Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Home Environment

UNL Extension — helping you turn knowledge into "know how"

Stain Removal

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

Click to email this page to a friend.email this page to a friend

Successful stain removal works best if stains are treated immediately or as soon as possible. Always test a stain removal product in a hidden area to make sure it does not cause problems with the fabric. Also read the directions on the stain removal product. When traveling carry a stain stick, stains can be treated and then put in the laundry when you return home. By doing this the stain is not forgotten. After laundering an item check to see if the stains are gone before putting the item in the dryer. A stain can be treated again but heat may set the stain.

Tips for removing some common stains are:

Beverages: (Wine, Alcohol, Soft drinks):

Sponge with cool water. Soak for 15 minutes in 1 quart of lukewarm water, ½ teaspoon liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Launder. If stain remains, soak in an enzyme presoak for 30 minutes.

Candle Wax:

Scrape excess from fabric with a dull knife. Spray or sponge with dry-cleaning solvent, then rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent before washing. Pressing the wax between paper may set the candle dye more permanently by making it harder for the solvent to penetrate the wax. Launder using hot water and chlorine bleach if safe for fabric.

Catsup:

Remove excess with a dull knife. Soak in cool water for 30 minutes. Work liquid dish detergent into the stain and launder in warm or hot water and chlorine bleach if safe for fabric. If stain remains, soak 30 minutes in enzyme presoak. Rinse and launder.

Chocolate:

Sponge with solvent or treat with prewash stain remover. Rinse. Apply liquid dish detergent to stain. Launder using hot water and chlorine bleach if safe for fabric. If stain remains, soak for 30 minutes in enzyme presoak. Rinse and launder. OR bleach chocolate stains with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse with water and wash as usual.

Fruit or Berries:

Soak in 1 quart warm water, 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon white vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse. If stain remains, sponge with alcohol, rinse and launder. If color stain remains, launder using chlorine bleach if safe for fabric or use an oxygen bleach.

Grass:

Sponge with solvent until the stain is removed. Rinse and dry. Spray on wet spotter and several drops of white vinegar. Rinse. If stain remains, sponge with alcohol and thoroughly rinse. Apply detergent to stain and launder. Add chlorine bleach if safe for fabric.

Hair Spray:

Sponge with solvent or dry spotter. Rinse and allow to dry. Repeat until stain is gone. Rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent before washing.

Lipstick:

Apply solvent or dry spotter. Blot with absorbent material. Continue treatment until color is gone. Rinse and air dry. Rub in liquid dish detergent and launder. OR use prewash stain remover and launder.

Nail Polish:

Apply nail polish remover, amyl acetate or acetone to back of stain over absorbent material. Do not use if fabric is acetate, triacetate or modacrylic. Rinse and launder.

Perfume:

Sponge or soak stain in cool water. If stain remains, soak 15 minutes in 1 quart lukewarm water, ½ teaspoon liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon white vinegar. Launder.

Perspiration:

Pretreat with an enzyme presoak. Apply detergent to stain and launder. Fresh stains: To restore color, apply ammonia. Rinse with water and launder. Old stains: to restore color, apply white vinegar. Rinse with water and launder.

Home stain removal done quickly and cautiously can decrease family clothing care costs and save on purchasing items to replace the stained items. Remember to always read the care labels, follow laundry instructions and test removal products in an inconspicuous area before laundering.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was updated May 2012 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

Contact Information

University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln, NE 68528 | 402-441-7180