Stains happen. Worse still, they usually happen when you’re wearing your very best clothes.
While many minor stains can be contained with your handy-dandy Tide To-Go pen and a quick cycle in the wash, there is an agreed-upon formula for the removal of almost every genre of stain. The stain scientists have devised the most efficient ways to thoroughly vanquish the blemishes on your favorite clothes and we’re here to relay those methods and get you all cleaned up and ready to go. And though there’s virtually an infinite number of stains out there, we’ve chosen the most common stains.
Coffee stains aren’t necessarily the hardest to get out of your clothes, but they often happen at the least opportune moments. Usually when you’re out of the house and insufficiently caffeinated. If you happen to be at home, throw the garment (usually, for some reason, a white t-shirt) in lukewarm water and dab with detergent. The lukewarm water reacts well with the coffee to loosen it from fibers. Detergent that’s been diluted with water is the next step, but avoid bar or powder soap, which can actually make the stain permanent.
Red wine is easy to spill under the soberest of circumstances. But the more you drink, the greater the risk of spilling becomes. If you’re stuck in a restaurant in the middle of dinner, throw some salt on the area and then dab it with a damp napkin. But if you have more time, there’s a far more thorough method.
Start with baking soda. This soaks up the red wine right out of the fabric, which is really the only way to do this. Then, proceed to dab the area with a damp napkin or paper towel. DO NOT rub or scrub the area. This will only spread the wine around. The combination of baking soda and cold water can start to lift the wine out of the fabric, but you’ll need one more step.
Then stretch the fabric over a bowl and then apply salt. The salt should turn pink as it soaks up more of the wine. At this point, you can pour boiling water through the stain. It’s best to do this from a height of about eight inches to achieve maximum stain removal force.
If there’s anything left, throw it in the wash for a gentle cycle.
Ketchup and Mustard
The first, most important thing with condiment stains is to remove the excess. Most people recommend using a knife or some tool that will scrape off the extra without spreading the stain further. But ketchup and mustard require different methodologies after that initial step.
Ketchup (and all tomato-based products) needs to be hit with cold water to start. This can mitigate the condiment’s sticking power and prevent it from getting too deep into the fabric, but if you pour cold water on the stained area, try to do it from the inside-out. That way you’ll be pushing the stain out of the fabric instead of accidentally grinding it in. Once you’ve used cold water to stop the stain from spreading, you can soak the whole garment in cold water and then dab at the area with a sponge with dishwasher detergent.
Mustard, on the other hand, requires pretreatment with stain remover but isn’t quite as volatile as the tomato-based ketchup. Just use cold water, and then a wash in the hottest water that’s safe for the fabric.
With bloodstains, you have to act fast. As the blood dries, it sets in the fabric and makes its removal more challenging. Sometimes impossible. The most important thing is to soak up or dampen the bloodstain as early as possible, so you don’t let the stain fully penetrate the weave of whatever you’re wearing. You have a couple options to start.
The first is to add salt or vinegar to the stain. Rub the two halves of the stain against each other and the vinegar or salt can soak up or loosen up some of the blood stain. Hydrogen peroxide has a similar power to remove blood, but the most important thing is time. Dried stains will need more work. Pretreating, then doing a soak in warm water usually does the trick, but you may have to whip out the bleach as well.
First of all, this is your own damn fault. Your sweat isn’t noxious, it’s your deodorant that is. A deodorant or antiperspirant with aluminum in it is both very bad for you and causes staining on white shirts. So the first step is to find a new deodorant. But if it’s already happened, wash the shirt normally.
If the yellowing proves too persistent for a normal machine wash, soak it in warm water and dust the area with salt. The salt should soak up the stain ever so slightly and the warm water should get the last of it. If the underarms are still yellow after this phase, use digestive aid enzyme tablets dissolved in water, which will go to town on that aluminum-laced sweat stain and hopefully eviscerate it.
