It is like a bad nightmare when your precious clothing gets stained. It doesn’t matter if it is your favorite shirt, your lucky cardigan, or that perfect-fit hosiery or undergarment—that stain is an absolute bummer! But no, you don’t necessarily have to throw out your stained pieces of clothing yet. There just might be a way to salvage them so you can continue wearing them to your heart’s desire. Read below for some tips on how to get rid of those stains.
Know-How to Properly Treat the Fabric
Your clothes are made from different types of fabric. This variety is the reason you need to know about fabrics, and how to take care of them specifically. You can start with these:
- Cotton – Cotton fabrics are durable, and you can machine-wash them using any detergent and either warm or cold water. Just make sure you use bleach for white-colored cotton. For colored cotton, color-safe bleach is the way to go if necessary. After washing, dry cotton-made clothes in the shade, especially the white ones to avoid yellowing.
- Synthetic fabric – Synthetic fabrics include polyester, Spandex, and nylon, and they are generally durable and easy to wash. All three can be machine-washed with any detergent and warm water, although bleaching them is, for the most part, not necessary. Be more careful with Spandex, though, because it should not be washed using hot water.
- Rayon – This semisynthetic fabric is one of the cooler, more comfortable fabrics around, but it is rather delicate when it comes to washing. In particular, you should avoid machine-washing rayon-made clothes and hand-wash them using mild detergent only instead. The best option, however, is to dry clean rayon fabric.
- Linen – A natural fabric, linen is also cool and comfortable like rayon. Unlike rayon, linen can be machine-washed using any detergent and warm water. Linen clothing sometimes comes with washing directions as well, and in this case, make sure to follow them carefully.
- Cashmere – This fabric made from goat hair is oftentimes used to make sweaters and scarves. It is best to dry-clean cashmere-made clothing, but if that isn’t possible, hand-wash it using baby shampoo only. Do not machine-dry, wring or iron it because doing so can damage the fabric.
- Silk – A natural fiber, silk is one of the most delicate fibers of all, and it is best to only dry-clean it. If that isn’t an available option, you can hand-wash it using detergents that are specially formulated for silk and following the washing instructions of the clothing itself.
- Wool – Made from animal fur, wool fabric is best dry-cleaned. However, it is also hand-washable, but generally using cool water. Make sure also that you follow the washing instructions on the label in case you are hand-washing.
Pick the Right Solvent
Removing stains will generally take something more than just detergent. Instead, you will need a cleaning agent or solvent to get rid of that stain. The key is knowing which ones to use for what stains for best results. Below are some of them:
- Bleach – The most commonly used stain remover is bleach, which can be either chlorine or color-safe. The former is used for white pieces of clothing, while the latter is used for colored fabric. It is generally safe for most fabrics, especially cotton, rayon, and linen.
- Baking Soda – Baking soda is a mild alkali that makes it useful for acid. It also has absorbing features that make it great for grease stains. For the former, you can mix baking soda with detergent when washing. For the latter, sprinkle the powder onto the greasy stain and brush it off before washing.
- Dishwashing Detergent – This cleaning agent is useful for loosening grease and food stains so you can brush and wash them off the fabric afterward. It can also be combined with glycerine (see below) and water to make a do-it-yourself stain-remover.
- Glycerine – Available in some supermarkets and in most craft stores, glycerine is best for “pre-treating” stains that have dried into the fabric. The next wash in turn will remove the stain that has already been loosened up by the glycerine.
- Petroleum Jelly – This useful, all-around gel is used to remove adhesive stains, like glue spots or tape marks, and even lipstick stains. It can also be placed around ink stains during cleaning so they don’t bleed onto other parts of the fabric.
- Rust Remover – Rust is a killer stain that is very hard to remove. In this case, rust removers are a viable option. Keep in mind, though, that they contain either oxalic or hydrofluoric acid, both of which are toxic. This is why you must wash and rinse your clothes well if you use this stain remover.
- White Vinegar – This humble condiment is also useful in removing some stains. It is mixed with water and salt to clean collar ring stains, with water and detergent to remove urine stains, and with warm water and dishwashing detergent to wipe away cough syrup stains.
Basic Steps for Removing Stains
Now that you know more about fabrics and common stain removers, here are three common stains and the hacks to remove them:
Body fluid stains like sweat patches are fairly common, especially for active people. They are unsightly but are surprisingly easy to remove. Just follow the steps outlined below:
- If the stain is fresh, immediately dampen it with paper towels to loosen parts of the stain quickly.
- Pour oxygenated bleach or an enzymatic stain remover over the stain. But make sure you first double-check the label for compatibility.
- Allow the bleach or stain remover to set for at least 15 minutes.
- Scrub away the stain using a soft-bristled toothbrush or anything similar.
- Put the piece of clothing under a hot water cycle.
Condiment stains, like ketchup spots and mustard marks, are also quite common. But, like body fluid stains, they are also rather easy to remove. Here are the steps to follow:
- Water the stain, first from the backside and then on the front side.
- Apply some liquid laundry detergent on the stain and let it saturate there for several minutes.
- Brush the stain away with a soft-bristled toothbrush or anything similar and rinse. Repeat several times until you remove all the stains.
- Treat the spot with stain remover beforehand- or machine-washing it. Rinse well.
Almost everyone has had a shirt or a pair of pants stained by ink. In case that happens to your precious clothing, do the following:
- If the ink stain is still fresh, put a paper towel on the backside of the piece of clothing. Then, dab the stain with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Keep dabbing until you remove the ink, making sure that you use a fresh cotton ball for every dab.
- If the ink has set, look to test the fabric for colorfastness. To do this, put rubbing alcohol on an inconspicuous part of the garment, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then blot with a paper towel. If the color doesn’t smudge or comes off, then proceed with the next steps.
- Blot some of the ink by following step 1.
- Put a stain release liquid on the ink stain using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Hand- or machine-wash, but put detergent on the stain site before you do.
- Rinse well.
“Treating” Is Crucial
For most stains, the most important thing to do is to treat the soiled area first before washing it. Treating, in this case, means applying stain remover—oxygenated bleach, for instance, or a baking soda mixture, or a rust remover—on the stain and letting it sit or saturate for some time, usually for 2–5 minutes or as long as 30–45 minutes. This allows the cleaning agent to loosen up the stain, such that it can be brushed away and cleaned during hand- or machine-washing.
So, don’t fret the next time your precious clothing gets a stain. Don’t think about throwing or giving it away too. There are ways to clean that stain, and the above tips are a start.