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How to Remove Stains

remove stains from clothes

Oops! You’ve just stained your favorite suit.

Take a valuable, nonwashable garment to a professional dry cleaner as soon as possible. Explain what the stain is and what you’ve done to it. You can often tackle other stain removal jobs yourself, but do it without delay. The longer you wait, the harder it is to remove stains.

Whether the fabric fibers are natural or man-made, here are some tips on how to remove stains from clothes:

In general

• Gently pat the stain with a clean cloth or tissue to absorb any excess. Don’t press the stain further into the fabric.

• Flood non-greasy stains with cold water to keep them from setting. Sprinkle greasy stains with an absorbent material such as cornstarch, talc or baking soda; after 10 minutes, brush them away to remove them.

• Carefully follow all care instructions on the label.

Washable fabrics

• Test any cleaning agent on a hidden part of the garment – a seam allowance or facing. Alcohol, ammonia, vinegar, and especially bleach – may affect dyes. Apply several drops of the remover to the fabric. Rub gently with a white towel. If color transfers to the towel, or if a color change occurs, don’t use the remover. Consult a dry cleaner.

• When using bleach, flush the fabric with cool water as soon as stains disappear. If they remain, flush them with water after 15 minutes anyway.

• Use enzyme pre-wash products to remove protein stains – milk, blood, egg, meat juices, grass, urine, vomit – on washable fabrics. Chlorine bleach can be used to remove the last traces of marks on white and colorfast washable fabrics.

• Use denatured or rubbing alcohol only when labels indicate it’s OK. On fabrics containing acetates, dilute the alcohol with two parts water.

• Avoid setting stains. Don’t use heat or hot water to remove protein stains, or bar soap or flakes on tannin stains, such as tea, coffee, tomato or fruit juices, cola drinks, jellies, clear fruit drinks, washable ink and wine.

• Don’t use chlorine bleach on silk, wool, spandex, urethane foam or rubber.

• If you can’t identify stains in a washable fabric, soak the item in cold water and rub the stained area together. If the mark remains, rub heavy-duty liquid detergent into it, then rinse thoroughly to remove it. If it persists, use a bleach solution safe for the fabric, then wash normally.

• If no spot remover is available for a stain on a washable fabric, try using a paste of automatic dishwasher detergent. Apply it with an old toothbrush, then rinse thoroughly.


• Use spot treatment on items you don’t wash or for washables too delicate for rubbing. Place aluminum foil and then clean white cloths or paper towels on a work surface. With the garment stainside down, use a white cloth dampened with the recommended remover to blot the stained area. To avoid a ring, feather the edges of the mark, working from the center to the outside and work at the edge unevenly to disperse the line. Repeat the treatment until the mark disappears, then have the item drycleaned.

• On silk, blot up as much of the stain as possible. Then have the item dry-cleaned.


• When applying a spot remover, always work in a well-ventilated room away from any gas or electric appliances or open flames. Don’t smoke. If you spill solvent on your skin or clothes, wash it off immediately.

• Don’t use metal spoons or containers when working with bleaches.

• Never combine chlorine bleach with ammonia or rust removers. The mixture may produce toxic gas.

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