No one wants to toss a perfectly good shirt because of a stain that won’t come out! Next time, try these tried & true techniques to remove almost any stain. From blueberries to wine, these simple steps will keep your laundry looking good as new. There’s even a cute printable cheat sheet to hang in your laundry room!

Ugh, STAINS. They’re the worst, right?

And it’s happened to all of us at one point or another. You dribble coffee on your favorite shirt. Your 2-year-old decides to color herself—and her Sunday dress—with a rainbow assortment of felt-tip markers. Your husband gets a little overly enthusiastic with his barbecue sauce. Your romantic candlelit dinner leaves you with candle wax all over the tablecloth. Your little aspiring soccer player ends up with grass stains all over his brand new jeans.

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In any of these cases, and certainly a whole lot more, it is easy to just want to throw up your hands and declare a total loss. Yes, it’s unfortunate, you think, but what can you 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.

How to Remove Almost Any Stain (Yes, Really!)

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 the stain.
  • A stain remover should always be applied to the underside of the stain. Place stain down on a clean paper towel, then treat from the opposite side to push stain off the 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.
  • Take 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 the stain is gone!)

Your must have items for stain removal

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

Blood

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

Berries

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

Our stain test fabric

Candle Wax

Scrape off any excess wax with a table knife. Place the stain face down on a clean paper towel. Press an iron over the backside of the stain to release the wax onto a paper towel. Repeat with clean paper towels until no more wax transfers to the paper towel. Treat the 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 of 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 the hottest water possible and add Oxy-Clean to detergent.

Coffee

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

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Grass Stains

Soak the 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.

If possible soak your item right away.

 

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 a 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 the back. Rinse fabric. Launder normally.

Ketchup

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

Mascara

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

Makeup

Place item facedown on a clean towel. Gently rub from the back with a sponge soaked in rubbing alcohol. Soak item for 15 minutes in a 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.

 

Spray your stain as soon as possible.

Mustard

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

Nail Polish

Place stain face-down on a clean paper towel. Gently rub from the underside with cloth or sponge soaked in nail polish remover. Repeat with clean paper towels until the stain is gone. Launder normally.

Oil or Grease

Place stain face-down on a clean paper towel. Pre-treat underside of stain with a generous amount of liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, rubbing stain gently. Rinse with hot water. Launder normally in the hottest water possible.

Permanent Marker

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

Pin for Later:

No one wants to toss a perfectly good shirt because of a stain that won't come out! Next time, try these tried & true techniques for removing almost any stain. From blueberries to wine, these simple steps will keep your laundry looking good as new. There's even a cute printable cheat sheet to hang in your laundry room!

Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people everywhere create a life they love by follwing their dreams and achieving their biggest goals. She is the host of the wildly popular Do It Scared podcast, as well as the founder of Living Well Spending Less® and Elite Blog Academy®. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love, which was the inspiration for this book. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck, and 2 daughters Maggie & Annie.
Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup

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