Stains are the scourge of our clothes' existence. They're inevitable, they're ugly, and they can ruin our favorite things. It hurts to have to spend money to replace a closet staple—if it’s even possible. So, if you spot a stain, don’t worry. We’re here to help you remove it.
Stain removal basics
Obviously, different kinds of stains need to be treated differently, and we’ll explain that in a moment. But when it comes to stains, there are three basic rules:
1. Act quickly.
The sooner you can begin treating a stain, the better your chances of removing it. If it’s a solid stain, scrape it ever so carefully with a butter knife or spoon. If the stain is liquid, blot it, and starting from the edge, work toward the middle. This will not remove the stain, but may prevent it from getting larger.
2. Avoid heat from the dryer.
Heat can cause a stain to “set”, so that it becomes a permanent part of the fiber. If you find a stain on a piece of clothing as you unload it from the washer, resist the temptation to toss it in the dryer. Your best chance of taking out the stain is to retreat it, and launder again. Since it may be hard to see a stain when the garment is wet, don’t even think of putting in the dryer until you’re certain it’s gone.
3. Be gentle on the spot.
Don’t scrub vigorously. Patting the appropriate solvent into the stain will be more effective. Don’t be rough—be patient.
Before you toss the clothes in the washing machine, you have to treat the stain. Here are some suggestions.
White shirts and socks with or without stains that come from the human body
Pretreat with a whites/color brightener.
Sweat stains and bad smells
Pretreat with an odor fighter.
Oil-based food stains
Pretreat with a detergent with OXI cleaner.
Pretreat with a stain releaser, and wash in cold water. Clue: Hold the garment up to the light. If the stain is translucent, it's probably grease, and you can treat it as such.
Nobody knows stains like a detergent company, so we talked to the biggest one: Procter & Gamble. They sent us a gigantic 11-page chart packed with info. So, we boiled it down to a compact version for your reading convenience, and a larger version you can print and hang up in your laundry room. (Hey, you with the clumsy hands! You may want to bookmark this page.)
Find the stain type in the chart, pretreat, and soak. Then, wash the clothes at the temperature it says on the label, and rinse at the recommended temperature.
When you're working on a stain, make sure you turn the garment inside out and lay it down on an old towel. Flipping the fabric will help get the stain out, not push it further into the fibers. The towel will to give the stain something to soak into, someplace other than your clothes.
Now that you know how to get it done, good luck removing the stains from your clothes. You'll not only be prolonging their lives, but you'll also feel better about wearing them when they're no longer covered with spots.