Mud and Dirt
If you’re an everyday wearer of jeans, you’re sure to have at least one nasty spill in the mud. Even if you planned on waiting until the six-month mark to wash your jeans, you know what you’ll have to do? Wash them. Wait for them to dry first and scrape off the excess. You can leave them to soak to get out some of the grime, but only the agitation and cleaning of a modern washing machine will really get that crap out of your clothes.
Ink is very hard to get out and the solutions to an exploded pen involve lots of patience. Rubbing alcohol has the umph necessary to combat these ink stains. Place the stain face-down on paper towels and carefully add the alcohol to the opposite side of the fabric. Let the alcohol pour soak through the stain and into the paper towels.
The alcohol is powerful enough to begin to denature the ink stain and as long as you continuously swap out the paper towels with new, clean ones, you should be able to prevent any extra re-staining. If you’re suspicious of this method, you can also stretch the fabric taut over a bowl or jar and pour the alcohol through.
No matter which method you choose, the stain should be greatly lessened. Enough so, that you can toss it in the machine for a normal cycle.
This one’s actually really cool. Wax is very hard to get out of a fabric, especially once it dries. It works its way into the weave and can prove really hard to scrape out.
Remove what you can from the outermost surface of the garment with a plastic knife, but resist the temptation to dig around in there with the knife. You’ll probably just grind it into the fibers further. Instead, run an ice cube over the affected area, which sort of lifts the wax out, by wetting it and lowering its temperature. Boil water and then pour it through the fabric, from the inside out. That hot water should thoroughly remove it from the fabric.
If you get around, you’re sure to occasionally get some lipstick on your shirts. Unlucky for you, lipstick is one of the hardest stains to remove. The reason for this is that there are so many different colors and formulas for lipstick that there’s not one cure-all fix.
One fix is hairspray. Hairspray sticks to and soaks up the lipstick you couldn’t scrape off the fabric. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then dampen a cloth and start to dab away the remaining lipstick. You want to be sure you don’t spread the stain around, so take your time. Also, use a cloth you don’t care about because the lipstick will definitely run onto it.
Don’t rinse the piece, as it could spread the stain to other parts of the garment, instead put it in the machine on a gentle cycle. The agitation should finally get rid of the stain, without spreading it around.
If you’ve fallen into a chocolate river and haven’t drowned, you’ll need some serious help getting those stains out of your lederhosen. I’m talking to you, Augustus.
Chocolate, like many of our other substances, must be scraped away first. This is easier with dried chocolate than molten, melty chocolate and this, like blood, is very time-sensitive. Any chocolate that comes into contact with your body will start to melt and more deeply stain your clothes. Remove the excess as soon as possible and wait to get home to take care of the rest.
A cool water soak will get rid of the least ground-in bits of the stain and generally loosen up the chocolate. Then, put one tablespoon of dish soap in ten ounces of water to get a solution that pretreats your stain before the wash. Just be sure to apply the anti-stain solution from the opposite side of the fabric as the stain, so you don’t work the chocolate into the weave any more than is necessary. Then toss it in the machine and you’re good to go.
The Gross Stuff
I’m not including a picture for this one, because it’s the real nasty stuff. Your vomit, poop, pee, etc.
With poop, make sure you’ve scraped away the worst of it… I’m sorry you shit yourself, by the way. Then rinse with cold water and then soak with warm water and detergent for thirty minutes. By that point, the garment should be way closer to clean, so you can throw it in the washing machine and you can add some bleach if you really want to disinfect your pants or whatever.
Vomit has to be cleared away as well. Treat it with Shout and let it soak in warm water until you’ve removed the majority. Now that the vomit has mostly been removed and your hangover is kicking in, toss the clothes in the wash and launder them thoroughly in warm water. There you go. Good as new.
Pee is very easy to remove, be it from a pet, baby, or your grown-ass self. Dab the affected area with detergent and put the clothes to soak for thirty minutes. Then, you know the drill, wash the damn thing.