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|Stain Removal Guide|
For Fabrics and Carpets Back to Good Eats Home Page
Warning: Always read garment's label for fabric content and to determine if the garment is dry-clean only or wash only.|
Adhesive Tape, Chewing Gum, Rubber Cement - Harden surface with ice; scrape with a dull knife. Saturate with a prewash stain remover or cleaning fluid. Rinse, then launder. Baby Formula - Pretreat or soak stain using a product containing enzymes; soak for at least 30 minutes or several hours for aged stains. Launder.
Beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks, wine, alcoholic drinks) - Soak stain in cool water. Pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, Dawn liquid dish soap, or a paste of powder detergent and water. Launder with the bleach safe for that fabric. Note: Older stains might respond to treatment with an enzyme product, then laundering.
Blood - Soak freshly stained garment in cold water for 30 minutes. Rub detergent into any remaining stain. Rinse, then launder. Dried stains should be pretreated or soaked in tepid water with a product containing enzymes, then laundered. Note: If stain remains, rewash, using a bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Candle Wax - Harden with ice, then remove surface wax with a dull knife. Place wax stain between clean paper towels and press with a warm iron. Replace paper towels regularly to absorb more wax and to prevent transferring the stain. Place stain face down on clean paper towels. Sponge remaining stain with a prewash stain remover or dry-cleaning fluid; blot with paper towels. Let dry, then launder. Note: If any color remains, relaunder with a bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Catsup/Tomato Sauce - Rinse in cold water, then soak in cool water with 1/4 cup detergent per gallon of water. Spray with a prewash product; launder with a bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Chocolate - Treat the stain with a prewash spray or pretreat with a product containing enzymes. If stain remains, relaunder with bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Collar/Cuff Soils - Rub area with a stain stick product or Dawn liquid dish soap, and let remain for 30 minutes, or longer for heavy stains; launder.
Coffee, Tea (plain or with sugar/sweetener) - Flush stain immediately with cool water if possible; or soak for 30 minutes in cool water. Rub the stain with detergent and launder with bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Coffee, Tea (with cream only) - Sponge stain with a dry-cleaning solvent. Air dry. Rub with detergent, then launder in hottest water safe for that fabric (with bleach that is safe for that fabric). Pretreat or soak older stains with an enzyme product, then launder.
Cosmetics - Pretreat with stain stick, prewash stain remover, liquid detergent, Dawn liquid dish soap, or a paste of granular detergent or laundry additive and water, or rub with bar soap. Work into dampened stain until outline of stain is gone; rinse. If greasy stain remains, soak in an enzyme product. Rinse and launder.
Crayon (few spots) - Treat the same as for candle wax, or rub dampened stain with bar soap. Launder with hottest water safe for that fabric. Washer load of clothes can be washed in hot water, using a laundry soap (not detergent) plus 1 cup baking soda. If colored stain remains, launder again, using chlorine bleach, if safe for the fabrics. Otherwise, pretreat or soak in a product containing enzyme or an oxygen bleach using hottest water safe for fabric, then launder.
Dairy Products (milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, cream soup) - Pretreat with stain stick or soak in an enzyme presoak product for 30 minutes if stain is new, or several hours for aged stains; launder.
Deodorants, Antiperspirants - Treat light stains with a liquid detergent and then launder. Pretreat heavy stains with a prewash stain remover. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes. Launder, using an all-fabric bleach.
Dye Transfer (white garment that has picked up bleeding dye from other garment) - Remove stains with a commercial color remover; launder. If stain remains, launder again with chlorine bleach, if safe for that fabric. For colored fabrics and whites that cannot be chlorine bleached, soak in oxygen bleach or an enzyme presoak product, then launder. Note: Proper sorting before laundering and not allowing wet clothing to stay in washer after cycle is completed helps prevent this type of stain.
Egg - Pretreat with an enzyme product for 30 minutes for new stain, or several hours for aged stains; launder.
Fabric Softener - Moisten stain and rub with bar soap. Rinse, then launder. If stain remains, sponge area with rubbing alcohol or dry-cleaning solvent. Rinse thoroughly and relaunder.
Fingernail Polish - Try nail polish remover, but do not use on acetate or triacetate fabrics. Place stain face down on paper towels and flush with remover. Replace paper towels regularly. Repeat until stain disappears; rinse and launder. Some polishes may be impossible to remove.
Fruit Juices - Soak garment in cool water. Wash with bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Grass Stains - Pretreat with stain stick or soak with an enzyme product. If stain remains, and if safe for dye, sponge stain with alcohol (dilute alcohol with 2 parts water for use on acetate). If stain still remains, launder in hottest water safe for fabrics, with bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Grease (motor oil, animal fat, mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter, cooking oil and car grease) - Light stains can be pretreated with a spray stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or Dawn liquid dish soap. Launder in hottest water safe for fabric. Place heavy stains face down on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning fluid to the back of stain. Replace towels frequently. Let air dry; rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric.
