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Stain Removal Guide

Category Stains
From oil stains to grass stains, this stain removal guide contains step by step instructions for how to get stains out of clothes, carpet and more.


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Debra Frick
February 9, 2007

How many times have you found a stain, whether it be on your favorite shirt or on your brand new carpet or on your favorite easy chair, and wondered "How am I going to get this out?" Well, I have put together a chart that you will be able to print out and laminate and put next to your washer for the next time you need instructions or things to try to remove that stain. But first, we will need to go into some basic principles that pertain to any stain you might encounter.

First, you need to not let a spill become a stain because the longer that it sits there, the harder it will be to remove. Most spills can be cleaned up with a white towel used to blot at the stain. You do not want to rub or scrub as this has a tendency to spread the stain. Work from the outside in as this will reduce the chance of a ring effect. Rinse with a white rag with cool water. Again, blot the water on and then, using another clean white rag, blot the water and spill back out again.


For carpet or upholstery, weight down a white towel with a book or other heavy object to help absorb the water. Then fluff carpet when dry. For textured upholstery, gently brush with a soft brush to fluff the fibers. To test for colorfastness to liquid chlorine bleaches, mix I Tbsp. of bleach with 1/4 cup of water. Use an eyedropper to put a drop of this solution on a hidden seam or pocket edge inside the garment. Let it stand two minutes, then blot dry. If there is no color change, it is safe to use the product. Powdered bleach packages have directions for doing colorfastness tests.

Always use the gentlest method first and then work up to the more powerful cleaning agents. Also, remember that just because it is natural does not mean it is not powerful. Always try dry powders first to absorb any of the stain and then vacuum, you are always risking damage when you wet a fabric unless it is with something that is specific to fabrics. Talcum powder, flour, and cornstarch can all be used for this.


There are many things on the market that you can keep on hand for stain removal and most can be bought at your local grocery store or drug store. Some things may be bought at your local hardware like "Gunk" which is a hand cleaner or ethyl alcohol which can be found in the paint department. If you keep a small stock of these things, you should be able to remove most stains.

Here is a small list that should help keep you stain free:




Absorbent Materials

Caution: Colored sponges or paper towels can bleed dyes onto fabrics, making dye stains that may be difficult to remove.

Removing stains from carpets and upholstery can be very hard. But here are some tips for micro-fibers and tricky carpet stains.

Micro-fibers: All manufacturers claim that micro-fibers are indestructible and stain resistant. But anyone who has owned this fabric knows that it can be quite scary to clean if you don't know what you are doing. Here are some tips for doing just that. Most manufacturers do encourage you to get a professional cleaning at least twice a year. Now this can be very expensive. Most acrylic, nylon and polyester micro-fibers are machine washable, machine dryable or dry cleanable. Now where you get into trouble is with the fabric that they use to line the micro fiber to give it structure. It just may not be washable. So you need to be very careful about how you go about this. Always start with the gentlest method first. Work your way up to the more powerful stuff. To prevent overall soil, frequent vacuuming or light brushing to remove dust and grime is recommended. All stains and spills will remain on the surface of the fabric, but should be treated as soon as possible. Gently dab at the spill (do not scrub) with a clean white cloth, letting the cloth absorb the stain. Never use a sharp object on your micro-fiber upholstery. You may find that you can remove the coverings for your cushions and wash them with Woolite and a little cool water. Do not dry in the dryer as this may cause your covering to shrink. Always look at the backing for the fabric and I would suggest spinning the cushion coverings at least twice to get out as much water as possible and then replacing them onto the cushions as soon as possible.


Oil-Based Stains: Try to wipe up oily stains as much as possible--without spreading the stain--with a dry cloth or paper towel Next, take two rags, one soaked in ethyl alcohol the other clean and dry. Pat the stained area from the outside in with the alcohol-soaked cloth, then pat the loosened dirt and oil off with the dry cloth. Repeat depending on degree of soiling. After removing the stain, let the fabric dry completely before using.

Chewing-gum and Wax: Put ice in a plastic bag and place on the stain. Once the material hardens, gently chip it away and then treat with ethyl alcohol. Rinse with clean water.

Stubborn Stains: Try repeating the treatments described above; even stains which are not water-soluble often require subsequent treatment with water. You can also use Nature's Miracle on any protein based stain or Simple Solution. Always test for color fastness.


