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Stain Removal

"Get the Red Out" — Stain Removal Tips

Holidays are the perfect time to look at the best way to remove pesky stains such as lipstick, wine and candle wax from your favorite shirt or table linen. Learn how to "get the red out" and take care of your favorite fabrics.

General laundry tips
Always check the recommendation on the stain removal product and the clothing care label for correct water temperature. You may want to check your machine's water temperature and make sure temperatures fall within these ranges: Hot should be 120 to 140 degrees F.; Warm should be 85 to 105 degrees F.; and Cold should be 65 to 75 degrees F. If your water is below 60 degrees F., the water is too cold for detergents to work.

Stain types

  • Protein-based stains usually result from foods and require an enzyme to remove them.
  • Oil-based stains need either enzymes or a solvent-based product to remove them.
  • Dye or Tannin based stains call for a bleaching agent to lighten them.

Some stains are a Combination, treating the oil based portion of the stain first, then the dye portion of the stain. More specific methods are outlined below. For unknown stains, never use hot water, and treat as a combination type stain.

Red lipstick
Sponge with denatured alcohol, then rub with some liquid laundry detergent. Let article air out before laundering. Use denatured alcohol in a well-ventilated area, it is flammable. (Store denatured alcohol away from children.) Denatured alcohol can be found in the paint section of any hardware store, inexpensive). Then, when laundering, never use soap-based products, since they set the stain. Wash in hottest water safe for the fabric and a color-safe bleach if stain is on colored fabric. For white, use diluted chlorine bleach.

Alternative methods for lipstick:

Use WD-40 Lubricant, then undiluted dishwashing detergent and launder normally.

Or, use Waterless hand cleaner, then launder.

Removing candle wax
To remove the stain, first remove buildup of wax by placing the stained area between multiple layers of paper towels and apply a warm iron to the area. The iron will soften the wax so it will transfer onto the towel. Repeat until all wax buildup is removed. To prevent redistribution of the stain, make sure you use clean paper towels each time. Once the buildup is removed, treat the area with a solvent-based laundry product and wash in hot water. If you have trouble removing the wax or if this home remedy seems too taxing, have the item dry-cleaned, since solvent readily removes wax as well as oils and grease. NOTE: If any color remains, rewash using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach.

Alternative method for candle wax: Use white paper towel and warm iron, but it may leave some residue in garment. Treat with solvent-based laundry detergent and wash in warmest water possible for fabric.

Removing red wine from a tablecloth
The removal of a red wine stain from a tablecloth is a difficult task, but one that is doable. First, blot the wine stain with cold water. Then, blot it with dishwashing liquid and flush with cool running water. If the stain is still present, perform the same techniques using white vinegar. If any stain is still present after using the vinegar, use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, if it is safe for the fabric and the color. A small amount of diluted chlorine bleach on white fabric is also effective. If the stain removal is not satisfactory, take it to a professional cleaner and explain the procedure you have used. Remember that tablecloths are not required to have a care label, but if one is provided, be sure to follow any care procedures that are given.

Alternative red wine removal method: Forget the club soda or white wine. Just use cold tap water as quickly as possible to get out the worst. Then when laundering, never use soap-based products--sets the stains. Wash in hottest water safe for the fabric and a color safe bleach if stain is on colored fabric. For white, use diluted chlorine bleach.

