Best Stain removers : Home remedies for easy Stain removal from fabric

Stains are inevitable – as long as we eat, play and work. Stain removal forms a big part of the routine work of washing clothes. No escaping from it. Might as well deal with it properly.

The last thing you want when you try to remove a stain from a favourite garment is to damage that clothing. But this is what happens more often than you think. 

It is like burning down the house to kill a rat. The stain will be gone but so would the fabric, if not now, eventually

With any stain removal treatment, your aim is to remove the stain without damaging the texture /look of the fabric.

Here are some easy ways to remove stains from fabrics all the while ensuring the fabric retains its earlier unstained looks.

stain removers

 Some preliminary Stain Removal tips

DIY stain removal is to be tried only on clothes which are marked washable – avoid using these remedies on garments marked dry clean only.

care label dry cleaning

Deal with the stain when it is fresh. Dried and deeply entrenched stains are a lot of work and may never completely go.It will also be difficult to effectively deal with stains if you donot know what caused it.

Remove the source of the stain immediately – by blotting with a clean cloth/paper towel or by scraping off with a sharp-sided object.

Dark clothes can fade with spot removal of stains. Check the fabric care label to see if it is colorfast. If the mildest remedy doesnot remove stain, they should ideally be dealt professionally.A good dry cleaner can spot clean stains without fading colour on the spot

Chlorine bleach will remove most stains; but fabric colour will fade. So use the household stain removers mentioned in this post first before you despair and try bleach. But do not use chlorine bleach on silk, wool, and luxury woolen clothes

Before using any of the following remedies please do test on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric to make sure that nothing untoward happens. You might think nothing can be worse than a stain, believe me, there are worse things – think of  fibers weakening and leaving a hole or stain removal solution fading colour partially leaving a patched looking garment on your hands

Stains on wool, rayon and silk should be taken to the dry cleaner for spot treatment. When you try to spot clean, water stains may appear, which is just as bad. 

You can buy a stain remover and use it for most stains . But if you do not want to buy it, here are some stain removers you may already have at home

  1. Nail polish remover ( Never use Acetone remover on acetate fabric)
  2. Diluted Vinegar
  3. Diluted Ammonia ( Never mix with bleach)
  4. Diluted laundry detergent / white dishwashing detergent
  5. Glycerine
  6. Diluted alcohol (rubbing alcohol)
  7. Hair spray ( Use with caution because some may leave a thick creamy residue stain)
  8. Washing soda
  9. Borax.
  10. Blotting paper /paper towels / clean cloth
  11. Cornflour powder/ fullers earth/talcum powder (absorbent powders)
  12. Hot water
  13. Hydrogen Peroxide
  14. Lemon juice

A good homemade stain remover solution is to mix equal parts of vinegar, dishwashing liquid detergent and water. Most of the food stains dissolve by rubbing the stain with a cotton cloth dipped in this solution. For protein based stains you can mix equal parts of Ammonia, Hydrogen Peroxide, dishwashing liquid detergent and water.

For another homemade spot remover make a solution of 1 tbsp  glycerine,  1 tbsp white dishwashing liquid detergent, and 1 cup of water

Rubbing Alchohol, Hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice and vinegar are mild bleaches. Use these only on colourfast fabrics. If using otherwise always test in an inside area first.

Do not mix Vinegar/ Ammonia with bleach.

Always use the mildest methods first before trying more harsher ones. Rinse thoroughly afterward.

Protein stains set permanently with heat, so if you do not know what stained your garment do not wash in hot water or iron

If you have unwashable fabric ( check the fabric care label of the garment/fabric) you will have to use dry cleaning liquid on the stain yourself or give the clothing to professional dry cleaners . Check out the related post “what is dry cleaning?”. Drycleaning solution can be used on most clothes but it is best for clothes which cannot be washed – Add 1 tsp mineral oil with 8 tsp dry cleaning solution – this can be applied on the spot of the stain

Kerosene/turpentine removes oil stains but can leave behind more stains – so use only as a last resort

Nappy wipes and make up remover wipes can be used as spot removers for stains; keeping them handy in your purse at all times makes a lot of sense.

Emergency first aid for stains

If you have made a food spill with solid substance scrape it off the surface immediately and then blot.

