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How to Remove Almost Any Stain

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How to Remove Almost Any Stain | How To Get Rid Of Almost Every Stain | Stain Remover Ideas | Laundry Tips | Laundry Hacks | Laundry Cheat Sheet | Stain Solutions | Blood Stain | Wine Stain | Baby Food Stain | Candle Wax on Clothes | Coffee Stains | Remove Permanent Marker

It’s happened to all of us at one point or another.  We dribble coffee on our favorite shirt.  Our 2-year-old decides to color herself–and her Sunday dress–with rainbow assortment of felt-tip markers.  Our husband gets a little overly enthusiastic with his barbecue sauce.  Our romantic candlelit dinner leaves us with candle wax all over the tablecloth.  In any of these cases, and certainly a whole lot more, it is easy to just want to throw up our hands and declare a total loss.  Yes, it’s unfortunate, we think, but what can we do?  After all, these things happen.

But while stains may just be an inevitable part of life, giving up on them doesn’t have to be.  With a few simple tricks and some good-old-fashioned elbow grease, you may just be able to salvage that favorite item and save yourself both money and heartache along the way.

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General guidelines:

  • Act quickly!  The sooner you treat a stain, the more likely it is to come out.  Even so, not all stains can be removed.
  • Be sure to blot any excess liquid immediately.
  • Be sure to check for colorfastness before treating stain.
  • Stain remover should always be applied to the underside of the stain. Place stain down on clean paper towel, then treat from the opposite side to push stain off fabric and onto the paper towel.
  • For carpet & upholstery, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Treat both with a stain resister before stains occur.
  • For solid stains, such as wax, remove as much of the solid as possible with a table knife before treating.
  • Avoid rubbing delicate fabrics
  • Bring dry-clean only fabrics to the dry-cleaner as soon as possible, and be sure to give the cleaner as many details as possible.
  • Be patient!  Some stains take a while to remove.  If you follow the steps below but the stain is still visible after washing, just repeat the process again before drying.  (Heat drying will set stains, so avoid drying until stain is gone!)

How to Remove Almost Any Stain | How To Get Rid Of Almost Every Stain | Stain Remover Ideas | Laundry Tips | Laundry Hacks | Laundry Cheat Sheet | Stain Solutions | Blood Stain | Wine Stain | Baby Food Stain | Candle Wax on Clothes | Coffee Stains | Remove Permanent Marker

Stain fighters to keep on hand:

  • Ammonia
  • Aqua Net Hair Spray
  • All Fabric Bleach (such as Clorox 2)
  • Bleach
  • Dish Soap
  • Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Oxy-Clean Powder (or similar alternative)
  • Paper Towels
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Stain Remover
  • Table Knife
  • Vinegar

Specific stain removal:

Baby Food:  Scrape off any dried food with kitchen knife.  Soak item for 15 minutes in mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon ammonia, and a squirt of liquid dish soap.  Gently rub stain from the back, then soak additional 15 minutes.  Rinse item, then soak in Oxy-Clean solution for at least 30 minutes, or until stain is gone.  Launder normally.

Blood:  Soak item in ice-cold water for 15 minutes.  Rub stain from behind.  Soak additional 15 minutes in cold water.  Check stain.  If still visible, soak item in Oxy-clean solution for 30 minutes.  Launder normally, using bleach for whites.

How to Remove Almost Any Stain | How To Get Rid Of Almost Every Stain | Stain Remover Ideas | Laundry Tips | Laundry Hacks | Laundry Cheat Sheet | Stain Solutions | Blood Stain | Wine Stain | Baby Food Stain | Candle Wax on Clothes | Coffee Stains | Remove Permanent MarkerBerries:  Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse.  Soak for 30 minutes in solution of lukewarm water mixed with all-fabric bleach.  Rinse.  If item is white or colorfast, soak in bleach solution for 15 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally.

Candle Wax:  Scrape off any excess wax with table knife.  Place stain facedown on clean paper towel.  Press iron over backside of stain to release wax onto paper towel.  Repeat with clean paper towels until no more wax transfers to paper towel.  Treat remaining color stain with stain remover.  Soak in Oxy-Clean solution for 30 minutes.  Launder normally, using bleach for whites.

