It doesn’t take much to ruin a favorite clothing item with stubborn stains that happen quick-as-a-flash: a bubbling pot of spaghetti sauce, bacon grease splatters, an active toddler wanting to share her food, or just working and playing outside. Life happens! Calamity strikes in any number of ways.
The good news is that most disasters are easy enough to remove. All that’s needed is a smart plan, a little bit of elbow grease and a brilliant cleaning agent of some sort (several of those are shared below for you to browse through).
Listed first are methods and tips I’ve collected over the years followed by a bunch of effective remedies and strategies detailing how to get the job done. Good luck!
Stain Removal Methods & Guidelines
- Treat as soon as possible since they’re easier to get rid of while still new (same day is optimal).
- Test on a hidden or unseen area of the clothing, observe color fastness in a visible section.
- Avoid hot temperatures on the following: blood, egg and milk.
- Follow directions of commercial cleaners, be aware of every precaution noted.
- Do not process garments in a dryer until you have successfully dealt with the spot, heat can set it which makes things harder to eradicate.
Tip: Check clothes as you arrange them in the washer and again while placing them in the dryer. Catching issues before items are laundered can help prevent permanent markings.
Use Hot Or Cold Water?
Many come out quickly when flushed or soaked with heat, but some will set permanently. How to know what temperature is needed? When in doubt, choose cold. If they are: Blood, Milk, Eggs…these should never be exposed to heat, always work with cool liquid for these cases.
Homemade Solutions To Make
Here’s a great pretreater I love that whips up nicely…keep a jar handy and you’ll never buy harsh chemical products again.
DIY Soap Jelly: The Best Stain Remover!
Glass Jar or Bottle
Laundry soap bar (Sunlight Lemon, Fels Naptha or a basic non-perfume product like Ivory)
- Shave the bar until the flakes fill half of the jar.
- Fill with hot water (boiling if the glass can handle it without shattering). Cover with lid.
- Allow time for the shavings to saturate and soften up, shake hard until all dissolved (or stir well).
- Once dissolved, allow to cool completely, this mix will form a jelly.
Troubleshooting Tip: If the batch doesn’t gel nicely, it’s still usable…simply reheat and add flakes. If results are too thick, fix by adding a bit more water.
- Soften stubborn soil by working this jelly in with a soft brush. Scrub gently to avoid damaging fibers.
Quick Tip: I’ve also utilized straight liquid dish detergent successfully (Blue Dawn Original is a good choice). Squirt a bit onto the area, gently rub in with fingers, then toss the garment in the pile for washing later. I think this is an especially easy option since it can be applied as soon as the damage is noticed and left on the piece until ready to wash (no more forgetting).
Here are some more remedies you can try making. After treating process, rinse then launder as usual (checking that mark is gone before putting in dryer)…
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
- Combine ingredients, store in spray bottles. Used as a spot treater. Soak overnight.
2 quarts water
1/2 cup ammonia
2 TBS laundry detergent
- Combine ingredients, pour into spray bottles. Apply as needed, soak overnight.
- Do not commingle w/bleach.
1 tsp Liquid Dish Detergent
1 tsp Ammonia
- Saturate piece under a cool running tap then dab mixture with a sponge over area. Let sit for a few minutes, rinse out. Reapply if necessary.
All-Purpose Bleach Treatment
(for whites and colorfast washables)
- Soak clothing in a batch of 1/2 cup bleach per gallon of hot sudsy water (except for blood, egg or milk based spills–use cool instead).
How To / Strategies
- Place the piece soiled side down on a clean, dry white towel.
- Sponge the back of the stain thoroughly with solution, working from the center out.
- Air dry. If there’s still discoloration present, repeat.
Quick & Dirty:
(use only if heat will not damage garment and the problem is not blood, eggs or milk)
- Place a large bowl in the kitchen sink, position linen across the bowl with the problematic spot in the middle. Bring a full kettle to a boil, pour through the cloth (and directly over the area) from a height of 1 1/2 to 3 feet. This technique has the best success when tackling fresh soiling.
Basic Cleanup Procedure:
- Douse the fabric under a cool tap.
- Scrub with bar of soap (laundry or Ivory). Rinse.
- If it persists, apply bar again, soak item in a mixture of water & detergent (for about an hour or overnight). Rinse.
- If not 100% yet, rub soap bar again, gently lathering with a scrub brush until it’s gone. Do not do this if the fabric is delicate or will be damaged by the brush.
- If it still persists, try a more aggressive removal method by saturating in a commercial cleaner or bleach solution. Some recipes are found above.