Get hold of some blotters like clean cloth / clean sponge/ clean paper towel. Blot liquid spills as soon as it is made with this. Blot from the outside of the stain to the inside to prevent further spreading of stain.All the other remedies should be tried Only after this.

Stain removers

Acid

Apply a paste of baking soda mixed with a little water on the stained area.Rinse thoroughly with warm water

Acrylic paint

Try Nail polish remover on the stain  ; Apply Turpentine  on the stain; if it is an old stain apply turpentine and ammonia. You may have to give the clothing to dry cleaners if this doesnot work

Adhesive gum

Rub the stain with some nail polish remover

Alcoholic beverages

Soak the stain with a solution of 1 tsp dishwashing detergent in a cup of warm water. Blot and then rinse. If this doesnot remove the stain soak the stain in a solution of  1 tbsp ammonia in 1/2 cup of water. Do not iron the area till the stain is gone or it may set permenantly.

Baby food

Do not use warm/hot water. Rinse in cold water.Soak the stain with a solution of 1 tsp dishwashing detergent in a cup of cold water.

Bleach

Bleach do not stain; it removes colour. Rinse the fabric on which you have accidentally spilled bleach with plenty of water.

Blood

Do not use hot water on blood stains/ blood spills. Soak the stained area in salt water for one hour and then wash with detergent. If there is still a stain apply a solution of 1 tbsp ammonia dissolved in 1/2 cup of water; add a tsp of dish washing detergent for more power. Hydrogen peroxide also is said to remove blood stains.

Burnt marks

Burnt marks are very difficult to remove. Light marks can be removed by washing with a strong laundry detergent. If the stain is not gone, for white clothes you can use some bleach; On coloured clothes you can use 1 tbsp of borax in 1 cup warm water; A hydrogen peroxide soak is also said to do the trick.

Butter

If butter is remaining on the fabric, take it off carefully with a knife. Sprinkle a little talcum powder or cornflour powder on the stain. Rub it in. Shake the powder off. Some oil will be lifted off the fabric with the powder.

Another method says to sprinkle talcum powder and keep the fabric between blotting papers before ironing over it

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.Rinse in hot water.

Candy

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Candle wax

Keep the fabric in freezer, till the wax is brittle and shakes off. If there is residue remaining, keep the fabric between two paper towels and press warm iron over it. The paper towel will absorb the wax; remove the blotter ; Repeat if needed. In case of stain, spot treat with detergent.

Caramel

After scraping the excess caramel fully, Soak the area in a solution of 1/2 tsp of detergent, 1 tbsp of vinegar, and warm water

Chewing gum

If the gum is stuck freeze the clothing and try to break it off.

Chicken soup

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. If the stain still remains you may have to give for dry cleaning

Chocolate

Remove any residue with a knife or sharp scrapper. Blot the stain; Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.Rinse in hot water. Make a solution of 25 gm borax in 500ml water and smear some on the stain

Coffee

Flush the stain with some hot water forcefully to unsettle the stain; blot the moisture to keep the stain spreading. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent and 1tsp vinegar.

Make a solution of 25 gm borax in 500ml water and smear some on the stain

Cola ( soft drinks)

Do not use hot/warm water. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. If stain persists use ammonia solution; Rubbing alcohol is also supposed to remove soft drink stains.

Colour bleeds

This happens when you have accidentally washed bright colours which bleed with lesser coloured fabrics. Sometimes colour from embroidery floss, and other trims like bows or fabrics attached together for patchwork work etc. bleed into neighboring areas of the same garment. Rinse and flush with water several times. If it is a same colour garment Immediately relaunder with more laundry detergent. You will have to deal with the stains immediately for it to be effective. With whites you can use bleach

Synthaprol, a special detergent product can remove loose dyes – It removes excess loose dye molecules that have not been chemically bonded to the fabric. Use in prewashing the new fabric or for old fabric which has stained from excess dye.

Pre-Soaking fresh fabric in salt before the first wash sets dyes and this will prevent colour bleeds to some extent

Cooking oil

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. Use ammonia dissolved in water. Rinse in hot water.Carbon tetrachloride is a degreasing agent and will be effective with oil stains. Try method described with butter stain

Cosmetics

Apply some acetone nail polish remover on the stain. If the stain is not gone Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.Wash in hot water. If it is an oily cosmetics use undiluted liquid detergent and rinse in hot water.

