Stains
Launder in an enzymatic laundry detergent.

Shoe Polish
Apply denatured alcohol to the spot. Launder.

Sweat / Perspiration Stains
These often show up as yellow patches in the armpits or underarms of your shirts. To remove, apply solution of 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon household ammonia. Rinse immediately, then soak in enzymatic detergent. Launder as normal. Alternatively, try Yellow Out. It's a product available at Walmart and Bi-mart. To prevent these stains, always line dry your shirts outside in the sun or airdry them in a cool dryer. The heat of the dryer will set the stains, making you start this process all over again.

Tea Stains
Apply plain soap to the stain and soak immediately in cold water. Follow with cold water wash. Alternatively, try enzymatic detergent or glycerine.

Tar Stains
Place paper towel or clean rag over the stain, then blot eucalyptus essential oil underneath stain. Launder.

Wine Stains
Use a solution of liquid dishwashing soap and hydrogen peroxide. Allow the item to sit, then rinse and launder as usual. Works great on clothing as well as tablecloths. (Hydrogen peroxide mixed with carpet cleaning solution will also remove most red wine stains from carpets and rugs.) Alternative, presoak in warm water and enzymatic detergent. Launder.

 

CAUTION The heat of the water in your clothes washer and the heat of the air in your clothes dryer will set many stains. As a general rule, always use cold water to soak and airdry or linedry your clothes when possible.

If you find a stain still persists after washing it, do not dry it. Simply repeat the process while the fabric is still wet.

For most stains, Ivory soap or other plain soap works wonders. Presoaking a stain will often make a big difference (with the exception of stains on wool or silk). Any specialty or dryclean only fabrics should be treated only by a professional. For extra tough stains, try color-safe bleach (oxygen, not chlorine bleach).

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