Ink - Test stain with water or dry-cleaning solvent by placing a drop of each on stain. Use method that removes more of the ink. Ballpoint ink stains can be placed stain face down on white paper towels. Sponge with rubbing or denatured alcohol or dry-cleaning solvent, or rub detergent into stained area. Repeat if some stain remains. Rinse; launder. Drawing ink usually cannot be removed. Try flushing with cold water until pigments are removed; rub liquid detergent into stain; rinse. Repeat process. Soak in warm sudsy water to which 1 to 4 tablespoons of household ammonia per quart of water have been added. Rinse thoroughly. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric, with bleach safe for the fabric. Felt Tip or India Ink - Usually cannot be removed. Try pouring water through the stain before it dries, until pigments are removed. Allow to dry. If you notice some reduction in stain, sponge with dry-cleaning solvent. Allow to dry. Rub liquid household cleaner into stain. Rinse. Soak stain (possibly overnight) in warm water to which 1 to 4 tablespoons of household ammonia have been added. Rinse and repeat treatment if necessary; launder.
Iodine - Rinse from back side of stain under cool, running water. Soak in solution of color remover, or sponge with a solution of sodium thiosulfate crystals (available at drug store). Rinse and launder.
Lipstick - Place face down on paper towels. Sponge area with dry-cleaning solvent, Dawn liquid dish soap, or use a prewash soil and stain remover. Replace towels frequently; rinse. Rub light-duty liquid detergent into stain until outline is removed; launder. Repeat treatment if needed.
Liquid paper - Sponge the stain with amyl acetate (banana oil). Air dry. Repeat treatment if necessary. Rub gently with detergent, then launder.
Mercurochrome or Methyolate - Rinse out as much of the stain as possible under cool, running water. Soak for 30 minutes in a solution of 1/2 teaspoon ammonia per quart of water. Rinse; if stain remains, soak in a solution of 1 quart warm water and 1 tablespoon vinegar for one hour. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry. Launder with detergent and bleach. For delicate fabrics, apply alcohol and cover with pad moistened with alcohol. Change pads frequently until stain is removed. Rinse; launder.
Mildew - Launder stained items using chlorine bleach, if safe for that fabric. Otherwise, soak in an all-fabric bleach and hot water, then launder. If some stain remains, sponge with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse and relaunder. Dry in sunlight. Badly mildewed fabrics may be damaged beyond repair.
Mud - Let dry, then brush off as much mud as possible; or rinse under running water and let soak overnight. For light stains, pretreat with a paste of dry detergent and water, liquid detergent, or a liquid detergent booster; launder. Pretreat heavy stains by presoaking with a laundry detergent, a product containing enzymes, or a container of water with 1/4 cup each of ammonia and liquid detergent; launder. Red clay can be rubbed with a paste of vinegar and table salt. Leave for 30 minutes. Launder with hottest water safe for that fabric and bleach. Repeat if needed.
Mustard - Treat with a prewash stain remover, or dampen with water and rub with bar soap. Launder with chlorine bleach, if safe for that fabric, or use an all-fabric bleach.
Paint - Water-based paint, such as latex acrylic stains, should be rinsed in warm water while stain is still wet; launder. This stain usually cannot be removed after it dries. For oil-based paints, including varnish, use the solvent listed on the label as a thinner. If label information is unavailable, use turpentine. Rinse. Pretreat with prewash stain remover, bar soap, or detergent. Rinse and launder.
Perfume - Treat with prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent; rinse and launder.
Perspiration - Treat with prewash stain remover, or dampen stain and rub with bar soap. If the color of the fabric has changed slightly, apply ammonia to fresh stain or white vinegar to old stain; rinse. Launder in hottest water safe for that fabric. Stubborn stains may respond to pretreating with a product containing enzymes, then launder using an all-fabric bleach.
Pine Resin - Sponge the stain with cleaning fluid; let air dry. Rub with detergent and launder as usual. If stains persist, apply a few drops of household ammonia. Air dry. Launder, using liquid laundry detergent.
Pollen (tree or flower) - Sponge, then flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Let air dry. Rub gently with detergent. Launder as usual, using bleach that is safe for that fabric.
Rust - Apply a commercial rust remover. Follow manufacturer's instructions. Do not use chlorine bleach on rust.
Scorch - Launder with chlorine bleach, if safe for that fabric. Otherwise, soak in an all-fabric bleach and hot water, then launder. Note: Badly scorched stains cannot be removed.
Shoe Polish - Pretreat liquid shoe polish with a paste of dry detergent and water; launder. Use a dull knife to scrape residue of paste shoe polish from the fabric. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or cleaning fluid; rinse. Rub detergent into dampened area. Launder with chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or an all-fabric bleach.
Tar - Act quickly before stain dries. Use a dull knife to scrape excess tar from the fabric. Place stain face down on paper towels. Sponge with cleaning fluid. Replace towels frequently for better absorption. Launder, using hottest water safe for that fabric.
Tobacco - Moisten stain and rub with bar soap; rinse. Pretreat with stain stick or soak in an enzyme solution; launder. Note: If stain remains, launder again using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or use oxygen bleach.
