From a mustard spill on a white t-shirt while grilling out by the pool, a grass stain from a backyard football game to a puddle of red wine accidently splashed onto a white linen tablecloth at a dinner party, stains are oftentimes unavoidable. But fortunately, most can be removed with at-home remedies if they are treated quickly. There is no one product that can remove all stains, however fresh stains are much easier to get rid of than old ones. It is important to refrain from throwing the stained garment directly into the laundry hamper, as the stain will then set, making it even more difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
The first step to take with any stain is cold water, gentle rubbing and no soap. Of course, start with scraping off any mud or sauce when possible. With many materials, rubbing the soiled area with ice helps immensely. If the stain persists, then soak the garment in cold water for 24 hours. The next step would be to then rub with a stain stick and soak again for another day. It’s surprising how many stains, including red wine, can be lifted with this simple approach. White vinegar or club soda can be used on the area to lighten the stain.
Another approach is to spray the remaining stain with a diluted dishwashing- soap solution before soaking in cold water. If this does not work, use an eyedropper to apply white vinegar as a second option. Some at-home remedies not only call for vinegar, dishwashing soap and club soda but also hydrogen peroxide –– and many mixtures call for an enzyme detergent, as enzymes are proteins that help speed up chemical reactions and “eat” bacteria that could stain the fabric. Many commercial formulas contain enzymes, and it is easy to find these products in a local drug store or grocery store.
Some of the most common stains come from condiments, such as ketchup and mustard. Wine stains can also be a bit tricky to remove and are treated differently depending on the color of the wine. To extract a red wine stain, first try the cold water, no soap approach. If that doesn’t work, spray diluted dishwashing-soap solution on the area, then gently rub. Flush with water, then apply white vinegar and rub again. After leaving the stain for a few minutes, flush again with water.
If this is not successful, another option is to apply hydrogen peroxide and let the stain sit. If this doesn’t work, try using one to two drops of ammonia on the wet area and flushing with water. Lastly, treat the area with an enzyme detergent and wash. A simpler option is to cover the stain with salt and stretch the fabric over a bowl. White wine can be treated by flushing the stained area with cold water and spraying it with a diluted dishwashing-soap solution. Like red wine, a white wine stain should be treated with an enzyme detergent and then washed.
Grass stains and mud can be especially tough to remove, although one way is to treat the fabric with a dry solvent in a well-ventilated room. Next, press the area with a cheesecloth and tamp with a soft-bristled brush. This process can be repeated several times to remove the pigment from the garment. After this step, flush the stain with isopropyl alcohol, tamp and let the area dry. Lastly, use an enzyme detergent before washing the fabric as directed.
Grease stains can often be the hardest to remove, whether you dribble a little salad dressing down your blouse or get a smudge from your bike on your pant leg. The first thing to do is apply a thick layer of talcum powder and let it sit for several days. If the grease spot is still there, or for older grease stains, use dish detergent which is made to cut through grease, preferably a white or clear variety. Dampen with ammonia and gently rub the spot, keeping in mind the delicacy of the fabric. Rinse thoroughly with water, then let white vinegar soak through the stained spot. Repeat these steps as many times as needed, then wash as usual in the machine.
Remember to test a stain remover in an inconspicuous area, whether you’re using an at-home remedy or store bought product. And by all means, don’t give up!