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Stain Removal Guide

  • Many soils will not become stains if treated promptly. Older stains may be difficult or impossible to remove. Hot water will set some stains, particularly protein based stains. Use cold or warm water on these before washing in hot water.
  • Always test to be sure that a stain removal product will not damage fabric by applying to a small part of the fabric that is not easily seen.
  • Always follow the instructions on the clothing care label and instructions on stain removal products.
  • When removing a stain, treat the stain from the back of the fabric unless otherwise noted. This will force the stain off the surface instead of driving it through the fabric.
Stain Treatment
Alcoholic Beverages Rinse stain immediately with cold water or soak stain 30 minutes in cold water. Apply detergent or dishwashing liquid to any trace of stain while still wet. If safe for the fabric, wash in hot water using chlorine bleach.
Baby Food, Formula Rinse with cold water. Soak with an enzyme soaking product. Rinse. Wash as usual. If stain remains, apply a pretreat product and wash again.
Blood Treat stain immediately. Soak 30 minutes or more in cold water. Rub detergent into stain. If stain persists, place a small amount of household ammonia on the stain and rub again with detergent. If safe for fabric, wash in hot water and chlorine bleach if traces of the stain persist.
Candle Wax Rub with ice and scrape off excess wax. Place stain between paper towels and press with warm iron. Then place stain face down on paper towels and sponge with rubbing alcohol, if safe for fabric (refer to WARNING above). Let dry, wash. If traces of color remain, wash with commercial color remover (Rit, Putnam,* etc.) or, if safe for the fabric, hot water and chlorine bleach.
Cheese Rinse with cold water. Soak with an enzyme soaking product. If the stain remains, apply a pretreat product. Wash as usual.
Chewing Gum Rub with ice and scrape off excess gum. Place face down on paper towels and sponge with a pretreat product.
Chocolate or Cocoa Rinse with cold water. Rub detergent into stain and soak in cold water. If greasy stain remains, sponge face down on paper towels with a pretreat product. If traces of the stain remain, wash in hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Coffee, Tea Soak in cold water. Rub detergent into stain, rinse. If traces of the stain remain, use a pretreat product and wash in warm water, or wash in hot water with chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Copier Toner Shake off loose powder. Brush stain with toothbrush to remove remaining powder. Sponge stain with soapy water. If stain remains, apply a pretreat product and wash in hot water (if safe for fabric).
Crayon Treat the same as candle wax or place face down on paper towel and spray with WD-4O*. Rinse. Wash in hot water (if safe for fabric) using soap (not a detergent) and 1-2 cups baking soda. If stains remain, professional drycleaning may be necessary.
Deodorants and Anti-Perspirants Some of these products contain substances that can change the color of some dyes. The color can sometimes be restored if the area is sponged with ammonia then rinsed.To remove stains, apply white vinegar. Rub and rinse. If stains remain, rub detergent into stain and wash with hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Dye Treat with a commercial dye remover (Rit, Putnam*) or, if safe for fabric, bleach with chlorine bleach.
Egg, Gravy If dried, scrape off excess. Soak in cold water. Rub detergent into damp stain and, if safe for fabric, wash in hot water and chlorine bleach.
Eye and Face Make-up Tap on the stain with a spoon to loosen it. Rub dampened stain with bar soap, dishwashing liquid or detergent. If stain remains, soak in water and detergent. Apply a pretreat product and wash as usual.
Fabric Softener Dampen stain and rub with bar soap. Wash as usual.
Felt-Tip Marker Rub detergent into damp stain. Apply a pretreat product. If safe for fabric, wash in hot water and chlorine bleach.
Fruit Juices Soak in cold water. Wash in hot water with chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Grass Place face down on paper towel and sponge with rubbing alcohol (if safe for fabric).Rinse. Apply a pretreat product and wash. If stain remains, wash in hot water with chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Grease, Oil Place face down on paper towel and sponge with a pretreat product. Dampen stain with water and rub with bar soap or detergent. Wash in hot water (if safe for fabric).
Ink Saturate the stain with hair spray or place the fabric face down on paper towel and sponge with rubbing alcohol (refer to WARNING on previous page). Rinse. If traces of the stain remain, rub detergent into the dampened stain and wash. Some inks may be impossible to remove.
Iodine Rinse from the back side of the stain with cold water. Then soak in a commercial color remover (Rit, Putnam*, etc.) or rub in a paste of water and starch. Let stand for 15-30 minutes and wash.
Jam, Jelly Scrape off excess. Rinse with cold water. Rub dampened stain with detergent. Apply a pretreat product and launder with an enzyme soaking product. If stain remains, sponge with a mild bleach, such as water and white vinegar mix (equal parts) and wash again.
Ketchup, Tomato-Based Products

Scrape off excess. Soak in cold water 30 minutes. Rub detergent into the stain and, if safe for fabric, wash in hot water and chlorine bleach.