Dinginess:  For whites or colorfast fabrics, fill sink or bucket with lukewarm water and 1-2 cups bleach.  Soak items for 30 minutes; launder normally with bleach.  For non-colorfast fabrics, fill sink or bucket with warm water, 2 squirts dish soap, and 2 tablespoons ammonia.  Soak for 30 minutes.  Drain water & rinse items.  Refill sink and add ¼ cup vinegar.  Soak items for 30 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally with hottest water possible, adding Oxy-Clean to detergent.

Coffee:  Place item facedown on clean towel.  Gently rub from back with sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol.  Soak item for 15 minutes in mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and a squirt of liquid dish soap.   Rinse item.  Soak in Oxy-Clean solution for 30 minutes.  Launder normally, using bleach for whites.

Grass Stains:  Soak item in cool water & Oxy-Clean solution for several hours or overnight.  Launder normally, using bleach for whites.  If stain remains, soak in Oxy-Clean solution again, then re-wash.

Grape Juice or Wine:  Mix 1 tablespoon vinegar with 2/3 cup rubbing alcohol.  Use a clean cloth or rag to blot the stain with rubbing alcohol solution.  Continue blotting until liquid is absorbed and stain disappears.  Launder normally.

Ink Pens:  Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Blot with sponge or cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.  If stain remains, spray with Aqua-Net hairspray and gently rub stain from back.  Rinse fabric. Launder normally.

Ketchup:  Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse.  Soak for 30 minutes in solution of lukewarm water mixed with all-fabric bleach.  Rinse.  If item is white or colorfast, soak in bleach solution for 15 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally.

Mascara:  Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse.  Soak for 30 minutes in solution of lukewarm water mixed with all-fabric bleach.  Rinse.  If item is white or colorfast, soak in bleach solution for 15 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally.

Makeup: Place item facedown on clean towel.  Gently rub from back with sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol.  Soak item for 15 minutes in mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and a squirt of liquid dish soap.   Rinse item.  Soak in Oxy-Clean solution for 30 minutes.  Launder normally, using bleach for whites.

Mustard: Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse.  Soak for 30 minutes in solution of lukewarm water mixed with all-fabric bleach.  Rinse.  If item is white or colorfast, soak in bleach solution for 15 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally.

Nail Polish:  Place stain facedown on clean paper towel.  Gently rub from underside with cloth or sponge soaked in nail polish remover.  Repeat with clean paper towels until stain is gone.  Launder normally.

Oil or Grease:  Place stain facedown on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with generous amount of liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse with hot water.  Launder normally in hottest water possible.

Permanent Marker:  Place stain face down on clean paper towel.  Pre-treat underside of stain with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently.  Rinse.  Soak for 30 minutes in solution of lukewarm water mixed with all-fabric powdered bleach.  Rinse.  If item is white or colorfast, soak in bleach solution for 15 minutes.  Rinse and launder normally.

(Get a free printable Stain Removal Guide to hang in your laundry room here.)

How to Remove Almost Any Stain | How To Get Rid Of Almost Every Stain | Stain Remover Ideas | Laundry Tips | Laundry Hacks | Laundry Cheat Sheet | Stain Solutions | Blood Stain | Wine Stain | Baby Food Stain | Candle Wax on Clothes | Coffee Stains | Remove Permanent Marker

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Have you ever removed a tough stain?  How did you get it out?

76 Comments

  1. Holly
    April 14 at 09:29AM

    This is great! Printing my cheat sheet right now to hang in my laundry room. Thanks so much!

  2. April 14 at 09:33AM

    Great list, I would add super washing soda. When I have found several days old ground in grass stains or mustard stains the children did not tell me about right away I have found if I soak them overnight in super washing soda the stains come right out.

  3. April 14 at 10:48AM

    I seriously NEVER knew you treated the stain from the opposite side – this is a game-changer!

  4. April 14 at 11:04AM

    After years of trying many stain removing products (both non-toxic/natural and conventional), I now only have TWO items in my arsenal: Branch Basics (review above), and OxiClean. One of those removes every stain I encounter in my household and keeps things simple.