Crayon

Use a sharp knife to scrape off the crayon bits on the fabric surface. Use the warm iron method mentioned in the candle wax stain. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. If this doenot work you may have to dry clean

Curry / gravy stains

Scrape off any residue of gravy from fabric surface and blot the area to the inside.  Yellow residue from turmeric in most gravy can make it a difficult stain to remove. Do not use hot water as this could set the stain. Soak the area in dish detergent solution for some 1 minutes before washing as usual.

Dirt Stains

Vaccum extra mud/ dirt; Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Egg

Do not use warm/hot water on egg stains as protein stains set hard with heat. Remove any egg particles before trying to deal with the stain.

Soak in salt water and wash. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.You can also use Hydrogen Peroxide if the fabric is colourfast.Carbon tetrachloride, a degreasing agent is said to remove stubborn egg stains.

Food Stains

If you have eaten a lot of food and you are a really messy eater and all of them made lots of stains on your dress or you ate a burger with a number of food types what to do ? If you find oil stain in there first you will have to try to break that down – blot the spot with some cotton dipped in rubbing alcohol. Rinse this out. Now soak the stain in vinegar – to remove other stains. If protein stains are there some  hydrogen peroxide can remove that

Fruit Juice /fruit flavoured juices

Try cleaning fruit juice stains as soon as they occur – blot with a clean cloth or paper towel. Flushing with water from a height dislodges juice remains. Use salted water first – cold not hot water.

Borax powder solution will remove fruit juice stains.

Soak the fruit juice stained fabric with some milk (do not spread the stain – blot) for a few hours, before washing in water.

A Laundry detergent soak dissolves fruit juices easily enough. If stubborn stains persist clean with warm water and borax powder or vinegar.

Faeces

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. If this does not make the stain go soak the stained cloth in a solution of water and vinegar (2:1)

Glue

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Grease ( Motor grease)

Spray hairspray on the spot; Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse in hot water. If this does not work soak in a solution of vinegar and water; if this also fails give for dry cleaning.

Hair dye

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Ice cream

Do not use warm/hot water if milk / eggs are involved. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup cold water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse well. If the stain doesnot go soak in a solution of vinegar and water

Iron tonic

Remove the same way as rust

Ink (Ball point)

Rubbing alcohol removes ball point ink stains. If you do not have this Use acetone nail polish remover on ball pint ink stains. Acetone or amyl acetate cleaning fluid removes ball point ink marks.Rinse in hot water

Jam

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Lipstick/lipgloss

Rub the spot with one part alcohol and 2 parts water.Blot away with clean cloth. Wash as usual. ( An immediate blot with a Nappy wipe/makeup remover wipe will likely remove the stain)

You can spray a little hair spray on the spot for an instant lipstick stain remover. Blot to avoid spreading. Use nail polish remover on the stain; Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.Carbon tetrachloride is said to be effective on lipstick stains

Machine oil

Smear some petrol on the stain. Soak in Borax solution and then rinse

Mascara

Use nail polish remover on the stain; Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Mayonnaise

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse in hot water. Use ammonia dissolved in water

Mildew

Bleach is the best solution to treat mildew stains but if the fabric is coloured this is not possible. Salt, vinegar, and water solution can be used to treat mildew on coloured clothes. Applying lemon juice mixed with salt is also said to bleach out mildew stains. You can also soak the said cloth in curd overnight. Hot water can kill mildew growth. Dry in the sun.

Milk

Do not use warm/hot water. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup  water and 1 tsp dishwashing detergent. Use ammonia dissolved in water

Mud

If you get mud on your clothes, you should not wash it immediately. Scrape off as much as possible – dry off for easy removal. Nothing of the mud residue should remain on the clothing as you wash it, otherwise, it will spread to other parts

Nail polish

Apply Nail polish remover and then wash in hot water and detergent

Orange juice

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. Use ammonia dissolved in water

Oil paint

Acetone nail polish remover

Oil

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; wash in hot/warm water.See methods for butter.

Pencil marks

Pencil marks are a constant when you sew/embroider or you have kids. But removing them take some work. Use an eraser on them first.