Old Stains: First treat with lukewarm water, then rinse by blotting with clean water. If the stain begins to dissolve, repeat the treatment as often as necessary and let dry thoroughly. If staining persists, try treating with ethyl alcohol or with Nature's Miracle or Simple Solution.

Carpets: Cleaning stains out of carpets can be tough especially if it contains a red dye like in Kool-aid, but here are some easy ways to remove most common stains. Start on any stain by blotting with a clean white towel. Soak up as much of the spill as you can. Next, apply water by blotting it on if the stain starts going away continue until it is gone. Spray with fresh water lay towel over stain and weight down with heavy object. Fluff carpet when dry. If water does not do the trick, then apply a small amount of dishwashing liquid and blot. If this removes the stain continue until stain is removed. Rinse with a couple of sprays from a squirt bottle of water and blot. Spray again and lay a towel over the spot and weigh it down. Fluff when dry. If this did not work, then try a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide and rinse with water and then weigh down and then fluff when dry.

Stain Removal Chart

Acids: Sprinkle with baking soda and dampen with water to neutralize the acid. Let set until bubbling stops. Rinse well with warm water.

Adhesive Tape: Sponge with spot remover like Spray and Wash. If this does not work, try a grease remover, like Gunk, that is sold in Auto Parts Stores.

Alcohol: Always rinse with warm water as soon as possible. If the stain is still there after rinsing, try using some glycerin. Pour on stain, rub in and leave for 30 minutes. Glycerin can be bought at your local drug store.

Baby Oil: Rub with dishwashing liquid and leave for about 30 minutes wash in hot water.

Blood: Always use cool water on blood stains as warm or hot water will set the stain. Soak in cool salted water first to see if this will remove stain. If stain still remains, try soaking just the stain with hydrogen peroxide. For blood on a mattress, sprinkle with cornstarch and let set then vacuum. Oxiclean also works well on upholstery and non-washable fabrics using directions found above and always pretesting.

Bleach: Flush immediately with lots of cold water. For chlorine bleach, add 1 Tbsp. vinegar in 1/2 cup of cold water. If the color has been removed by the bleach, it cannot readily be restored, but try holding in fumes from an open bottle of ammonia.

Fatty Stains: Spray with a stain remover and wash. If stain still remains, try Gunk or other grease solvent. For fatty stains on carpet or upholstery, try a dry powder such as flour or baby powder apply and let set to absorb grease then vacuum.

Candle Wax: If on clothing, place in freezer until frozen. Then peel off frozen wax. If there is any remaining stain, place a paper towel on the bottom and top of stain and, with a warm iron, gently press the area, moving paper towels as they absorb the stain. Treat with stain remover and wash.

Chewing Gum: Freeze with an ice cube and then pick as much off as you can. Spray with Spray and Wash and wash in warm water.

Chocolate: First scrape off as much as you can then, using a good laundry detergent, wash area affected and rinse with warm water. If stain still remains, wash again with diaper wash.

Coffee & Tea: Remove fresh stains from cotton and linen materials by first rinsing in warm water. Follow by washing in soapy water. If a trace remains, bleach in the sun, or with a diaper wash/sanitizer. Tea stains on cottons and linens can also be removed by soaking in borax and water (1 Tbsp. borax in 1 cup of warm water).

Crayons: Treat as for candle wax. If on wallpaper, after scraping, cover with blotting or brown paper and iron with warm iron, shifting paper repeatedly. Final traces may be covered with a paste of cornstarch and water. Allow to dry, brush off and repeat if necessary.

Deodorants & Antiperspirants: Sponge dry fabric stain thoroughly with a laundry pre-soak and warm water. Rinse. If some stain remains, use a chlorinated laundry bleach. Antiperspirants may cause fabric damage and color damage in some dyes. Color may be restored by sponging with ammonia. Dilute ammonia with an equal volume of water for use on wool or silk. Rinse well.

Egg: Scrape away as much as possible. Sponge with lukewarm water. Never use hot water, as heat hardens the stain. If this does not succeed, spread the stain with a paste of cream of tartar and water, adding a crushed aspirin to the paste. Leave for 20 - 30 minutes. Rinse well in warm water.

Fruit Juices & Berries: Treat with cool water first and follow up, if necessary, by soaking in a chlorinated laundry bleach. Rinse. White cottons and linens may be stretched over a basin and boiling water poured through the fabric. Any remaining stain may be removed with chlorinated laundry bleach. For persistent stains apply equal quantities of ethyl alcohol (wood alcohol) and ammonia. Rinse well after treatment.

