A blueberry stain is one of the easiest stains to see, and depending on the fabric, one of the most difficult to treat. This also applies to other deep red-colored fruit stains such as those made by cherries, grapes, blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries. These fruits stain on two fronts with dye and sugar. The strong red dyes leave their mark immediately and the sugars turn yellow with heat and age.
If at all possible, treat these types of fruit stains while they are still fresh, the sooner the better. Scrape and blot up all you can, then immediately and repeatedly sponge the area with cool water until no more color is being removed. Old stains on valuable pieces of clothing or fabric should be taken to a cleaning professional.
Don't launder fabrics in hot water and don't use real soap. Both will set fruit stains. Other than the boiling water method listed below, don't heat-treat the fabrics, including hot-air drying or ironing, until the stain is completely gone. Heat treatments will set the stain and are likely to make it permanent. For "fresh" stains on cotton, linen, and other sturdy white or colorfast fabrics, try the boiling water method. For more delicate fabrics, try one or more of the gentler procedures. Always pretest all treatments on a small area of fabric for colorfastness/durability before fully committing.
Five Methods for Removal
- The Boiling Water Method: This technique works remarkably well for removing fresh fruit stains, but it should be used with caution. Use this only on fresh stains and only on sturdy, colorfast fabrics that can tolerate boiling water (e.g. white or colorfast cotton and linen). Pretesting is definitely a must to avoid damaging fabrics. Stretch the stained fabric, stain-side down, over a large bowl and secure it with a rubber band. Put the bowl in bathtub or kitchen sink to help prevent spattering and catch any spillage. Pour a quart of boiling water through the stain from a height of two to three feet. Heat normally sets fruit stains, but with this method the hot water works to flush the stain out of the fabric before it can adhere. If the stain remains after this, or if you are treating a fabric that won't tolerate boiling water, proceed to method #2.
- The Lemon Juice Method: Rub a freshly cut lemon into the stain. Rinse with water, blot out all the moisture you can, and let it air dry. If stain remains, sponge with wet spotter* and a few drops of vinegar. (Dilute the vinegar with two parts water for use on cotton or linen.) Tamp** while sponging if the fabric will tolerate it. Apply laundry pretreat and launder in warm water. If the stain remains, soak in detergent for 30 minutes to an hour and re-launder.
Laundry Pre-treat: Flush the stain with cool water. Mix one tablespoon of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent with one quart of cool water. Soak the stain in the vinegar/detergent solution for 15 minutes. Rinse with cool water. If the stain remains, sponge with rubbing alcohol and rinse thoroughly before re-laundering.
- Dry Clean Only Fabrics: Follow the procedure for the lemon juice method down through the wet spotter with vinegar and tamping. Rinse with cool water. If stain remains, apply a digestant enzyme paste; let it sit for 30 minutes (without drying out), then rinse with water.
- Old/Dried on Stains: For old or dried-on blueberry or dark-colored fruit stains, try rubbing glycerin into the stain to soften it first, and then treat as above (lemon juice method). If the stain has been ironed, it may be permanent.
- Bleach: If all other methods fail, bleach the stain using as strong of a concentration as the fabric will tolerate.
*Wet spotter - mix 1 part glycerin, 1 part white dishwashing detergent, and eight parts water. Shake well before each use. Store mix in a plastic squeeze bottle.
**Tamping a stain - removal technique using a small, soft-bristled brush, that is effective on durable, tightly woven fabrics (it may damage delicate or loosely woven, fabrics.). Place the garment on a solid work surface. Hold the brush (a small toothbrush works well) 2 or 3 inches above the stain and strike the stain repeatedly with the brush using light strokes. If the bristles bend, you are using too much force.