How to Remove Every Type of Stain From Your Clothing and Save Your Favorite Shirt

removing stains from clothing
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Having an expensive wardrobe is great until you spill something, slide on grass, or even have a baby throw up on you. But for every stain, there’s a solution. Literally. Just as we explained how to clean suede shoes, remove grease stains and keep white sneakers white, we’re doing the same with chocolate, grass, blood and stains of all types. Yes, this article will teach you how to remove stains from clothing so effectively that your own mother will be proud.

There’s no official source documenting the most common types of stains, but after consulting some self-described clean freaks and a couple of style experts for this guide, we feel confident that the most common types of clothing stains include:

  • Red wine
  • Sweat stains
  • Vomit
  • Grass and Mud Stains
  • Grease/oil
  • Spit-Up
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Ketchup/Sauce Stains
  • Blood stains
  • Set-in Stains

Below, we’ll share step-by-step instructions for fighting every single one of these stains. In addition, we’ll share our top stain removers, which have either been recommended by experts or tested by a member of the SPY team for effectiveness.

  

removing stains from clothing Licensed from Adobe

What To Do When the Stain Hits the Fan

The first step in stain removal  — don’t panic. Like a little kid that just knocked over a glass of milk, there’s no use crying and overreacting. Instead, read the fabric tag of the item because that will dictate what type of cleaning products you can and can’t use. Fortunately, the first step for removing stains from clothing is universal. Be it ketchup or olive oil, start by wetting a towel with cold water and blotting the stain. Keep rising the clothing with water until the stain appears faint to the eye.

Only after this first blotting is complete should you move on to stain removers. Often, when learning how to remove stains from clothing, people skip this first crucial step. Once this is done, then you can apply stain removers.  If you’re not home, grab a stain stick and blot. Again, you should blot, not rub, the stain until you can get home and fix it.

  

What NOT To Do When Removing Stains From Clothing

Before we cover the rest of our expert advice for removing stains from clothing, we want to cover some important don’ts. Some, like mixing bleach and alcohol, can be extremely dangerous.

  • Never rub a stain, as that will cause it to spread and set.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you don’t want to use hot water on a stain during the initial cleaning stage, as that will also set it.
  • Also, never use salt to remove a stain. It can fade color, create a ring, and make the stain worse.
  • Don’t mix stain removers as they can create an unhealthy compound.
  • Don’t use bleach. Not only can it leach all the color out of your clothing, but if you use too much, it will eat away the fabric, leaving you with a nice big hole. Bleach should always be a stain remover of last resort, and it’s not a great option for formal or expensive clothing of any kind.
  

Unlikely Stain Removers You May Already Own

Perhaps the four most surprising stain removers are products you probably own already. We spoke to a few experts for this guide, and four DIY stain removers came up again and again.

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Baking soda (often combined with club soda, vinegar or lemon juice)
  • Dish soap (specifically, Dawn dish soap)

Seriously, a little bit of Dawn dish soap will get rid of pretty much every stain under the sun. Celebrity stylist Pilar Scratch, mentioned in “Forbes 30 under 30”, mixes up hydrogen peroxide and Dish Soap into a mixture and lets it marinate on stains for 20 minutes. She’s found that it gets out any type of stain, even blood.

Wayne Edelman, CEO of  Meurice Garment Care, also highly recommends Dawn Dish Soap as a stain remover, particularly for grease and oil stains. He’s created two solutions that are found later on in the piece that tackle wine and proteins-based stains.

On its own, hydrogen peroxide can remove mildew, fruit, and vegetable stains from clothing. Because it’s a mild type of bleach, use a cotton swab to test it on the hem of the item to make sure it doesn’t also lift out the color. To get rid of stains, pour a small amount of it on the stain, let it soak for 10 minutes, and then rinse out. You can also add hydrogen peroxide to brighten up dingy white clothing in the wash.

Distilled white vinegar can be used to alleviate stains. Add one cup of vinegar to a gallon of water, then use that solution on the stain. Then wash your clothing as usual. Before you do that, do the swab test to make sure that it won’t change the color of your clothing. Vinegar can also be used to keep whites white in the wash, and reduce odor too.

Finally, baking soda is one of the most universally used DIY stain removers, and it can be an effective way to lift away clothing stains.

If you find yourself regularly sharing your food with your clothing, pick up enzymatic laundry detergents and enzymatic stain removers. These products contain natural enzymes that can break down tough stains and odors better than regular detergents. If your gym clothing stills smells after washing, try an enzymatic detergent instead.

