Laundry can feel like an Olympic event. In my house, laundry is like my inbox – it’s never quite at zero. While we can teach kids to re-use towels and make sure clothes are ‘actually’ dirty before tossing them in the hamper, there will always be stains that need a bit of extra time to deal with. With the right tools, stain removal tips and Bill Nye the Science guy techniques, though, stains shouldn’t slow you down too much. If you deal with stains right away, you save a ton of time. Another trick is to mark stains with a clothes peg so that you don’t accidentally miss them and (worst possible outcome) put them in the dryer to really set the stain. We have a great LAUNDRY LABELS for common laundry room stain removers so you can make gorgeous jars. If you have to do laundry anyway you should be surrounded by beauty!

General Stain Tips

A few rules:

  1. Treat the stain as soon as you can
  2. Blot up the excess starting with cold water (an ice cube is great) and don’t grab soap from the rest room. It can actually set dye stains like berries and wine.
  3. Treat according to the tricks below.
  4. Wash normally with detergent. Enzymes will further break it down.
  5. If more attention is needed, use a paste of baking soda and water, soak in vinegar and water, or salt and lemon juice. Wash each one out thoroughly before trying another tactic.
  6. Finally, don’t throw in dryer or iron until you know the stain is gone. Air drying is the safest if you aren’t 100% sure the stain is gone.

Laundry Stain Removers Printable

** Click on the link in the first paragraph to snag the free printable pdf.

Types of Stains

There are different types of stains – dye, oil, grease, or a combination of a couple of these (think crayon that has colour as well as grease). You will want to deal with them all differently.

1. Dye Stains: (coffee, tea, ink, grass, fruit juice)

  • Dye stains are naturally occurring vegetable dyes found in many plants and acidic foods.

2. Protein stains: (sweat, blood, egg, mud)

  • Use cold!! Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg or blood by cooking the protein into the fibers.
  • Detergent contains enzymes that can break down protein and help dissolve fats.

3. Grease / Oil Stains:

  • Don’t flush with water – grease repels it and the stain will set.
  • Dab with paper towel or gently scrape with a knife to remove excess grease
  • Depending on fabric, flush with hot water

Coffee, Ketchup and Grass Stains

 Coffee Grass and Tomato Stains

  • Rinse via the underside in cold water
  • Apply detergent directly to the stain when you can
  • Gently brush
  • Three extra ways: paste of baking soda and water, soak in vinegar and water, or salt and lemon juice
  • Make sure one is rinsed out before you try another.
  • If you were able to release the stain with just the detergent, don’t rinse it out. Simply launder on the hottest setting for that fabric.
  • Make sure you check carefully to ensure the stain is out before drying.

Lipstick / Grease / Crayon Stains

Lipstick Crayon and Grease Stains

  • Scrape off excess or use a powder to absorb the excess (chalk, baby powder, cornstarch, artificial sweetener)
  • rub in dish soap on the underside
  • Turn over and place on paper towel
  • Press out from the back
  • Using a toothbrush, scrub the stain while working dish soap into a lather under warm water
  • Alternative: For any lipstick smudges on your clothes, saturate the area with hairspray, wait 10 minutes, and then dab with a damp cloth.

Protein Stains

Mud and Blood Stains

Blood, egg, milk, sweat and mud are all protein stains. Treat the sweat stains like the milk and egg, and if the stain is old and yellow it’s a chance to toss the item and go shopping… The stain will never come out.

Egg and Milk Stains

  • With proteins, you always want to use cold water first
  • From the underside, run cold water through the stain so you don’t force it further into the fabric
  • put detergent directly on the stain and use a brush to loosen
  • Put in the laundry on the hottest setting for the fabric with detergent (don’t rinse out the concentrated spot of detergent).

Blood Stains

  • Blood is a protein, so use cold first
  • If fresh, rinse from behind with cold water.
  • Apply hydrogen peroxide if the stain is on a white surface
  • COCA COLA: Just empty a can into your laundry cycle (along with regular detergent) and wash. Even ‘Myth Busters’ proved this one works.

Mud Stains

  • Let it dry and brush it off before pre-treating.
  • Scrape off excess
  • Use cold!! Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg or blood, cooking the protein into the fibers.
  • Tide contains Enzymes that can break down protein and help dissolve fats.

Ink Stains 

Dye Red Wine and Gum Stains

  • Place a paper towel under the item
  • Spray with hairspray, leave for a couple of minutes and wipe off with a damp cloth.

Red Wine Stains

  • Sprinkle salt and club soda if you’re out, then use the dye stain tips when you get home.
  • If you are home, run boiling water through the spot on the fabric (this is great for tablecloths and napkins at a dinner party).

Removing Gum

  • Use either hot or cold
  • Put garment in freezer and peel off
  • Test for colorfastness in an obscure spot and then soak in hot vinegar for 3 minutes and peel off

Removing Dirt from Suede

  • This is such a cool trick – use stale bread to rub off the dirt spots and have your suede look like new! Rub the bread gently on any excess filth.

Removing Scuffs from Patent Leather

  • If a stain on patent leather is fresh, just apply some scotch tape and remove. The stain should come off with it. (Rock solid!!!)

Removing Deodorant Marks from your LBD

  • Pantyhose (the top section) are amazing for rubbing deodorant marks off your little black dress before heading out.

In Case You Dye a White Wash Pink

  • If a lone sock or shirt turns everything a beautiful shade of pastel…. grab some RIT colour remover and try a wash with that. Just make sure you take the colourful stuff out this time…

Good luck, and let us know if you have additional tips and trick! We have a great resource, too, for getting the stink out of laundry (yoga mats, neoprene, stuffed animals, pillows and SHOES).

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Getting Stains Out of Laundry