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Top Tips for Stain Removal: Give Your Clothes a New Lease of Life

The daffodils are blooming, tulips are peaking through and the birds are in full chorus...it can only mean one thing..Spring. Now the days are lengthening and the sun is starting to shine more I find myself wearing lighter coloured clothing. Away with the darker shades of my winter wardrobe and hello to brighter, and often lighter, colours. However, it can be so frustrating when everyday stains appear on these clothes. Often, we feel that it will be impossible to remove them and we banish that item of clothing to the back of our wardrobe. Well, here I am to share with you some tips for removing common stains so we can work together to create that sustainable wardrobe I mention so often. With a few household ingredients we can banish stains. Often there is more than one method so I have mentioned multiple ways and you can see what works best given the tools you have at home.



My number one tip is to get to work on the stain ASAP leaving it little chance to penetrate the fibres of your clothing. Don’t worry, if you are out for dinner as very often you can make a start using items in front of you such as salt and water.

Talking of dinner let’s start with oil based stains such as a salad dressing. This is a great example of being able to use those table side ingredients to work in your favour. Sprinkle the stain with table salt and allow it to sit for a short while. Next brush the seasoning off, do not rub. The salt will absorb the oil.

If you have club soda to hand you can continue by dabbing the stain with the corner of a clean, white napkin. Do not soak the stain, merely dab with a small amount of soda.

Continuing on the food and drink theme...Having a salad and the tomato slips off your fork? Eating pasta and spill some of the tomato sauce down your favourite top? Tomato stains often fill people with fear, they can be notoriously hard to remove through normal laundering. Try to remove the stain before running through your machine. Saturate the tomato stain with white vinegar and allow it to soak. Then launder as normal. Remember to check that the stain has disappeared before placing the item in the dryer as heat will set the stain. Repeat the vinegar stage if needed.

Mustard can be another stubborn stain but, again, this can be treated with undiluted white vinegar applied as above and allowed to soak. You can also use laundry detergent prior to placing in the machine to spot treat the stain, working the detergent into the mark then laundering.

Perhaps you are sitting down, enjoying a glass of your favourite red wine watching a box set on tv. Your dog jumps up and you spill that wine! Worry not! Once again a kitchen staple can help. Soak up the stain immediately by dabbing the excess then sprinkle over with baking soda. Leave for a few minutes then dab with a clean, damp cloth to absorb the wine.

Another method is to stretch the fabric taut (please consider the nature of the fabric first) and apply salt. Now go back and watch that tv program for 5 minutes to let the salt get to work. Then you can pour boiling water over the fabric from a few inches above and launder as normal.

Perhaps a nice cup of tea is more your thing? Maybe you are reading the paper and your child knocks into you, or you spill a bit of tea while dunking your favourite biscuit. Do not panic we have all been there! Simply rinse in cold water from the back of the stain, removing the stain from the back stops it penetrating fully through all the fibres. Then rub the stain with a little laundry detergent leaving it to absorb for 5 minutes. You can then rinse the stain and put through the wash. Alternatively, you can use that trusted favourite...baking soda which once applied will pull the tea from the fabric. Wash the soda off and launder.

Why is it that clothes seem to be attracted to grease? Grease from food such as butter, children loving to wipe their greasy fingers on you, grease from cooking or even grease on pillows. There are lots of different methods for attacking grease.

Chalk and corn starch both work in a similar way to soak up the stain. Apply to the mark and let the chalk or corn starch get to work absorbing the grease (if possible leave for fifteen minutes to achieve best results). Then simply brush away. Toothpaste has also been known to work as again many brands use baking soda in their pastes. Just ensure that you use a white toothpaste and not a gel based or coloured one.

Do you sometimes find oily grease marks on your pillows from your hair? Try using a grease attacking dish washing up liquid or even a shampoo. Rub it into the stain and leave for half an hour then simply rinse out before washing.

Now let’s consider many everyday stains which are not food or drink related!! Perhaps you’ve cut yourself, or maybe your toddler has come in covered in grass stains. Maybe you’ve got lipstick on your favourite top. Below I’ll look at some of the stains we find on our clothing most often.

Sweat is a common mark on clothes and the stains can be particularly noticeable on white/light clothing. Simply pour undiluted white vinegar over the discoloured area and gently sponge the area using a dampened pad to apply gentle strokes out from the centre of the mark, then follow by rubbing coarse salt into the vinegar section. Table salt will also work if that is all you have to hand. Leave to soak for about an hour, outside in the sun if possible.

Another option is to make a baking soda/water mix to create a thick paste using three parts baking soda to one part water. Rub the mixture into the sweat stain using a clean toothbrush, leave for 30 mins then rinse and launder. Finally, a mix of lemon juice and water is another option, mix equal parts lemon and water and gently scrub the stain. Leave the clothing out in the sun and let nature work it’s magic. The natural bleaching aspect of lemon will work through the stain.

On the flip side of the coin you may need a hack for removing those white marks that aluminium based deodorants leave behind. Once again lemon can be used here mixing equal parts water to lemon juice and applying as above to scrub the stain. Another method uses nylon tights! Yes the tights you might have in your drawer. Simply rub a pair of tights over the stain a few times then launder. As with sweat the vinegar or baking soda options also work on deodorant marks so you have quite a few simple options to try here.