Urine, Vomit, Mucous, or Feces - Treat with prewash spray or pretreat with a product containing enzymes. Launder with chlorine bleach that is safe for fabric, or use an all-fabric bleach.
Yellowing of White Cottons or Linens - Fill washer with hot water. Add twice the detergent as normal. Place items in washer and agitate four minutes on regular cycle. Stop washer and soak clothes for 15 minutes. Restart washer and agitate 15 minutes. Complete the wash cycle. Repeat process if needed.
Yellowing of White Nylon - Soak garment overnight in an enzyme presoak or oxygen bleach. Launder, using hot water and twice as much detergent as usual with an oxygen bleach.
General Rules for Fabrics
Treat stains promptly. Fresh stains are easier to remove than old ones. If the stain is on a nonwashable fabric, take it to the dry cleaner as soon as possible. Tell the stain and the fiber content of the garment.
Read and follow package directions when using any stain removal product. Always test stain removers on an inside seam or other hidden part of garment for color fastness. To test, apply product and let stand 2-5 minutes, then rinse. If color changes, do not use product on garment. When using a bleach, do not try to bleach just one area of garment; bleach the entire garment to prevent uneven color removal.
When treating, place stained area face down on a clean paper towel or white cloth. Apply stain remover to the underside of the stain, forcing stain off the fabric surface instead of through it.
Never put chemical dry-cleaning solvents directly into washer.
Thoroughly rinse and air dry areas treated with dry-cleaning solvents before placing in washer, to avoid a fire.
Do not mix stain removal products together. Some mixtures, such as ammonia and chlorine bleach, can produce noxious fumes.
Always launder washable items after treating to remove residues of the stain and the stain remover.
Have patience; it takes a little extra time and effort to remove some stains. Remember, some stains cannot be removed. Take nonwashable items to dry cleaner as soon as possible; identify stain and fiber content of garment.
General Rules for Carpets
Act Quickly! Most carpet available today has been treated with a stain-resist treatment, so many spills can be removed if immediate action is taken. The longer the delay, the higher the probability of a spill becoming a permanent stain. Remember, staining is influenced by many factors, and no carpet is completely stain proof.
Blot liquids with a dry, white, absorbent cloth or white (no printing) paper towels.
Do not scrub the area! Scrubbing can cause pile distortion in the affected area. Continue to use a dry cloth or paper towels until the area is completely dry. For semi-solids, gently scrape up with a rounded spoon. Solids should be broken up and vacuumed until completely removed. If the spot can be identified, locate the substance in the spot removal computer and follow the directions carefully.
Pretest any spot removal agent in an inconspicuous area to make certain the solution will not damage the fiber or the dye. After applying several drops to the testing area, hold a white cloth on the wet area for 10 seconds. Examine the carpet and cloth for color transfer, color change, or damage to the carpet. If a change occurs, another cleaning solution should be selected.
Apply a small amount of the selected cleaning solution to a white cloth, allow to sit for about 10 minutes and work in gently. Work from the edges of the spill to the center to prevent the spill from spreading. Do not scrub! Blot, absorbing as much as possible, and repeat if necessary.
Continue using the first cleaning solution as long as there is a transfer of the spill to the cloth. It is not necessary to use all of the cleaning solutions if the first solution removes the spill. Be patient! Complete removal of the spill may require repeating the same step several times.
After the spill has been completely removed, rinse the affected area thoroughly with cold water, and blot with a dry cloth until all of the solution has been removed. Some cleaning solutions will cause rapid soiling if the solution is not completely removed. Apply a one-half inch layer of white paper towels to the affected area, and weigh down with a flat, heavy object. Continue to change paper towels as needed.
A dry, absorbent, cleaning compound may be used as a substitute to accelerate drying time.
Detergent -- all-purpose synthetic detergent (liquid or powder). Use liquid detergent full strength; mix powder with water to form a paste when working into stain.
Dry-Cleaning Solvent -- stain and spot removers available at grocery and hardware stores. A nonflammable type is safest to use.
Stain Stick -- an enzyme-based cleaner available at grocery and discount stores. Most effective on food, grease, oil, protein, and dirt-based stains and can be used on any fabric and color. It can remain on fabric for up to one week.
Classification of Stains
Wet -- has a water base, such as fruit juice or sodas
Dry -- has an oil base, such as car grease or suntan lotion
Combination -- contains water and grease, such as meat gravy or ice cream
Special -- an unusual substance, such as tar or ink
Unknown -- one you cannot identify
Ammonia Alcohol (denatured or rubbing)
Amyl Acetate (banana oil)
Bar of Soap (without deodorant)
Oxygen or perborate (nonchlorine, all-fabric)
Commercial color remover
Crystal Salts, such as Epson salt
Liquid (Dawn liquid dish soap, a great grease cutter)
Dry-Cleaning Solvent or Spot Remover
Enzyme-based stain sticks
Spray-type prewash soil and stain removers