I figure with the upcoming holiday season some spills are bound to happen so this seems like an ideal time to post some ideas on stain removal. Disclaimer: I have not personally tried all these ideas simply because I haven’t had the opportunity arise to do so. If you try any of them, comment back and let us know how they worked! 😉 Note: it is always best to try out these methods on an inconspicuous spot on the fabric if you are concerned about colour-fastness. Also, do not try any of these methods on fabrics that are designated “dry clean only”. These must be taken to a professional.
Red wine: Begin by (and you should do this for most stains) simply blotting up as much as you can with a colour-fast towel (I use cheesecloth). Don’t rub or you make just make the stain spread or sink in more! Believe it or not, the next step in getting rid of a red wine stain is white wine. Saturate the stain (Martha Stewart suggests using an eyedropper for this step; that way you don’t accidentally dump too much of what you are using on the stain as it offers much more control) with white wine and then blot again. Next saturate with club soda (I always keep a bottle of club soda on hand as it works well for many stains). Blot again. Launder as usual or if it’s in your carpet, now is the time to call a professional in to complete the cleaning.
White wine: Because it’s, well, white wine and not red, this is so much easier to deal with. Once again start with blotting up as much as you can and then flush the area with cool water and apply an enzyme detergent (make into a paste with some water). Launder as usual.
Grease stains (butter, oil, salad dressing etc.): Saturate with cornstarch or talc to help absorb the grease. Make a mixture of baking soda and a mild dish soap to use as the actual stain remover. You may need to let it sit on the stain for a bit to make it more effective before going on to launder the item.
Fruits: Stains from fruity desserts, jams, and so on can be tricky to deal with. The sugars in them make them more difficult to remove. Some experts suggest that you not even try and send this to a professional to deal with but that’s not always practical in my life. A home remedy that may be effective for you is to begin by spraying the area with dish soap diluted with water. In this case blotting first will likely be ineffective and may push the stain into the item even further. Obviously if there are large clumps you will want to remove those…gently scraping it away instead. Flush the area with white vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide. Once you have flushed the stain as outlined above, follow up with an enzyme detergent. I make a paste of the detergent and water and let that sit for a bit on the stain. Launder.
Protein stains (like from eggs, meat, blood): Begin by spraying with a solution of dish soap diluted with water (I use a mixture of one part dish soap to nine parts water) and let that sit for a bit. Flush the area with plain lukewarm water. Next apply a paste of enzyme detergent mixed with water and let that sit for a bit before laundering.
Coffee and tea: Flush the area with white vinegar until the stain is gone. If there is still a remnant of a stain left, you may want to try lemon juice next to help bleach the area a bit. (If you are okay with using chemicals, you can also try an actual bleach product at this point.) If there was milk/cream and/or sugar in the coffee or tea, flush the area with dish soap diluted with water. Follow up with an enzyme detergent (again you may want to make a paste and let it sit a bit if the stain seems really resistant).
Candle wax: Ok this isn’t exactly a stain in the traditional sense but it can still be tricky to deal with if you don’t know what you are doing. If the wax is on a hard wooden surface, do NOT follow your first inclination which is likely to grab a knife or something similar and try to scrape it away. You may do more harm than good and cause damage to the surface. Instead, warm up the wax with a hair dryer to melt it a bit and then use a mixture of white vinegar and water on a sponge to gently remove the melted wax. Candle wax on your linens? Don’t try to melt it this time! That may just push it even further into the fabric. This time, use an ice cube to harden the wax and then use a very dull knife to gently scrape away most of the wax. Then, place plain brown paper (Kraft paper…like the kind they use for paper grocery bags) over and under the remaining waxy stain and gently run a warm iron over the paper. As the paper begins to absorb the wax, move it to a clean spot and repeat. This technique will apparently work for wax on carpets and rugs as well. (Note: I have always used the brown paper for this but I read that you can use plain white paper towels in place of the brown paper if you don’t have any on hand.)
Chocolate: Use something gentle like a dull knife to scrape the chocolate off the fabric. For the remaining stain, spray on the diluted dish soap and water mixture. Apply a paste of enzyme detergent and water and let it sit for a bit. Launder.
Mustard: Flush the stain with white vinegar. Follow up with a spraying of the diluted dish soap solution and launder.
Tomato based sauces like ketchup and barbecue sauce: Gently use a dull knife or spoon to scrape off the excess sauce. Spray with the dish soap and water solution. Follow up by soaking this in lukewarm water. If there is still a remnant of the stain, flush the area with white vinegar. Apply a paste of enzyme detergent and water and let sit for a while. If the stain remains, flush with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse with lukewarm water again. Apply another paste of enzyme detergent and water. Launder.
Martha Stewart suggests setting up a stain removal “kit” so that you always have the items you need on hand. I looked over Martha’s list and she has some good suggestions but some of the items she uses are pretty toxic and I am trying to get away from that stuff as much as I can. (Ok I admit it…I have just gone through an entire can of Lysol spray and an entire container of 60% alcohol hand sanitizer in a month but I am high risk for H1N1 complications and surrounded by high risk people – some of whom don’t want to get vaccinated against it – so some of the “rules” are out the window during flu season!). So, I took Martha’s suggestions and some of the ideas I already have gathered from multiple sources and have set up my own interpretation of the stain removal kit. Here are my suggestions if you would like to make your own:
~A card or booklet or something similar with stain removal “recipes”
~Cornstarch or talc
~Dish soap (you want as mild and plain a dish soap as you can find!)
~Cheesecloth (or some other kind of clean white cloth, towel, or even paper towels in a pinch)
~Plain brown paper
~Dull knife or old spoon
~A soft bristle brush can come in handy for gently brushing away remnants of the items that caused the stain or even for gently removing the enzyme detergent paste – I use a soft toothbrush
~Cotton swabs can also come in handy for applying stain removal treatments more precisely to smaller areas; cotton balls or pieces of gauze can also be useful in saturating them with your solutions and then applying them to the stains
Any other things YOU would keep in YOUR stain removal kit?