  5. April 14 at 12:51PM

    Great tips. Thanks for sharing them all in one place for easy reference. I have recently stumbled upon the Netepur Bar made by H2O at home and it has actually replaced all my stain fighting products in my cupboard. It seems to get out the majority of stains, even on my husband’s chef coats. The only draw back is that you have to order it from a consultant and have to pay shipping, so no chance of running to the store last minute to buy it. (And no I don’t sell the netepur bar, I am just obsessed with it because it works on everything so I tell everyone I know about it!)

    • Ellen hunt
      August 17 at 01:31PM

      Where do you buy the netepur bar!?
      Ellen Hunt

  6. Crystal Protzman
    April 14 at 02:32PM

    For blood stains, hydrogen peroxide will also take it out of anything…clothing, carpet, hair. I’m a nurse, so I have used this quite a bit 😉

  7. April 14 at 05:08PM

    I love the wax tip, we learned that freezing the stain will allow the buildup to pop off most of it. The iron also sounds like a great plan.

    Also wanted to point out that the less you rub any fabric the better. Practically any stain is removable until it gets into the fibers (not between yarns or threads, but the actual fibers). Rubbing can push the stain into the fibers, that’s also why working from the back is better it allows the stain to go out the same path it came in on.

    Knowing the chemistry of a stain is also very helpful. If it’s a protein based stain (anything that comes out of a human, blood, milk, that baby’s diaper) it needs to be worked with cold water. Proteins cook in heat, just like a steak on the grill, thus setting a stain in. Chocolate is almost always made with milk so it also needs the cold water treatment.

    Last random tip: if a small blood stain is fresh-spit on it. The enzymes in your spit break down the structures in blood. So if the hubby nicks himself while shaving and gets his shirt, or you’re sewing and stab your finger with the needle-just get a little spit on there and it’ll magically start to disappear.

    • manvi
      May 17 at 02:51AM

      hi read ur tips.. seem helpful but i dont know how to stains of dark colour clothes from light colour clothes ..plz guide .. also i live in india were half of the things u have mentioned above are not available
      thanks

  8. April 14 at 05:17PM

    Somehow some furniture stain ended up on a shirt that I really like-any tips for getting that out?

  9. Jenny Rogers
    April 14 at 09:26PM

    I read in our local newspaper a couple of years ago about using Windex to get out blood stains. It works great. It’s the only thing I use to get out a blood stain now.

  10. April 15 at 12:37PM

    Great tips. And I 2nd the Fels Neptha!
    The only thing I don’t see listed that my laundry struggles with, is oil and grease from automotive work. My husband is a mechanic and his clothes get completely ruined from transmission fluid and oil and various other smelly liquids that are used. I have yet to fine a way to remove those stains!

    • Anonymous
      April 15 at 09:28PM

      Try the cleaner Simple Green!

    • Heather Jackson
      August 19 at 07:41AM

      I used Lestoil for this … even works on tar type stains like driveway sealer or roof patch

  11. Stephanie
    April 15 at 03:20PM

    Another great way to remove blood from clothing is Hydrogen peroxide 🙂

  12. April 17 at 09:35AM

    I have to remember to print this out so I can leave this in my laundry room. My poor hubby just threw out a shir t with rust stains on it. Any suggestions?

    • Anonymous
      April 26 at 05:58PM

      Lemon juice on stain and hang in sun

  13. Kim
    April 18 at 10:52PM

    I use my Cascade with bleach to get red dirt out of white baseball pants. Works fast without long soaking, and I rinse it out in the sink and can launder the pants with colored clothing. We don’t have enough whites for a separate load.

  14. April 21 at 11:08PM

    For difficult stains, such as blood, I use a bar of castile soap. I also like to keep a bottle of the liquid castile soap for soaking stained items overnight. It’s really amazing and all natural and I’ve used the liquid for washing everything from my dishes to clothes to my pets.
    Also, for rust stains, I use Magica Rust Remover. It comes in a tube and I used to be able to buy it at Restoration Hardware. It’s amazing. Removes rust stains from clothing and carpet.
    I’ve always been curious about Fels Naptha. I’ll give it a try on my next stubborn stain.

  15. May 27 at 07:57PM

    I must have missed one for underpants soiled from a bowel movement. What will take the stain out?

  16. Anonymous
    June 22 at 08:45PM

    Peroxide is the absolute best thing for getting blood out. Rinse a little, put peroxide on the stain, let it sit a couple minutes, then throw it in the wash…works every time.