After speaking with experts and drawing on our own considerable experience removing stains, we put together an in-depth guide on how to remove the most common types of clothing stains. Keep reading for our top tips for getting stains out of clothes.

a laundry worker using a stain stick on clothing stain Licensed from Adobe

  

How to Remove Sweat Stains

Those gross yellow half circles are a common and annoying stain. The cause is your sweat mixing with the aluminum that’s found in your deodorant/antiperspirant. To get rid of those stains, mix up a paste of baking soda and peroxide, and then apply it to the yellowed parts of your shirts. Before applying, test it on a collar or hem to make sure it doesn’t change your top’s color. If it doesn’t mess up your shirt,  apply it. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and then rinse.

Want a less messy solution? Try a product such as the Carbona Oxy Powered Laundry Soaker on the stain before you toss it in the wash. You can prevent future sweat stains by switching to an aluminum-free deodorant and using enzyme-boosted detergents like Hex, Arm & Hammer BioEnzyme Power, or Presto.

  

How to Remove Grease and Oil Stains

Believe it or not, the fastest way to remove all types of grease and oil is Dawn Dish Soap, Dawn EZ-Squeeze, or their Platinum Powerwash Spray. Spritz one to two sprays on cotton or poly/cotton blend fabric, gently rub in the spray, and then toss in the wash. Dawn Dish soap has gotten raves from TikTok, clothing experts, and magazines across the world, and it’s also a SPY-tested and approved cleaning hack for removing stains from clothing.

Read More: How To Remove Grease Stains from Your Clothes

  

How to Remove Baby Spit-Up

Taking care of a little one, or babysitting for your siblings, can be a lot of fun, but spit-up on your favorite t-shirt? Not so much.

If the baby is breastfed, douse the stain with cold water so it won’t set. Then pre-treat it with a stain remover and toss in the wash. If the baby is formula-fed, use an old toothbrush to remove as much of the mess as you can off the item. Then sprinkle baking soda on it generously and pour club soda over that. Once it stops fizzing, rinse and then launder.

  

How to Remove Vomit Stains

Let’s not get into how this happened; let’s just clean it up.

  • Step one, get rid of any solids that might be sitting on the clothing.
  • Step two, douse it in water. Then sprinkle baking soda, about a 1/4 inch or so, over the stain, as it will absorb the odor and lift the stains from the fabric.
  • Step three, either pour vinegar or lemon juice over the baking soda so that it fizzes.
  • Step four, try to remove the stain and then rinse the clothing in water.

Another way to get rid of vomit stains is to follow the above two steps. Then add dish soap to the stain, but you might have to press it into the fabric if the stain is bad, and then soak it in water for at least an hour. If the stain is still there, repeat. If after repeating either use a stain remover or a spot lifting detergent like Zum Laundry Soap, which is made with baking soda and saponified coconut oil. Let that set and toss in the wash.

  

How to Remove Red Wine Stains from Clothing

Red wine contains tannins, and that ingredient is one of the reasons why red wine stains. And for some reason, it likes to latch onto someone people’s teeth, and yes, clothing. Wayne Edelman, Meurice Garment Care’s CEO, has a recipe for removing wine stains from clothing. The tannins in wine can make the stains particularly hard to treat, but Edelman recommended the following cleaning hack.

His recipe uses a  1/2 teaspoon of a laundry detergent of your choice with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup of cool water. Apply this solution to the wine stains, and then brush it lightly and toss in the wash. We can’t promise this will work on 100% of stains, but if this doesn’t do the trick, then your clothing might be a goner.

  

How to Remove Grass Stains and Mud

Playing badminton or lounging at a picnic in the park is all fun and games until you get grass stains on your white pants. This will come out! Better yet, those new white shorts or pants will look new after you remove the stains.

Here are a couple of methods to try. Wipe (gently) excess grass or mud from clothing. Apply a liquid detergent that has stain lifters in the formula (Hex, Zum Laundry Soap, Cleancult, Arm & Hammer BioEnzyme), about five drops on the stained area, and rub it together. Let set for 15 minutes, then soak in warm water with one teaspoon of liquid detergent for 30 minutes. Then wash as usual.

Another way to clean grass stains or mud is after wiping off as much as the material as you can, is mix up a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then saturate the stain with it. Leave it alone for at least five minutes.  Then use an enzymatic stain remover (Carbona Laundry Stain Scrubber for example)on the stain, and then wash it. If the stain is still there, dilute hydrogen peroxide with water, use it as a stain remover and wash it again.

  

How to Remove Set-in Stains

Set-in stains are the worst. Of course, if you’re searching for advice on how to remove stains from clothing, we’re guessing that’s exactly what you’re dealing with. Fabrics like denim can hold onto stains like a grudge. Using denim as an example of how to get rid of stains that have been hanging around for years, vintage enthusiast and shopper TikTokker @shoprthearitclenyc posted her recipe for getting stubborn, old stains out of denim and light-colored clothing. This formula can be used on any stain that has outstayed its welcome.

