House Cleaning Tips > Clothing > Remove Clothing Stain



How to Remove Clothing Stains

If like most people, you have at one time or another gone to dinner and come home with more than a doggie bag – food stains on your clothing.

Chances are the clothing worn was something nice, expensive, or a favorite garment. Good news – clothing stain removal is actually easier than you might think.

In this article, we will walk you through some excellent tips for clothes stain removal so your favorite items are not permanently ruined.

Stain Removal Methods

Although you might be faced with some unique types of stains, we wanted to address the most common. The greatest aspect of clothing stain removal is to know the type of fabric. The reason is that different fabrics react differently to stains and thereby, need distinct forms of removal. The next thing you need to know is the type of stain, whether it is food, grease, ink, makeup, or something else.

The finish of the fabric is another piece of the puzzle when it comes to clothes stain removal. For example, while you can get stains out of all textures and finishes, fabrics with a smooth surface are more challenging.

The same is true with color in that softer, pastel colors are more difficult to work with than darker colors are. If you are wearing something machine washable, getting the stain out will be much easier than if the fabric is dry clean only.

Blot The Stain – Never Rub

Use a napkin, tissue, or paper towel to gently, blot up as much excess liquid as possible. Then, using the back of a butter knife or something else with a flat edge, you want to scrape off any solid food. At that point in the clothing stain removal process you would treat the outer edge of the stain first, working inward to the center, something most people do not do.

Now, if the stain is extremely small, then with an eye dropper, use the appropriate chemical or cleaning agent to expand the spot.

After the spot has spread, blot it gently to again remove liquid. Apply the chemical or agent and blot again, and again, until the majority of the stain is gone.

Make sure you use a clean tissue, paper towel, or napkin each time. The important thing with clothing stain removal is to blot, never rub, which will only cause the stain to embed deeper into the fibers.

Using this application of clothing stain removal, you will remove the majority, if not all the stain. Remember, the fresher the stain the easier it will be to get out. In other words, putting your soiled clothing item in the laundry and allowing it to sit for days will create an entirely new problem.

Read The Clothing Label

If you end up with a stain on your clothing, before you do anything, read the labels. The reason – different fabrics respond different. For example, if you have spaghetti sauce on a white shirt, do not assume just because it is white that bleach can be used. Chances are that label could read “do not use chlorine bleach” because it is polyester fabric, not cotton. In this case, the bleach would turn your shirt yellow.

By law, manufacturers must tell consumers the appropriate method for cleaning garments. In addition to laundering recommendations, these labels will also let you know when clothing items should be dry cleaned.

With this, the guesswork on how to handle clothing stain removal has been eliminated. In addition to telling you the recommended cleaning method, the label will tell you the material or fabric type. Some will even include fiber finishes to include durable press or soil release.

Therefore, it pays to read labels. If you end up with a stain on something recommended for dry clean, you should not do anything further except get the clothing item to the dry cleaners so they can handle the clothing stain removal in the appropriate way.

Stain Removal Methods to Avoid

In 90 percent of the cases, if you get a stain on machine washable clothing, simply sponging the spot off with cold water will do the trick. The problem is that some stains such as blood, eggs, and meat will actually set into the fabric if you use hot water. Therefore, stick with the cold water solution first.

Next, if you spill food and you know that it contains grease, avoid using detergent, which can make the stain far worse. As far as fabric type, both linen and cotton typically do well using hot water but any type of wool fabric does not.

While most often the stain will come out easily, it all comes down to using the right method. As you will see below, there are some removal methods that should be avoided:

Dishwasher Detergent

You will find many books and articles that actually recommend dishwasher detergent for food stains. However, this type of detergent is high in alkaline, which is why extremely hot water is required for them to work on dishes. Because of this, the detergent can cause skin irritability and can cause fading on nylon, silk, or wool.


An old method of clothing stain removal for ink is milk. In addition to not taking out the stain, milk can also damage the fabric because of the high protein levels.


Another common ink stain remover is hairspray. Now, while there are some hairsprays that work quite well in getting out ink stains, you take a risk of having a gummy residue develop. Additionally, some fabrics could be affected by the hairspray. Therefore, if you have a ballpoint pen ink stain, try regular alcohol first, the ingredient in hairspray that works.

Hair Shampoo

In some cases, gel shampoo can work for clothing stain removal, especially on light grease stains but stay away from creamy or opaque shampoos since they contain ingredients that can damage the clothing item.


Although saltwater works well for colorfast clothing in some instances, what happens is that after the fabric has been soaked and dries, when that fabric becomes wet again but without a salt solution, the dye could fade.

White Vinegar

Unfortunately, using this as a clothes stain removal, fibers such as acetate, cotton, rayon, silk, and triacetate not only weaken but the color can be changed. Clothing stain removal is generally not rocket science but you need to follow some basic rules and work through the stain slowly and carefully.

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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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