House Cleaning Tips > Clothing > Removing Clothing Stains

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How to Remove Stains from Clothing

Removing stains can be difficult if you don't know where to start and stains happen to all of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dribbled coffee, tea or some other substance on my clothes.

Stains are just an inevitable part of life and the stain removal process doesn’t need to be difficult so don’t throw in the towel just yet!

With a few basic bits of knowledge, you may be able to save that favorite t-shirt of yours instead of tossing it out.

Act Quickly When a Spill Happens

If you act quickly, fresh stains are much easier to remove than old stains, so make sure to treat them as soon as they happen for best results.

If you discover a stain after-the-fact, it can be much harder to remove and may even become permanent. This is especially true if the garment has gone through the washer and dryer already.

Here’s how to get started in the stain removal process:

  • If you’ve slopped a sauce or condiments on your clothing, scrape off any excess first. Do not rub as this can result in spreading the stain.
  • Thoroughly rinse with cool water from the back of the fabric.
  • If you are at work when the stain happens, blot with an absorbent material, like paper towels, to get out excess liquids from the fabric.

Follow Directions on Stain Removal Product

If you use a stain remover, follow all product directions, cautions and warnings, after all the manufacturer puts them on the package for a reason. Stain removers are powerful and if not used correctly, they can damage the fabric. Use these chemicals sparingly, you don’t need to saturate the stain and surrounding areas.

You should also read the instructions on the item of clothing you are treating to know what is recommended and if there are any special instructions for laundering.

Spot Test the Fabric if Necessary

If it is necessary to treat clothing with a stain removal product, many stain removal manufacturers recommend you test in an inconspicuous spot or on a hidden seam prior to use. A cotton swab can be used to perform this test.

A spot test will see the fabrics response to the product before applying a full treatment. This is good advice to follow if you’re not sure how the product will react with your clothing.

It’s also important to check the label on the clothing you treat. If you see “Wash Separately” or “Wash with Like Colors” these are indicators that the dye in the garment tends to bleed so wash as instructed.

Work from the Back of the Fabric

When removing stains, always work from the back of where the stain occurred. The point is to push the stain out, not further into the fabric. This is especially important if the stain has not penetrated all the way through the fabric.

Use Bleach Cautiously

Bleach by itself is not a good choice for stain removal if you only have one small spot, or if the clothing is not white. Bleach degrades fabrics with continued use and can actually yellow your whites over time. If your garment is colored and you try to bleach the stain, the result will be a very a noticeable bleached area.

If you do use bleach for whites, make sure to dilute the bleach with water. If you need to soak the stained clothing, use 1/ 4 cup bleach to one gallon cool water. Soak for 5 minutes then check the progress of the stain.

Keep in mind that most washing machines have a specific location to put the bleach. Do not pour directly inside your washer – look for instructions on the washing machine.

Never Mix Cleaning Products

Never mix different chemicals or cleaning products. Not only can they be deadly (like mixing Ammonia and bleach products, which produces a deadly gas) but you can also ruin your clothes by mixing chemicals together.

If you use one stain removal product and it doesn’t work and you’re going to move on to another one, make sure each product is completely rinsed out before trying something else.

Remember to read the back of the bottle on any cleaning product to look for hazards and safety precautions.

Do Not Use the Dryer until the Stain is Gone!

Remember to always let a stained piece of clothing air dry for a bit so you can check to see if the stain is gone. If the stain has been removed, go ahead and put the item in the dryer.

Know When to Fold 'Em

If you treat the stain gently and don’t give up, you have a chance to remove the stain from your clothes without damaging them.

Unfortunately, though, there are some stains that just won’t come out. It all depends on the type of fabric, how old it is, and what kind of stain you’re dealing with.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be able to save more clothes then you throw away!


Connect with Mrs Clean!

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Mrs Clean (Corina Wilson) is not only the owner of the company, but a very busy mother of 3 children.

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Mrs Clean realized long ago, that a clean home is a necessity, not a luxury when we are struggling to find the time in our day to cover the very basic levels of work and/or family obligations. The battle seems to never end... (but that's why we're here to help!)

When Mrs Clean is not busy managing her house cleaning company or running her kids back and forth to their events, she enjoys experimenting with natural and non-toxic cleaners and learning new techniques to remove stains.

She thoroughly enjoys sharing her valuable information with the readers of her blogs and various social media sites.

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