@shopthearticlenyc

How to remove stains #cleantok #thrifttok #thrifttips #stainremovel #vintageclothes #diycleanhack

♬ original sound – The Article- Curated Vintage

Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, castile soap with a pinch of super washing soda in a bowl. Mix thoroughly together and then place the paste on stains. She swears that it takes out old stubborn stains quickly. She also uses this paste on light-colored clothing that has stubborn stains too.

  

How to Remove Blood Stains From Clothing

Blood stains aren’t easy to get out. That is if you don’t act fast. Immediately rinse the clothing in cold water. If the stain doesn’t come out from just rinsing it in cold water, grab that bottle of vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and cover the stain with either liquid.  Using a sponge, gently blot the fabric until the stain is lifted. If it is still not gone, use an enzymatic stain remover on it, let it sit and then wash it.

You can also try Edelman’s recipe for getting blood and other proteins (egg, vomit, dairy, and oddly enough deodorant) out of clothing. His recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of laundry detergent, a 1/2 teaspoon of ammonia and a 1/2 cup of water mixed. Apply the solution directly to the stain, lightly brush it, and then wash your clothing as you would normally do.

Your other option is to use Scratch’s formula, as she swears it gets out any and every stain she’s had to deal with professionally and personally.

  

How to Get Rid of Coffee and Tea Stains

Coffee and tea may taste good, but they’re not easy stains to dissolve. Letting a coffee or tea stain sit means that it will take longer to get out, so you must act when the stain is fresh. First rinse the stain with cold water. Use Edelman recipe for how to get rid of red wine, but substitute dish soap for laundry detergent. Let the solution sit on the stain for fifteen minutes. Rinse and then toss in the wash. If the coffee doesn’t come out when you rinse off the solution, try again.

If that doesn’t work, try some hydrogen peroxide on the stain. Do not wash the item; dry it, and try to get the stain out. Drying it sets the stain, so keep working on it before you toss it in the dryer.

  

How to Get Rid of Chocolate Stains

Yummy, gooey chocolate doesn’t look good melted on your fingers or on your clothes. But the stain can and will come out. Mix dish soap with hydrogen peroxide, and then apply that combo right onto the stain. Let it sit for 10 minutes and wash it out. Repeat if necessary. If it’s almost, but not completely gone, try a stain remover like Tide’s stain stick or Carbona’s stain remover.

  

How to Get Rid of Ketchup/Sauce Stains

Ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce should drench food, not you. If the situation’s reversed, here’s what to do. Rinse the stain out from the other side of the fabric. Then apply a mix of two parts water to one part vinegar to the clothing. Let it sit for 10 minutes, and blot with a towel.

If you don’t want to create a potion, or if time is of the essence, rinse the stain as mentioned above, and then pour a small amount of liquid laundry detergent on the stain, and gently work it in. Let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wash it.

Remember when fighting clothing stains, the most important ingredient is patience. You must work slowly, methodically, and gently when handling the stained clothing. Sometimes the stain will not come out the first time you apply a remover to it. You may need to go over it once or twice more.

There are also stain removers and stain lifting laundry detergents that you can use in conjunction with the above solutions and pastes to get out the stains too.

Below are products that will keep your clothing looking its absolute best.

  
TOP STAIN REMOVERS

Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover 3 Pack

This is the GOAT of portable stain removers. Since it debuted in the early 200s, this pen-shaped stain remover has gone everywhere. Take off the cap, press the tip down on stains, and watch them fade away. Works on tomato juice, ketchup, grape juice, coffee, tea,  and more.

Tide-To-Go-Instant-Stain-Remover-3-Count Courtesy of Amazon

  

Carbona Pro Care Laundry Stain Scrubber 3 Pack

Carbona has been making stain fighters for everything from clothing to granite for years. Their newest stain fighter, the Stain Scrubber has an enzymatic formula that literally gets rid  of 100 different stains. Everything from apple juice to hair gel to mulled wine to tomato juice to urine to whiskey. If it’s a stain, this scrubber dissolves it.

Carbona-Laundry-Stain-Scrubber-3-pack-stain-remover Courtesy of Amazon

  

Dawn Platinum Powerwash Dish Spray

Not only does it cleans grills and dishes, it removes stains quickly from clothing.

Dawn-Platinum-Power-Wash-16-oz-spray-stain-remover Courtesy of Amazon

  

Amazon Brand Solimo Hydrogen Peroxide

Not only can you use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect wounds and clean teeth, but it also helps lift out stains too.

