HOW TO REMOVE STAINS FROM GARMENTS
Updated: Jan 29
No one wants to open the washer and find a white load of laundry, now pink, because of a red sock or shirt, that transferred its colour to the other items. Dye stains can be particularly challenging because dye is precisely how we get colour into fabric in the first place. To remove them, soak the affected clothing in the washing machine in cool water mixed according to package directions with oxygen-based bleach and not chlorine bleach for eight hours. Repeat as many times as required, then once the stain is gone, wash and dry as usual
In the case of mud, it is best to let the stain dry out completely before attempting to clean it. Once the mud is dry, gently scrape off any excess. Cover the stain with laundry detergent and a little water and rub the fabric together to create suds, then rinse and repeat as necessary. On colourfast fabrics, if the stain is not removed after the first attempt, you can treat it with a mix of equal parts vinegar and water, then wash it with an enzymatic laundry detergent.
ORGANIC PROTEIN AND BODILY FLUIDS
Gelatin or sweat and other bodily fluids are going to require the use of an enzymatic detergent (which breaks down proteins) and oxygenated non-chlorine bleach. You will have the most success if you treat the stain promptly—before it dries. Sometimes, even once the stain is gone, an undesirable scent will remain. If that is the case, wash it again in a detergent specifically designed to fight (not just mask) odours. This method works on most organic protein stains (human or otherwise) with the exceptions of blood, dairy (including breast milk) and egg.
DAIRY AND EGG STAINS
Dairy and egg stains are a type of organic protein stain, but you remove them differently. Never use hot water as it cooks the protein, making the stain even harder to remove. Use a dull knife or spoon to lift as much of the solid matter from the fabric as possible. Do not rub with a cloth because you will only push the stain deeper into the fabric or spread it. If the stain has dried, you will first need to gently scrape or brush off anything that is crusted on the garment. Then soak it for five to thirty minutes (or even longer depending on how old the stain is) in cool water with an enzyme pre-soak, repeating with fresh water if necessary.
Yes, blood stains are a type of organic protein stain, but the removal process is quite particular, so they deserve their own section. Start by soaking the garment in cold water, rubbing the stain gently with your fingers to remove as much blood as possible. If the water begins to turn pink, replace it and keep going until the water stops turning pink. Rinse the garment well, blot the stain, and apply an enzymatic stain remover (one with extra stain-fighting properties if possible), allowing it to sit before washing. However, if you have gotten a blood stain on a delicate item, rather take it straight to the dry cleaner as any DIY treatments will probably only harm the clothing.
The first step is to determine the type of ink that caused the stain. Water-based ink stains are some of the easiest to remove. A permanent ink stain (including those from permanent highlighters and markers) can be a bigger challenge, but ballpoint ink responds well to most methods. Start by placing scrap fabric under the stained area and saturate the stain with hairspray. Let it sit for a few seconds, then use a clean cloth to blot away the excess. While you blot, the stain will begin to transfer onto the cleaning cloth. Repeat as necessary, then wash the garment as usual with liquid laundry detergent.
FRUIT AND FRUIT JUICE STAINS
Use a dull knife or spoon to gently scrape away any of the fruit that remains on the fabric. Be careful, because rubbing too vigorously can damage the clothing. The goal is to remove any of the material that has not yet absorbed into the fabric. Dried fruit stains will often have seeds or bits of fruit that are still stuck to the fabric. Removing these will make it easier to get rid of the stain. Dilute the stain with cold running water and apply an enzymatic laundry detergent directly to the stain, making sure you completely cover the stain, and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Without rinsing off the detergent, wash the garment on the cycle indicated on the label at the hottest temperature appropriate for the fabric.
Tomato-based stains are challenging compared to other fruit stains because the sauces tomatoes are made with often include oil. For tomato-based stains, reach for a good-quality dishwashing liquid that cuts grease. Apply the liquid directly to the stain and gently scrub it with your fingers. Rinse and repeat as many times as necessary. If the stain remains after much of the oil has been broken down, try the fruit stain method. Lastly, do not put the garment in the dryer until the stain is fully removed as the heat can permanently set the stain.
RED WINE STAINS
Attending to a red wine stain immediately is always the best solution as red wine will sink and settle into the fibres the longer it is left there. The last thing you want is for the stain to dry, or even worse, applying heat to the stain. Cover the stain in salt, which will absorb the colour (the salt will begin to turn pink), then soak it in cold water with an enzymatic laundry detergent overnight. Repeat the soak with new water if necessary, then wash as usual.
Firstly, it is important to note that wet coffee comes out much more readily than dried coffee stains. Start by running cold water over the stain to remove as much of it as possible. Then cover the stain with enzymatic laundry detergent and use a soft-bristled brush to work the detergent into the fabric. Let it stand for five to ten minutes, then launder as usual without rinsing out the detergent. Since faint stains often reappear after the clothing dries, it is best to air-dry the garment for the first time after removing the stain, just to be safe.
First, pre-treat the stain with enzymatic liquid laundry detergent and gently rub the fabric together. Many of the best liquid laundry detergents have enzymes that will begin to break down the proteins in the stain. Rinse the clothing completely and then soak the clot