Removing Stains from Clothing

There are two important steps before removing stains from clothing. The first step is to identify the type of fabric. For example, if the fabric is made of rayon, silk or delicate Belgian / Parisian lace, you will want to take that fabric to a reputable dry cleaner. If you’re not experienced in removing stains from these fabrics, don’t try to do it yourself because velvet, rayon and silk are expensive materials.

The second step is to identify the type of stain. Different stains require different treatments and products. This should be an easy task. Anyone will recognize ketchup stains from butter stains, and wine stains from grape juice stains.

Maybe we should have said three steps. The third step is of course to act quickly! As soon as your clothing gets a stain, don’t let it dry up and settle. The longer it’s been there, the harder it will be to remove.

While we recommended taking stained velvets and silks to a dry cleaner, you can remove stains on other types of fabrics with products that are already in your cupboard and laundry room.

So let’s get right down to removing stains from clothing that you can do yourself:

Stains on leather

People think that when leather is stained, a professional should remove it. Not quite. You can remove stains on leather with club soda. You need an old but clean toothbrush. Simply remove the stain by using the toothbrush and scrubbing it with a back and forth motion. Use gentle strokes.

Gum stains

If the piece of gum has been sitting on the fabric for a long time, try freezing it and then when it’s rock hard, try scraping away at the gum little by little. That’s the first method. If that doesn’t work, try the second method: apply egg white on the stain.

Ketchup Stains

This is one type of stain where you need to act quickly. Glycerine, a bit of detergent and water should do the trick. Follow these steps.

  • Run cold water on the stain. Some people say a more effective way is to run water from behind the stain. This has the effect of pushing the stain out.
  • Gently rub a bit of detergent on the stain.
  • If the fabric is white and you’ve tested it for colorfastness, use a few drops of vinegar and sponge-rub the stain. You can also use hydrogen peroxide or fresh lemon juice.
  • Apply detergent again until the ketchup disappears.
  • If the stain is still there, rub the stain with a stain remover stick, gel or spray and leave it for five minutes. Launder as usual.
  • And if you still have no luck, don’t despair. Take your detergent and rub it on the stain. Soak the fabric in warm water for 30 minutes and rinse well.
  • Stain still there? Why not visit your dry cleaner. Tell him what steps you’ve taken so he’ll know what to do next.

Butter stains

Butter is one of those stubborn stains that can easily frustrate us. But if there’s a will, there’s a way. The way is to have a sponge, warm water, your usual shampoo and a grease solvent (people have used WD-40 and say it’s a great de-greaser even on clothing, but test spot first). Spray the grease solvent into the stain and let it dry. Soak your sponge in warm water and rub gently on the stain adding a bit of shampoo. Then lift the stain off.

Blood stains

If you have fresh blood stains on non-washable fabric, blot the stains with a damp sponge soaked in cold water. When you blot the fabric, the sponge should not be soaking wet, just sufficiently damp. If you acted quickly when the blood stains occured, this method should do it. If the stains persist, use a few drops of ammonia with a spotter. (Don’t use ammonia on wool or silk though because you’ll ruin your fabric). Then dry.

If you have blood stains on washable fabric, fresh stains will come off easily when laundered in the usual manner. If the stains have set, try soaking the fabric in warm water, dishwashing or laundry detergent and ammonia. Leave for 15 minutes. Then launder as you would normally do.

Chocolate stains

Chocolate stains are better handled when they have dried up on clothing. You can speed up this process by putting the garment in the fridge. Once the chocolate has hardened, take the garment out of the fridge and start scraping away at the chocolate with a knife (be careful not to make a tear in the garment). Use hot water (as hot as you can get it) and let it run from behind the stain to push out the chocolate. Take your detergent and apply it on the stain. Leave it there for 10 minutes. Fold over the stain and rub the fabric to produce agitation and friction on the stain. Rinse with hot water. No more chocolate!

Coffee stains

Using cold water, rinse that area from behind where the coffee stain is. Use a liquid detergent and apply a few drops on the stain. Leave it on for 10 minutes. If the coffee stain is old, let the detergent sit on the stain longer – about 30 minutes. Rinse the area thoroughly.

If the coffee stains persist, take liquid detergent and soak the fabric in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Or else apply a stain remover or gel/spray and let it stand for 5 minutes. Launder as usual (but do read washing instructions first!).

There’s another way to removing coffee stains from clothing but it’s a little more cumbersome. If you spill black coffee, dab quickly with cold water. Place an absorbent cloth underneath the stain so when you rub on the stain it does not spread to other parts of the fabric. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain to absorb excess moisture. Remove excess baking soda. Then mix one cup of vinegar, 1 tbsp of dishwashing or laundry detergent and ½ cup of cold water. Using a cloth or sponge, soak this into the vinegar mixture and dab gently on the coffee stain. Do not rub too vigorously. Let it stand for 15 minutes and then launder as usual (read the care label instructions first!).



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