Removing other stains

  • Adhesive tape, chewing gum, rubber cement Apply ice or cold water to harden surface; scrape with a dull knife; saturate with prewash stain remover or cleaning fluid. Rinse, then launder.
  • Baby formula Pretreat or soak stains using a product containing enzymes.
  • Beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks, wine, alcoholic beverages) Sponge or soak stain in cool water, pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, liquid detergent booster or paste of granular laundry product and water; launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach. NOTE: Older stains may respond to pretreating or soaking in a product containing enzymes; then laundering.
  • Blood, fresh stains Soak in cold water (do not use hot water as it will set blood stains.) Launder. Dried stains: Pretreat or soak in warm water with a product containing enzymes. Launder. NOTE: If stain remains, rewash using a bleach safe for fabric.
  • Brown or yellow discoloration from iron, rust or manganese Use a rust remover recommended for fabrics; launder. NOTE: Do NOT use a chlorine bleach to remove rust stains because it may intensify discoloration. NOTE: For a rusty-water problem, use a non-precipitating water softener in both wash and rinse water. For severe problems, install an iron filter in the system.
  • Chocolate Pretreat or prewash in warm water with a product containing enzymes. Or, treat with a prewash stain remover. NOTE: If stain remains, rewash using a bleach safe for fabric.
  • Collar, cuff soil Pretreat or prewash with stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or paste of granular detergent and water. Launder
  • Cosmetics Pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, past of granular detergent or laundry additive and water. Or, rub with bar soap. Launder.
  • Crayon For a few spots, treat the same as candle wax or dampen the stain and rub with bar soap. Launder using hottest water safe for fabric. For a Whole Load of Clothes: Wash with hot water using a laundry soap and 1 cup baking soda. NOTE: If color remains, launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric. Otherwise, pretreat or soak in a product containing enzymes or an oxygen bleach using hottest water safe for fabric, then launder.
  • Dairy products (milk, cream, ice cream, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, cream soups) Pretreat or soak stains using a product containing enzymes. Soak for at least 30 minutes or several hours for aged stains. Launder.
  • Deodorants, antiperspirants, light stains Pretreat with liquid laundry detergent, launder. Heavy Stains: Pretreat with prewash stain remover. Allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Launder using an oxygen bleach.
  • Dye transfer Attempt restoration of white fabrics that have picked up color from other fabrics by using a packaged color remover, following label directions. Launder. NOTE: If dye remains, launder again using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric. For colored fabrics and whites that cannot be chlorine bleached, soak in oxygen bleach, then launder. NOTE: This type of stain may be prevented if proper sorting and laundering procedures are followed.
  • Egg Pretreat or soak stains using a product containing enzymes.Soak for at least 30 minutes or several hours for aged stains. Launder.
  • Fabric softener Dampen the stain and rub with bar soap. Rinse out, then launder.
  • Fruit, juices Wash with bleach safe for fabric.
  • Grass Pretreat or soak in a product containing enzymes. NOTE: If stain persists, launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach.
  • Grease, oil (car grease, butter, animal fast, salad dressings, cooking oils, motor oils), light stains Pretreat with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent or liquid detergent booster. Launder using hottest water safe for fabric. Heavy Stains: Place stain facedown on clean paper towels. Apply cleaning fluid to back of stain. Replace paper towels under stain frequently. Let dry, rinse. Launder using hottest water safe for fabric.
  • Ink NOTE: Some inks in each of the following categories -- ballpoint, felt tip, liquid--may be impossible to remove. Laundering may set some types of ink. Try pretreating using one of the following methods: Prewash Stain Remover: Pretreat using a prewash stain remover. Launder. Denatured Alcohol or Cleaning Fluid: Sponge the area around the stain with the alcohol or cleaning fluid before applying it directly on the stain. Place stain facedown on clean paper towels. Apply alcohol or cleaning fluid to back of stain. Replace paper towels frequently. Rinse thoroughly. Launder. Alternate Method for Denatured Alcohol or Cleaning Fluid: Place the stain over mouth of a jar or glass; hold fabric taut. Drip the alcohol or cleaning fluid through the stain so ink will drop into the container as it is being removed. Rinse thoroughly. Launder.
  • Mildew NOTE: Badly mildewed fabrics may be damaged beyond repair. Launder stained items using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric. Or soak in oxygen bleach and hot water, then launder.
  • Mud When dry, brush off as much mud as possible. Light Stains: Pretreat with a paste of granular detergent and water, liquid laundry detergent or a liquid detergent booster. Launder. Heavy Stains: Pretreat or presoak with a laundry detergent or a product containing enzymes. Launder.
  • Mustard Pretreat with prewash stain remover. Launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach.
  • Nail Polish NOTE: Nail polish may be impossible to remove. Try nail polish remover but do not use on acetate or triacetate fabrics. Place stain facedown on clean paper towels. Apply nail polish remover to back of stain. Replace paper towels frequently. Repeat until stain disappears, if it does. Rinse and launder.
  • Paint, water-based paint Rinse fabric in warm water while stains are still wet. Launder NOTE: Once paint is dry, it cannot be removed. Oil-based Paint and Varnish: Use the same solvent the label on the can advises for a thinner. If label is not available, use turpentine. Rinse. Pretreat with prewash stain remover, bar soap or laundry detergent. Rinse and launder.
  • Perfume Pretreat with prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Launder.
  • Perspiration Use a prewash stain remover or rub with bar soap. NOTE: If perspiration has changed the color of the fabric, apply ammonia to fresh stains, or white vinegar to old stains; rinse. Launder using hottest water safe for fabric. NOTE: Stubborn stains may respond to washing in a product containing enzymes or oxygen bleach in hottest water safe for fabric.
  • Pine resin Sponge cleaning fluid into the stain; let dry. Mix liquid laundry detergent and ammonia; soak stain in the solution. Launder using liquid laundry detergent.
  • Scorch NOTE: Badly scorched fabrics may be damaged beyond repair. Launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric. Or, soak in oxygen bleach and hot water, then launder.
  • Shoe polish, liquid shoe polish Pretreat with a paste of granular detergent and water. Launder. Paste Shoe Polish: Scrape residue from fabric with a dull knife. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or cleaning fluid; rinse. Rub detergent into dampened area. Launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach.
  • Tar Scrape residue from fabric. Place stain facedown on paper towels. Sponge with cleaning fluid. Replace paper towels frequently to absorb more tar and to avoid transferring stains. Launder in hottest water safe for fabric
  • Tobacco Scrape residue from fabric. Pretreat or soak in a product containing enzymes. Launder. NOTE: If stain remains, launder again using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric.
  • Typewriter correction fluid Let stain dry thoroughly, then gently brush excess off with a clothes brush. Send to professional drycleaner and mention the type of stain.
  • Urine, vomit, mucous, feces or stool Pretreat or soak in a product containing enzymes. Launder using chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric, or oxygen bleach.

 

Contact Us

Denise Dias
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent
Denise.Dias@jocogov.org