Glues, Gums & Cellulose Adhesives Soaking in cool water will remove water-soluble glues, like white or craft glue. For waterproof varieties, use ethyl alcohol or acetone (nail polish remover)

Grass & Other Garden Foliage Soak in a solution of a chlorinated laundry bleach Remove this with warm water and where possible wash the article using laundry powder or liquid.

Ice Cream, Milk & Cream For washable materials, first sponge with lukewarm water, then wash as usual.


Light Oils (sewing machine, hair oil, baby oil, etc.): Rub some dishwashing liquid or shampoo into the stain, leave for 10-15 minutes, then hot wash (60-65 degrees C) using your normal laundry detergent. If any stain remains, repeat the process.

Lipstick & Other Cosmetics: For eye shadow, mascara and blusher; washing with your usual laundry product may remove these stains. Pre treat the dry fabric stain with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover). On an un-washable fabric, first try dry cleaning fluid. If stains are stubborn, sponge with equal quantities of ethyl alcohol and household ammonia. Rinse with warm water

Mildew: Treat as soon as discovered, before the mold has time to weaken the cloth. Slight, fresh stains can often be removed by washing with your usual laundry product and drying in the sun. Otherwise, try these methods in turn, proceeding carefully with colored articles. Chlorinated laundry bleaches may be used for white untreated cottons and linens, according to general instructions given by the manufacturer. Rinse thoroughly before washing. Washing with vinegar will remove mildew from most colored clothing. Use a 1/4 cup in your washer with your regular laundry detergent.

Motor Grease & Heavy Motor Oil Scrape away as much as possible. For washable materials, rub Vaseline into stain or treat dry fabric with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover). Wash in a quality laundry powder or liquid. On un-washable materials, such stains are difficult. Treat repeatedly with dry cleaning fluid, continuously changing the pad and the sponging cloth. Finish with a sponging of lukewarm water and synthetic detergent, then warm water to rinse.

Mud: Allow to dry, then brushing off. Any remaining stain may be removed by washing or sponging with your usual laundry powder or liquid or if greasy dirt, pre-treat dry fabric with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover) or use Gunk hand cleaner or shampoo.

Mustard: Scrape any excess mustard from the fabric, ensuring you don't spread the stain any further. Dry the mustard-stained area. Treat with dishwashing liquid. Soak the stained area in this solution for 10-15 minutes. Wash as usual.

Nail Polish: Apply acetone or amyl acetate (polish removers), but take care with synthetic fibers, as both of these dissolve some type of rayons. Wash or sponge with your usual laundry product after treatment. Try removing any remaining color with hydrogen peroxide.

Paint: Modern paints vary greatly in composition and it is not possible to give one treatment for all types. As a guide, use the solvent suggested on the paint tin label for thinning paint and cleaning brushes. Treat promptly, as set stains are very difficult to remove. If paint has dried, soften with glycerin before applying treatment. For oil paint and enamels scrape off as much as possible and soak remaining stain in turpentine, or kerosene. Then wash in usual way. Latex or plastic water-base paints will wash out easily with cold water when fresh. Remove any remaining stain with ethyl alcohol. (Test first to see that acetate fabrics are not affected). Soaking latex paint even when dry on clothing in hot water may soften the paint enough to remove.

Pencil Marks: Try a soft rubber eraser for un-washable garments. Use a quality laundry powder or liquid on lead pencil marks. On upholstery, try a little liquid laundry detergent and gently rub rinse with a white cloth and warm water.

Perfume: Wet areas, apply glycerin and rinse out well, or sponge with equal parts of full-strength hydrogen peroxide and water.

Rust: Any of the methods given below are safe for white fabrics, but test on colored fabrics before use:

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? 1


By Kelly in Virginia (Guest Post)
February 9, 20071 found this helpful

Wow! That was fantastic :)

Thanks for taking the time to do such a thorough job on this.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
By Judy Barr (Guest Post)
February 10, 20070 found this helpful

Fantastic-i have printed it off.
Thanks so much

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
February 12, 20070 found this helpful

WOW!!!!!! Thanks!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
By Marc Auer (Guest Post)
February 18, 20070 found this helpful

I had a bag of potatoes on a linoleum floor. After several weeks a potato on the bottom began to spoil. It left an ugly stain on the linoleum and nothing yet has removed it. Any ideas?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
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