Lipstick Rub dampened stain with bar soap and wash.
Lotion (Hand, Body, Suntan) Scrape off excess. Blot stain with paper towel. Rub colorless hand dishwashing liquid into stain and let stand several minutes. Rinse. Apply a pretreat product and wash in hot water (if safe for fabric.)
Mildew Treat promptly. Mildew damages fabric and sometimes cannot be removed. Wash with chlorine bleach. For items that cannot be washed with chlorine bleach, soak in an all fabric bleach, then wash.
Milk and Milk Products Soak in cold water. Wash in hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric). Apply a pretreat product, if a stain is noticeable. Rewash.
Mud Let dry. Scrape off excess. Soak in solution of one quart warm water, half teaspoon liquid hand dishwashing detergent and one tablespoon vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse. Wash in hot or warm water with enzyme product.
Mustard Rinse with cold water. Rub dampened stain with bar soap. Apply a pretreat product. Wash in hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Nail Polish Place face down on paper towel. Sponge with nail polish remover (non-oily) until stain disappears. Wash. Do not use nail polish remover on Acetate or Arnel fabrics.
Paint Water-based paint -- Treat by rinsing fabric in cool water while stains are still wet. Wash. To soften dried paint, apply soapy water or an acrylic paint and varnish remover. Rinse and then wash. Oil-based paint -- Pretreat with a solvent recommended on the paint container. If not available, use mineral spirits. Rinse. Pretreat with a stain remover or detergent. Rinse and wash. Be sure to thoroughly rinse to remove all solvents to prevent a possible explosion in washer.
Perspiration Rub dampened stain with detergent. Wash in hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric). If the fabric is discolored, you can try to restore it by treating fresh stains with ammonia or old stains with vinegar.
Rust Apply a mild bleach such as lemon juice or a commercial rust remover (Whink, Rit, RoVer*, etc.) Follow manufacturer's directions. Wash as usual.
Salad Dressing, Mayonnaise Scrape off excess. Apply a pretreat product. Rub stain with an enzyme soaking product and wash with hot water (if safe for fabric.). Do not leave washer unattended as remaining residue may cause fabric to catch on fire.
Scorching Wash using hot water and chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric). Fabrics can be damaged by being scorched. If this has happened, you may not be able to remove the marks.
Shoe Polish Rub dampened stain with detergent. Wash in hot water and chlorine bleach if safe for fabric.
Soft Drinks Rinse stain with cold water immediately. Wash in warm water and chlorine bleach, if safe for fabric.
Soy Sauce Rinse with cold water. Apply a pretreat product. Wash as usual.
Tobacco Dampen stain and rub with bar soap. Rinse. If necessary, soak in an all-fabric bleach solution. If stain remains, wash with chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric).
Toothpaste Scrape off excess. Blot stain with enzyme soaking product and cold water. Rinse. Wash as usual.
Urine Rinse with cold water. Soak with an enzyme soaking product. Wash in hot water with chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric). If the color of the fabric has changed, sponging the area with ammonia may restore the color.
Vomit Soak in a solution of one quart warm water, half teaspoon liquid hand dishwashing detergent, and one tablespoon ammonia (if safe for fabric). Soak 15 minutes. Use sponge to loosen stain. Blot with toweling. Wash in hot water (if safe for fabric) with an enzyme product.
Wine Treat immediately. Rinse with cold water or club soda. Rub dampened stain with detergent and let stand several minutes. Apply a pretreat product and wash.

Download Stain Removal Guide

Warning: Never put highly flammable substances like gasoline, kerosene, waxes, cooking oils, dry cleaning solvents, etc. into a washer or dryer. Never put articles that have been cleaned with such substances into a washer or dryer. Failure to comply with these warnings could result in a fire, explosion, and/or serious burns or death. All items with these substances on them should be thoroughly hand-washed with a detergent so that no trace of the flammable substances remains. The articles can then be machine washed and/or dried.

*Brand names are trademarks of their respective manufacturers.

Do you have a stain that we haven’t yet remedied on this page? Tell us about your stubborn splotch below, and we’ll get back to you with some handy removal hints to help get the filth out of your fabric.
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