Removing Grass Stains from Jeans

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Everyone who has been a kid or a parent knows grass stains are a fact of life. The surprising thing about them is how many different ideas people have about how to get rid of them.

You might be wondering why these stains are so stubborn. Grass gets its deep green color from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a dye or pigment. Ergo, grass juice contains a green dye. As if that were not enough, the possible presence of other stable pigmented compounds, well, compounds the problem. These substances can bind tightly to natural fibers, like cotton, silk and wool. Why? Well, this gets rather technical, but it stems from the fact that the chlorophyll and other pigments are chemically compatible with natural fibers. Synthetic fibers have a different makeup and are less susceptible to grass stains.

There are a variety of suggestions about how to remove these stains. What follows is a summary of the most commonly cited methods.

  • Vinegar – The list of problems you can solve with vinegar is truly astounding. I’ve often used it for cleaning windows, but never thought of it as a stain remover. Soak your grass stain in vinegar for an hour and then wash and dry as usual.
  • Baking Soda - Like vinegar, this stuff ends up in a lot of home remedies. You can apply a paste of baking soda and water to the stain. Scrub in some vinegar with a brush. The vinegar causes a “fizzy” reaction that lifts the stain.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Be careful with this one. Since peroxide can alter the color of an item, you may want to test it in an inconspicuous spot first. Apply hydrogen peroxide to the stain before washing, and then launder as usual.
  • White Toothpaste – Use the non-gel kind. Apparently applying toothpaste to a grass stain (on denim specifically) will remove it.
  • Dish Soap – For cotton, you can scrub with dish detergent or even laundry detergent. Rinse. If the stain is still there, use an enzyme product, as discussed below.
  • Rubbing Alcohol – Soak the stain for 30 minutes in rubbing alcohol before washing as usual. Or you can sponge the stain with alcohol, let it dry, and then scrub with dish detergent and let it dry again. If the stain is still there, use an enzyme product, as discussed below.  Note that this is an article about jeans. If you are trying to remove a grass stain from other fabrics, be careful. You should never use alcohol on wool or silk. Dilute the alcohol (3 parts water to one part alcohol) if you are working with acetate.
  • Enzymes - Buy digestive enzymes at a health food store (the kind people consume). Mix a teaspoon of the powder with enough water to make a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for an hour before washing as usual. There are also commercial enzyme-based stain removers available (Biz, Axion). Note that you must use enzyme cleaners at body temperature and that bleach and hot water inactivate enzymes.

There are some options you should never use with grass stains. Alkalis, like ammonia, degreasers and alkaline detergents can permanently set the stain.

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