  17. July 4 at 06:46AM

    Hey Ruth, I am using Tide detergent to dry clean the garments of my family. The washing liquid and the products are playing a more effective role into removing the stains. However, in a natural way, Lemon’s juice used to discard the rust, dirt and stains from the clothes. Thanks for the valuable post.

  18. September 10 at 01:55AM

    My recently rescued puppy is in heat right now. She loves to jump on my bed and lay on my white sheets. She has limited access to my bedroom but she will sneak in from time to time. When she does get some blood on the covers I take a Q-Tip, dip it in some Hydrogen Peroxide (the one you can buy at any pharmacy) and gently rub on the blood stain. After a few seconds it is all gone.

  19. Anonymous
    October 28 at 06:15PM

    I used to use a product called CLR for underarm stains ot tablecloth stains. It works miracles. Just spray stain, let sit for 20 min. or so and wash. This product is supposed to be used to clean hard water and calcium buildup in showers, however, it works GREAT especially on underarm stains.

  20. Darci
    February 1 at 02:07PM

    The link for your printable is broken

    • Ruth Soukup
      February 3 at 12:11PM

      Hi Darci,

      I just fixed the link. I also sent you an email. 🙂

  21. February 24 at 05:16PM

    Many stains that have a more complex structure such as pasta and wine take a lot more effort. These remedies will also be ineffective for pet stains as the odor needs to be removed. For stronger stains, a cleaner like Genesis 950 should be used. Genesis 950 is a green cleaner that works with water to break the bonds of stains and lift them from the surface. See the reviews by various Moms and Bloggers to see why Genesis 950 is the best stain remover available. http://www.genesis950.com/page/genesis_950_reviews

  22. March 30 at 07:43AM

    I have four-year-old son who loves drawing. The thing is that every time when he draw he also draw on hie clothes. I just don’t know what to do with his clothes. There are stains every where. I will try your suggestion for homemade stain remover. Thanks a lot for this idea!

  23. syednizamudin
    April 7 at 02:47PM

    ok

  24. Linda M.
    May 27 at 10:49AM

    My 13 year old daughter finially made her First holy communion last sunday and we had her party outdoors in our back yard.her communion dress was poofy and knee length and she was sitting on the grass and got grass stains on her white plastic pants and i want to know how to get the stains out.I am going to put the rubberpants and her under shirt away with her dress,veil,lace socks and shoes and i want the grass stains of of the rubberpants.can anyone tell me how to get the stains off?

    • Clarice A.
      October 5 at 08:41AM

      To Linda M.-We have a new adopted 14 year old daughter whom we have had for 4 months now and she is in cloth diapers and rubberpants 24/7 due to her daytime wetting and bedwetting.Last month,we baptized and christened her at sunday mass.We did her in a white,short sleeve,top of the knees baptism gown with a half crinoline under it and a matching bonnet with white rhumba tights and the white ‘mary jane’ shoes.I put extra cloth diapers with a new pair of white rubberpants over them,under her rhumba tights.We had pizza for her party,and she sat on a chair that some one had spilled pizza sauce on it,and it left an orange stain on the back of the tights and soaked thru and stained the rubberpants as well.I got the stain completely out of the rhumba tights using a pre-soak and oxy clean,but the stain on the rubberpants was more difficult.I finially wound up using Goo Gone and after some scrubbing,the stain finially came out.

  25. June 18 at 06:19PM

    You can use a bar of castile soap for difficult stains.

  26. Tracee
    August 20 at 03:43PM

    I removed it stains by mixing baking powder, hydrogen peroxide and cold water. I scrubbed it in and let it sit over night. The next day it still looked stained but once I started rinsing it under cold tap all the yellow color went away. I also had a white scarf that got red wine spilled on it. I didn’t feel like dealing with it for months so it just sat on my floor. I put it in the sink with a little hydrogen peroxide I had left (which wasn’t very much, maybe 2 T) and some cold water and let it soak overnight. The next day it was completely white again, no residue.

    • Tracee
      August 20 at 03:44PM

      It should say “Pit Stains”

  27. October 6 at 08:14AM

    WOW I need desperately list like yours. I have several things with stains which I don`t know how to remove. Including my dad`s sofa. I spilled some mascara on it. Thank you so much for sharing your article. I am going to use your tips immediately. Best regards!

