A bad stain can ruin your day, or worse, your favorite piece of clothing. But, it shouldn’t be that way. Most stains are removable — it’s all about smart treatment know-how (plus a little patience and elbow grease). We asked Carolyn Childers, Handy’s chief home officer, to give us the 411 on tricky common stains, from ink to grease to coffee.
Turns out, toothpaste doesn’t need to be dealt with immediately, but you should rinse coffee stains with cold water as quickly as possible. We’ll never stop drinking wine on our white rug, sipping coffee in the car, or putting mustard on that dog at the ballpark — but thanks to these expert tips, our future stains won’t know what hit them.
The Culprit: Grease
The Remedy: Sprinkling baby powder
When a late-night pizza stop takes a dark turn, clean up the grease stain by covering the spot with clear liquid dish detergent and rub in gently. Next, rinse with white vinegar diluted with water. You can also try applying a small amount of baby powder to grease spots and gently rubbing until the mark is gone. For stovetop stains, a trusty Brillo pad paired with a little water and baking soda works wonders.
The Culprit: Ink
The Remedy: Spraying hairspray
Splotchy fabrics are trending, but exploding pens are never a good look. Use a clean cloth dampened with a mix of water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to blot away the stain (never rub it in!). Then, throw it in the washing machine on the hottest setting the fabric type will allow. “Hairspray has also been shown to dissolve ink, making it easier to come out of fabrics before throwing in the wash,” Childers says.
The Culprit: Wine
The Remedy: Add a splash of club soda
Vino is close in chemical makeup to blood stains, so the removal process is also similar. “Beyond using the cold water or a salt paste trick, you can also do a diluted vinegar soak using one part vinegar to two parts water. If a soak isn’t possible (like a carpet wine stain), try pouring club soda on the stain as a more powerful lifting alternative to just water, and then use salt if the stain still hasn’t come off,” Childers says.
The Culprit: Grass stain
The Remedy: Pre-treat with detergent and avoid heat
The key here is getting to the stain before it goes into the wash. “Grass is one of those stains that has a bit of everything: natural oils and dyes, proteins, starches, and sugars from the plant world, not to mention there’s usually an earth pigment associated with it,” says Akemi Ooka, method’s senior director of formulation (a.k.a. formulatrix). “While method 4X concentrated laundry detergent cleans stains very well on all kinds of clothing types just by using it as directed in your washer, if you have a really stubborn stain, the product is also an excellent pre-treater. Just apply a small amount of detergent on the stain, rub it in, and then wash as usual. Finally, to avoid setting the stain with heat from the dryer, line-dry the item for the best result.”
The Culprit: Blood
The Remedy: Apply a salt and cold water paste
Like most stains, deal with this one pronto. Hot water will cause stains to set, so use cold water to dab away at the spot. For particularly delicate fabrics (like silk shirts or sheets), try using a paste of salt and cold water. “The slightly rough texture of the salt combined with its natural dehydrating properties works gently enough to loosen blood stains out of fabric,” says Childers.
The Culprit: Toothpaste
The Remedy: Apply detergent diluted with water
Toothpaste is great for your pearly whites, but not so much for your button-down shirt. Take a cloth or sponge (that has been dampened with a few drops of detergent diluted with cold water) to blot away the stain. “Toothpaste is also one of the only stains where immediate action isn’t necessary. Often times it’s easier to let the toothpaste dry up before treating the stain, since this prevents further smearing on the fabric,” says Childers.
The Culprit: Mustard
The Remedy: Apply a clear detergent and water mixture
For a fresh stain, take your sponge and dampen with a mix of cool water and a teaspoon of clear detergent. Blot from the outside of the stain into the center until the stain lifts. For a dried-on stain, scrape off as much of the mustard using a dull knife or similar scraping tool, and try blotting out the stain (using the same detergent and water mix) from the backside of the fabric rather than directly on top of the stain.
The Culprit: Coffee
The Remedy: Use a powdered detergent, cold water, and vinegar paste
If it’s a fresh spill, cold water should be enough to do the trick. First, use a paper towel to absorb as much of the spilled coffee as possible. Then, run cold water over the stain. “Make sure not to scrub,” says Childers. “It runs the risk of making the stain spread.” You can also use a mix of powdered laundry detergent, cold water, and distilled white vinegar to form a paste that is gentle enough to remove the stain without damaging fabric.
The Culprit: Perfume
The Remedy: Sponge with white vinegar
So sweet — and deadly when you accidentally spray the collar of your silk shirt. Immediately take a sponge dampened with cold water and apply it to the perfume stain to avoid permanent setting. If some staining remains, carefully try sponging on a diluted solution of white vinegar and water. “Soak the garment in a bucket filled with lukewarm water for half an hour to an hour before putting it through the washing machine,” Childers says.
The Culprit: Chocolate
The Remedy: Soak in a bucket
Rub laundry detergent into the stain and let it sit for up to five minutes, then give it a pre-soak in cold water for another 15. Finish by putting the item through a regular cycle in the washing machine.
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