Amazon-Brand-Solimo-Hydrogen-Peroxide Courtesy of Amazon

  

Cleancult Stain Stick

Fragrance-free, this coconut based stain remover is naturally derived, GMO and plastic-free, cruelty-free and family friendly. It can be used to remove stains from clothing and furniture. It’s strong enough to work on coffee, juice, wine, grease, oil, you name it. And it comes in a recyclable container.

Cleancult-stain-stick-stain-remover Courtesy of Cleancult

  

Humble Suds Illuminate Mineral Oxygen Powder

Humble Suds is a new entry into the home and laundry cleaning sector. Women-run and based in Colorado, they created non-toxic, plant-based products that are safe for humans and pets. Their powder is a multi-use product that can be used to lift stains, whiten laundry, and even clean every room in the house. It’s unscented and comes in either 40 or 80 ounce bags. One reviewer wrote, “Holy moly, this stuff is like magic.”

Humble-Suds-Illuminate-Mineral-Oxygen-Powder Courtesy of Etsy

  

365 by Whole Foods Market Distilled White Vinegar

Who knew that there were so many things you can do with white vinegar. You can use it to de-scale a kettle, clean a coffee maker, whiten laundry, make a salad dressing, and use it to remove stains.

365-Whole-Foods-Market-Distilled-White-Vinegar Courtesy of Amazon/Whole Foods

 

  

365 by Whole Foods Market Baking Soda

When a stain emergency strikes, take the baking soda out of the fridge, and mix it with hydrogen peroxide or vinegar to get out stains.

365-Whole-Foods-Market-baking-soda-stain-remover Courtesy of Whole Foods/Amazon

  

Dawn Dish Soap EZ-Squeeze Dish Soap Set

This new Dawn dish soap has been formulated to get rid of grease fast from pots, pans, dishes and your clothing. This set comes with three bottles and two non-scratch sponges.

Dawn-Dish-Soap-EZ-Squeeze-Dish-Soap-Set Courtesy of Amazon

  

Cleancult Laundry Detergent Refill

Using a detergent formulated to lift out stains is a one-two punch in permanently getting rid of them. Cleancult is a cruelty-free, hypoallergenic formula that uses citric acids and saponified coconut oil to lift stains, remove odors and make clothing soft. It doesn’t contain harsh chemicals. Shown here in the Sea Spray and Aloe scent, it also comes in Juniper Sandalwood and fragrance-free scents. You can buy the glass bottles for it separately.

Cleancult-Laundry-Detergent-Refill Courtesy of Amazon

  

Zum by Indigo Wild Laundry Soap

Plant-based, this essential oil laundry soap can be used to fight stains as both a pre-treater and a soap. Zum Laundry Soap is made with saponified coconut oil and baking soda to kick stains and odors. In third party testing according to the Green Seal method, Zum Laundry Soap performed comparably to a national-market leading product for cleaning stains across multiple fabric types. One reviewer stated, “I’ve even seen stains disappear when I didn’t expect it” Shown here in Lavender, it also comes in Patchouli, Frankincense Myrrh and Sea Salt scents.

Zum-by-Indigo-Wild-Laundry-Soap-Stain-remover Courtesy of Amazon

  

Hex Performance Fresh & Clean Scent Laundry Detergent

Not only does it treat activewear gently by protecting the fabric’s wickability and stretch, it deep cleans, get rid of nasty odors, and creates a shield protecting clothing from future stains.

Hex-Performance-Fresh-Clean-Scent-Laundry-Detergent Courtesy of Target

  

Puracy Stain Remover for Clothes

Safe on all fabrics, even activewear, this biodegradable and eco-friendly formula works on lifting mud, grass, blood, and everyday stains out of clothing. And it can be used to neutralize odors too.

Puracy-Stain-Remover-for-Clothes Courtesy of Amazon

  

Hex Stain Performance Stain & Stink Remover 2 Pack

Safe on all fabrics, even activewear, this biodegradable and eco-friendly formula works on lifting mud, grass, blood, and everyday stains out of clothing. And it can be used to neutralize odors too.

Safe on all fabrics, even activewear, this biodegradable and eco-friendly formula works on lifting mud, grass, blood, and everyday stains out of clothing. And it can be used to neutralize odors too. Courtesy of Amazon

  

OxiClean On the Go  Stain Remover Pen, 3 Pack

Love the power of OxiClean in your wash, now you can carry that power in a pen. Designed to make stains like lipstick, chocolate, sauce and more disappear in seconds. It doesn’t contain bleach and can be used on a variety of fabrics.

OxiClean-On-the-Go-Stain-Remover-Pen-3-Pack Courtesy of Amazon

  

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