  28. November 16 at 03:00PM

    thank you for this. its really helpful, i don’t need anymore to throw those cloths etc..which have stains. 🙂

  29. December 4 at 02:50AM

    Weigh down a half-inch of white paper towel with heavy object on top of the affected area of your carpet. Change the paper towel as needed until the area is dry. If you need the stain to dry faster, a dry compound can be used, although the paper towels typically work well over time.

  30. August 1 at 10:07AM

    Permanent marker stains can be removed much faster using alcohol. Rubbing alcohol or hair spray or even aftershave lotion should do the trick.

  31. October 4 at 01:46PM

    I prefer to use Vademecum mouthwash to remove ink stains. It does not harm clothing or color. Wash in clean water afterwards.

  32. November 28 at 07:33PM

    Thank you for this post, I have learned some of your tips the hard way and have actually used them on my blog – crediting your site. (I hope this is okay) I am new to blogging and am in the process of reading your book “How to blog for profit: without selling your soul” I am only on page 56, but it has been very insightful so far. And no, I have not skipped past anything. 🙂 I would love if you could give me your advise on my blog if you have time. I am prepared for honesty! Oh and yes I know, I’m still on blogger….

  33. January 16 at 07:50PM

    Thank you very much for sharing these tips. Saturate the stain in vinegar, then rub it with a paste made from equal parts vinegar and baking soda. You can add a couple tablespoons each of vinegar and laundry detergent to a bucket of water and soak the garment overnight if the stain persists.

  34. BRIAN YARMESCH
    February 4 at 07:38PM

    Can any one help with transmission fluid . Got 3 small penny sized dots on a ralph lauren hooded sweat shirt. I’ve been soaking it for 3 hours with oxy clean.

  35. Tina
    May 13 at 08:26PM

    Hello when certain things calls for vinegar to use for stains.. which do you use white or apple cider vinegar? Thanks & God Bless.

    • Ruth Soukup
      May 15 at 09:07AM

      I usually use white vinegar.

  36. Peggy
    June 21 at 09:55PM

    Awesome! It’s actually called Awesome and cheap, but removed sharpie from our camper. Safe on the paint job. Removed felt tip marker from white-ish shirt. Removes all kinds of dirt and grime from cloth, vinyl, plastics, shoes. It is truly Awesome!!!!! Dollar tree or grocery store. Seriously give it a shot.

  37. July 3 at 07:48AM

    Thanks for the tips! I love your stain removal guide… It’s soooo colourful!

  38. July 3 at 05:00PM

    Thank you for all the wonderful tips. Also, work on a small area before putting it on the stain completely, especially when dealing with carpets. I also like to work my way into the stain. You are right, an ounce of prevention will save you tons of headaches and money when dealing with your floors!

  39. Jamie K
    September 4 at 03:48PM

    I didn’t notice if anyone else mentioned it but Boiling Water takes out Berry stains. It’s amazing.

  40. Linda
    November 29 at 07:44PM

    I worked in an ink factory for 18 years and whenever I got ink on my clothes, I would pretreat the stain with Pinesol. Soak the spot with the Pinsol and then rub it in, before washing the clothes, put another soaking of Pinsol on the spot. If it doesn’t come completely out, use either hairspray or rubbing alcohol before drying.

  41. December 2 at 07:35AM

    Almost every stain is a serious headache. I really hate it when my white shirt get stained with the foods or anything else. Plus when you have to treat them with commercial cleaners and colors fade away mostly. Thank you for the great post. Now I am going to follow your stain removal procedure.
    Treat
    Rub
    Lift
    Soak
    Wash
    All Clean.
    Great Post for removing stains.

  42. Kirsty
    December 10 at 03:48AM

    Hi I had a coat given for my son we didn’t realize that the underside of sleeves and cuffs and bottom of coat had a blue stain iv soaked it in oxi stain remover over night then washed it with some stain remover in but hasn’t done a thing. I’ve seen stains like it before like new jeans n it’s transferred to other cloths and if just used oxi stain remover an it’s come out but not this time. Please can you help as its a really good coat n a shame not to be warn. Thanks

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