Mix some rubbing alcohol with dish wash detergent  and rub it on the stain. Keep for some time. Rinse;You will have to ensure the fabric is colourfast or try on a test area ( do not try this on rayon). Another method is to Soak the stain in a solution of 1 tsp ammonia dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Perfume

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. Use ammonia dissolved in water

Pizza sauce

Scrape the sauce immediately and then flush the area with lots of cold water. Soak in detergent and wash

Plant-based stains

This includes natural fruit juices; they usually go with  lemon juice or vinegar soak for 5 minutes

Sweat

Simple sweat stains can be removed with a soak in a solution of vinegar and water. Make a paste of salt, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda and soak the stubborn  sweat stain with this paste for 15 minutes. Wash as usual.

Soak the stain in a solution of 1tsp ammonia dissolved in 1/2 cup water, if the stain is fresh, for about one hour. Use a solution of vinegar and water if the stain is old

Rust

When you leave a needle in a fabric it can rust and leave rust stains. On white clothes you can soak rust stains with lemon juice and salt. Soak the stain on coloured clothes in a solution of salt and vinegar and water for a few hours.Rinse thoroughly to remove all trace of salt.

Turpentine is also said to remove rust stains. Wash away with detergent and hot water.

Sauce ( Tomato sauce, Ketchup, chilli sauce)

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent.

Shoe polish

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent. Use ammonia dissolved in water; Stubborn stains of shoe polish can be rubbed with turpentine (on colourfast fabrics). Rinse off thoroughly with hot water. If the stain refuses to go apply methylated spirit.

Soya Sauce

Use ammonia dissolved in water ;Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse in hot water.

Smoke (soot)

You will have to remove the smoke particle first. Sprinkle talcum powder or cornflour powder and then dust it off. This will remove the smoke dust. If stain remains soak in detergent and wash in warm water.

Tar

Very difficult to remove tar stains. Remove excess tar by scraping and vacuuming thoroughly. Apply Benzene. Or Apply kerosine on the spot carefully. You may have to apply more than once to remove stains from tar. 

Tarnish

These are stains you get on clothes from old tarnished metal belts, buttons etc. Soak the area in vinegar or lime juice and then wash with detergent.

Tea

Flushing is a technique used to remove tea stains – this involves pouring hot water from a distance continuously on the stain. If the stain persists soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dishwashing detergent; Vinegar and water soak also removes tea stains; Another solution is to use a borax solution ( 1tbsp borax mixed with 1 cup water)

Urine

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; soak the area  in a solution of vinegar and water

Vomit

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent;soak the area  in a solution of vinegar and water

Water colours

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent;soak the area  in a solution of ammonia and water

Water stain / water spots

Silk fabric is most susceptible to water stains. Rayon, wool etc also get water spots easily. Keep the garment over a steamer ( Take care that it doesnot spout water and make more water stains) ; Iron when damp with steam.

If the water spots remain, Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; or soak the area  in a solution of vinegar and water

(Red) Wine

Immediately after you spill red wine blot the area with a damp clean cloth. Easiest solution is to sprinkle some salt and let it remain foe 15 minutes; then wash as usual. If the stain remains, try a Hydrogen Peroxide soak . This is a good remedy to remove red wine stains. Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse well. Otherwise, soak the area  in a solution of ammonia and water; If you have white wine at home apply some on a stubborn red wine stain.

Washing soda

Soak the stained area in a solution of 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp dish washing detergent; Rinse first in water mixed with some vinegar. Rinse thoroughly in lots of water

Wood sap

Remove sap remains from the fabric surface – you may have to freeze the item to pry it out.Mix turpentine with dishwashing detergent and rub on the stain.Keep for half an hour and then wash off in warm water

If all of these fail and your favorite garment still has the stain, that is not the end of it. Use something to cover it – like a patch or embroidery or a decorative pin.Show the stain who is boss

Disclaimer: Always test any solution mentioned in this post in an inside area first.

 

 

Comments 4

  1. This is good. Thank you so much for the information. But l have a question on glue removal. What can I use if l don’t have dish washer?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Ruvimbo
      I have read that white glue can be removed with vinegar. Please try that. You can use cloth washing detergent, of course, instead of dishwashing liquid.

  2. An old sewers’ trick. Your own saliva will remove your blood from a sewing project. Make sure your saliva is clear i.e. you haven’t just taking a sip of coffee dab it on the blood and it will go away.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Judy
      That is a good tip. I always stab my fingers with needle though I never bled on the project – if I do now I know what to do. The coffee thing is also good – you don’t want new stains

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