How to remove stains from White Clothes (Easy home remedies)

4 specific types of stains that commonly occur on white clothing - food stains, ring around the collar, under arm stains and rust stains on white clothes and how to effectively remove those stains

A stain sighting on your white garment is a bummer! (for want of another word to say what you feel when your favorite white jeans get this sickly yellow stain from those delicious Nachos you gobbled up  in the dark at the movies)

A more intense adjective may come to your mind if the garment in question is your favorite party gown in lily-white, wouldn’t it?. Stains bring out strong emotions.

After you are over the devastated feeling, the next step is looking for ways to remove the stain. What is the best stain remover for white clothes? Well, it depends on what the stain is and what fabric the garment is made of.

Getting most stains out of white clothes is not much of a problem if you know the right methods.

stains on white clothes

Stains on white clothes ? First prevent them.

The best way is to prevent those stains of course. Ensure that you do not get your white garment in contact with makeup, sweat, grease, fragrances, food, beverages etc. Check out the post on washing white clothes for 15 such tips on how to prevent stains in the first place and how to wash them properly so that they remain white.

Tackling simple stains in white clothes depends a lot on the care labels of your white clothing. If it says dry clean only you will not be able to use any of the home remedies mentioned here. Pack it off to the dry cleaners and hope for the best. Go to a reputed one with good reviews. They usually have the perfect solution for you.

Related post : Learn to read the Fabric care labels.

Removing stains from white clothes

How to remove Simple food/mud stains on white clothes?

A quick remedy for spot cleaning food stains is to use a little diluted dishwashing detergent on the greasy stain – rub it a  little with a soft toothbrush and then rinse thoroughly. Dishwashing detergents are supposed to remove grease. If you do not want to use any soap, another oft used remedy is to use vingar. Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water and apply it to the stain.

remove food stains on white clothes

Washing white clothes after every wear is recommended because some stains may not be visible to you at first glance. But after wearing it once, next time if you decide to wear it again after a nice press with a hot iron, the heat will somehow pronounce the stain and make it permanent.

You can try to increase the amount of detergent in the wash as a simple but effective remedy and use hot water if the care label of the garment says this is allowed.

Small faint stains can be removed at the washing stage itself by adding laundry boosters to the washing cycle; vinegar, lemon juice, borax, washing soda etc serve as laundry boosters that will fade these stains.

Bleaching is usually the most popular way to remove stubborn stains from white clothes – but then it also depends on the fabric.

Cotton takes bleaching beautifully well but you cannot successfully bleach synthetic fabrics. You cannot use bleach on your favorite silk or wool garments. Your spandex blend garments should also not be bleached. You also cannot bleach white clothes with colored stitching/trims/embroidery etc. With the synthetic fabrics, you can try any non-bleach stain removers available in the market

If using bleach, you should be using oxygen bleach rather than the chlorine bleach for reasons of concern for the fabric as well as the environment. Soaking the fabric in oxygen bleach solution for some time usually does the trick.

There are stain sticks available in shops which work as instant stain removers. They act almost instantly and eliminates most fresh food and drink stains like fruit juices, ketchup, coffee etc on the spot. They do not work as effectively on ink, blood-stains, grease, grass or mud stains, though. 

Yellow is a beautiful color but not on my favorite shirt!

These yellow stains are usually seen around collars and they are mostly due to the deposit of body oils mixed with sweat. It just about fixes itself to the clothes and looks downright disgusting.

How to deal with Ring around the collar / Yellow stains of sweat and body oil on white clothes?

Once the ring has already appeared, you may have to use a soft brush to clean the area after a simple soaking in detergent. An old soft toothbrush works rather than the plastic fabric brushes which may be harsh on this area.
Another step in removing simple sweat stains is to use hot water to wash the white clothes.  You can try to wash the white cloth in the warmest possible setting for the water for that particular fabric.
Sunlight is a natural bleach and can aid in reducing yellow stains to an extent. But do not give overexposure to sunlight – this is counter productive.
Sometimes you will have to use some bleach or a detergent booster to remove those yellow stains.

yellow ring around the collar in white shirts

Ring around the collar on white shirts is caused by sweat and dirt and because the collar sits close to your neck it sticks. So the best way to prevent this is to keep your neck clean. You can use a collar guard to completely prevent this.

If all these did not do the trick, Reconcile yourself to the fact that some rings never go away completely.

How to deal with Rust Stains on white clothes?

One home remedy you can try to remove rust stains is to use undiluted lemon juice and then keep the soaked clothing in sunlight.

rust sains on white clothes

These appear as yellow or brown colored stains. This appears because of iron and magnesium content in the water coming out of the pipes.

Do not use Regular bleach to remove rust stains. It will only increase the discoloration. You will have to use a rust remover on the stains to remove them.

To prevent the rust content in the water use a water softener or an iron filter. To prevent rust stains let the water run a bit removing the collected rust in pipes before the first use.

How to tackle Underarm stains on white clothes?

Salt solution is said to be a very effective remedy for these stains. You will have to soak the stained white clothing for some time for this to work. You can also try oxygen bleach, which is said to be a sure fire stain remover for these stains. (Ensure that the garment can be bleached)
To remove the sweat stains try soaking the clothing in a solution of equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda in water for a couple of hours before washing as usual.

Your antiperspirants may have a hand in the underarm stains on white garments – especially those with aluminum chloride. Mixed with sweat, body oils deodorants you use can leave a dirty yellow stain.

If over sweating is an issue you may wish to tackle this at source by eating less greasy food and drinking more water to make your sweat less staining and even avoiding sweaty places. Wear protective clothing between the white clothing and the underarms. Wash white clothes after every wear to prevent the underarm stain from being permanent. Check out the post on removing the sweaty smell from clothes.

Related posts : How to care for your fabrics ; Using bleach on clothes

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

8 thoughts on “How to remove stains from White Clothes (Easy home remedies)”

  1. have a rayon and polyester sweater that has a coffee with cream stain just used cold water right away although the stain had dried I didnt see it :/ want to get it out . what do you recommend ?

    • Coffee stains come under tannin category and are difficult to go if they are hardened and set. Wash off the sugar and cream thoroughly and wash with hot water (not too hot) and if not going may have to bleach it (info from Readers Digest How to clean anything)

  2. I have a stain issue that seems to be in its own category with 3 cotton dresses that have a full white cotton lining. All 3 sat in a walk-in closet at some point and were worn but not too many times. It seems that the lining gets a large number of faint yellow spots randomly throughout. Not just in the armpit area but randomly everywhere, even at the lining seams, where it is not likely to touch my body. Those stains leach through onto the dress material. Do you know what can be done? Is this perhaps an issue with acidity of fabric or something in my closet? Are the dresses ruined permanently? I’ve tried oxy-boost powder soak and non-chlorine/hydrogen peroxide kind bleach, to no avail. The stains got better, but didn’t disappear. If there is no remedy, how could I preserve those types of cotton dresses better?

    • Hi
      Is there moisture in your cupboard? Are you storing the clothes inside plastic (polythene) bags? I have read that these can cause yellowing. If your home remedies are not working you can try dry cleaning ( telling them specifically about the stain)

  3. मेरे सफेद कपड़ों पर दूसरे कपड़ो का कलर लग गया कैसे छुड़ाया जाए

    • Very difficult to remove that kind of color bleeding from other clothes because it is dye – you will have to try bleach. If it is fully white with no other colors /embroidery etc you can bleach safely.

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