What can you do if you get blood on your clothing? Don’t panic, although blood can be tricky to remove it isn’t impossible and the trick is to get to work on the stain as soon as possible. A fresh stain is easier to remove that dried in blood. Once again there are a number of methods available to you. 3% hydrogen peroxide is the first method. Many people worry about peroxide thinking of it as a bleach but 3%hydrogen peroxide, available from a chemist as a first aid treatment, is known to brighten clothes and is safe to use on all washable dye stable fabrics however, before using, I recommend you always test the solution on a small inconspicuous spot of the fabric first (perhaps an inside seam). If colour transfers do not use any further. However if all is good, go ahead by spraying a small amount of the hydrogen peroxide onto the blood stain. Allow it to soak in for ten minutes and watch as the blood loosens away from the fabric. If the fabric is fairly sturdy you can use a butter knife blade to gently loosen any dried in blood. Rinse the area with cold water and then launder.

A second method is to soak the stain and apply salt. As mentioned previously the salt absorbs the blood thereby lifting it from the fabric. Rub half the stain against the other half working the salt in, then leave for half an hour before washing in the garment’s usual way.

If you are out at a restaurant you can wet the stain with soda or, if available, white vinegar until you get home, then either use one of the above methods or soak the garment in more soda overnight before washing.

It’s a lovely spring day and the kids are enjoying the fresh air playing in the garden or maybe enjoying a woodland walk. Next thing you know they are happy and smiling but covered in grass stains! Or perhaps you’ve been out playing rugby or soccer and the kit is showing the evidence! Never fear grass stains can be removed.

Something we all have at home is toothpaste. Grab a tube along with an old toothbrush and get to work on the stain. Squeeze a small amount of paste onto the stain and using a toothpaste dipped in clean water start scrubbing gently at the stain. Repeat the process, gradually removing more of the stain each time then launder. Please remember to use plain white toothpaste only!

Have you noticed how all these stains use items from around the house to remove them? Well the same goes for a lipstick stain. Grab a piece of white bread (honestly!). Rub the stain with a piece of white bread with the crusts removed, this is a great quick solution if you are out to dinner. Alternatively if you don’t fancy this method you can scrape the lipstick with a clean butter knife before placing on paper towels and applying a small amount of grease busting washing up detergent. Using a clean toothbrush gently scrape the lipstick removing as much as possible before machine washing. Lipstick can be a tough stain as so many of the new lipstick formulas are created to be longer lasting but don’t give up without trying.

Ink is another well known stain. How many times have you found ink has leaked from a pen where the cap has fallen off? Perhaps inside a fabric bag or more often than not in a pocket? Once again I’ve found a few solutions, you can try whichever is easiest for you. First up...hairspray! Apply to the stain then dab with a crumpled ball of paper towel. Rinse with cold water and wash.

If the stain is very fresh you can simply try blotting the stain with a clean cloth to absorb the ink then launder.

Toothpaste is another solution here, much like grass stains. Apply and work into the stain with a clean toothbrush before laundering. Similarly this idea works on crayon.

Felt tip can be tougher to remove than biro, there are so many colour pigments in one pen. Try rinsing in cold water then soak the garment in hot water with a liquid laundry detergent for one hour.

If you find your shirt collars are getting a bit grimy then rub the collars with a little everyday shampoo before washing.

As mentioned in some of the earlier stain hacks vinegar can be a great stain remover and is known to work on rust. Soak a cotton wool ball in undiluted white vinegar and blot the stain with it. Then cover the stain with a layer of table salt rubbing it gently into the stain. Place the garment out in the sun if possible until dry as this will help the stain fade before laundering

In general vinegar is a great item to use on non grease stains, sprinkle baking soda on top of the vinegar before leaving it to sit for 30-60 minutes. However, never mix vinegar with hydrogen peroxide as this will release very harmful gases.

My last hacks are for sticky residue or a wax layer rather than soaked in stains. I think I’m right in saying that most people have, at one time or another, found some gum stuck to an item of clothing, perhaps you sat on a seat without realising there was gum on it? This can be extremely frustrating but don’t worry there are some solutions to removing it. If size allows, place the garment/item in the freezer. You can then remove the gum once it is solid by peeling it off. If you don’t have space in your freezer you can place an ice cube or two on the gum until it goes hard. The next method needs carefully monitoring to ensure you don’t bleach your item but applying a small amount of acetone (nail polish remover) to a white cloth and rubbing any sticky residue can help remove the stickiness.

Finally I come to candle wax. This can easily drip onto table cloths or napkins at a dinner party and is quite simple to remove. Simply place the fabric between paper towels and press with a warm iron. The heat will melt the wax which will be absorbed by the paper towels. Ensure you replace the paper frequently in order to absorb more wax and to avoid transferring stains. This method can also work for wax crayons.

And there you have it. With a few household items or table side condiments you can successfully remove most stains. Just remember the following:

  • Always try to work on the stain as soon as possible to avoid it penetrating too deeply into the fibres.

  • Do not tumble dry until the stains are fully removed as heat will set stains.

  • Never scrub or rub a spilled substance to start. Always dab carefully with a white cloth. If you don’t have a cloth handy then grab a piece of white bread!

Don’t immediately throw away a stained item. I’ve saved many garments using some of the above methods and have made my wardrobe more sustainable in the process. So let’s embrace spring and our lighter colours and not let the fear of stains stop us experimenting with pastels and whites.

It’s time to embrace Spring in all aspects of our life and where better to start than a spring wardrobe.

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