How to Remove (Almost) Every Type of Clothing Stain
From red sauce to dirt, here are some tips.
Whoever said a little dirt wouldn't hurt clearly wasn't referring to dirtying up their outfit. Coffee on your dress, pasta sauce on your pants — clothing stains happen, and usually at the worst possible moments.
But, don't waste tears over spilled milk (or wine, or fruit juice). More often than not, your favorite top or pair of jeans can be salvaged with a little DIY magic. To find out how to remove clothing stains like a pro, we reached out to experts for their best tips and tricks.
How to Remove Coffee or Tea Stains From Clothing
According to Leesa Evans, a Hollywood costume designer and private stylist, coffee and tea stains should be treated immediately with a flush of water. "If that fails," she tells InStyle, "use diluted laundry detergent and lightly clean the remaining stain (be careful not to douse the garment too much)."
How to Remove Red or Pink Wine Stains From Clothing
Just in case you needed an excuse to buy more wine right now, stylist and fashion writer Rebecca Force tells InStyle that the best way to remove a red wine stain is with white wine.
"Soak the spot of Cab Sav in its sister, Sauvignon, or cousin, Pinot (your choice of any white will do), covering the area and saturating the original red spot," says Force. "Next, rinse with lukewarm water and squeeze excess liquid with a gentle twist. Repeat both steps [and] you'll see the deep purple hue lighten and lift from the fabric."
How to Remove Dirt or Mud Stains From Clothing
"The most important step in treating a mud stain is to focus on what not to do – do not set the stain by running the fabric through the dryer," warns Mélanie Berliet, a home expert and general manager of The Spruce. "While it takes some patience, the easiest way to remove a mud stain is to wait until the mud dries to start cleaning. Then, you can wash with a standard detergent and warm water."
How to Remove Blood Stains From Clothing
Brace yourself if you're a bit squeamish because we're about to get graphic for a sec: the red color of blood stains is caused by red blood cells made up of proteins and fatty matters in nature. Because human saliva contains enzymes that are effective in decomposing proteins, fats, and starches, Dr. Pete He, the co-founder and chief scientist of Dirty Labs, tells InStyle that one of the best ways to remove fresh blood stains from clothing is with — you guessed it — spit.
"The correct approach is to spit on the blood stain and rub the clothing for 30 seconds. Then, use cold water to rinse off the blood stain and saliva from the cloth," says Dr. He. "Use soap to wash hands and cloth at the end. Avoid using warm or hot water but apply cold water, as the blood cells tend to accelerate their clotting when exposed to oxygen at higher temperature. The clotting of blood cells makes the blood stain more difficult to remove."
How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stains From Clothing
Tomato-based sauce stains, like ketchup and marinara, are tricky, but not impossible, to remove. To oust a saucy splatter, Tide scientist Mary Johnson says to first brush any excess stain off the garment, then flip the garment inside out and run warm water over the reverse side of the stain. From there, you can pretreat the garment by applying a detergent to the stain directly (Johnson recommends using Tide Ultra OXI Liquid, which has a special enzyme to break up tomato-based stains) and let it sit for 20 minutes.
Next, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to spread the detergent into the fibers of the garment. You don't need to rinse off the garment before putting it in the wash with other items, since "leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power," says Johnson. Wash in warm water for best results.
How to Remove Makeup Stains From Clothing
Like coffee and tomato stains, Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of a woman-owned cleaning company ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, says drips of foundation and lipstick smudges should be treated immediately. Your first line of defense is to apply an oil-free makeup remover to the stain, but if that doesn't work, Rodriguez-Zaba suggests blotting the area with acetone and letting it soak before putting it in the wash.
How to Remove Chocolate Stains From Clothing
TV personality and fashion stylist Cindy Conroy tells InStyle that removing chocolate stains from clothes is a bit of a process. First, stir together 2 oz of white vinegar, 2 oz of dish soap, and 2 oz of water and let it sit while you grab a towel and lay it over your work surface. Next, lay your garment down and trickle the solution over the stain. "Take a clean cloth and rub in circular motions," says Conroy "Friction from the cloth will help break down the stain. After a few seconds it will lift."
How to Remove Egg Yolk Stains From Clothing
When egg-cidents (get it?) happen during Sunday brunch, the first step is to scrape off any excess egg with either a spatula or flat-bladed knife, followed by immediate blotting of the area with a sponge and warm-hot water, says Jennie Varney, brand manager for Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.
"Typically, food stains are soaked in cold water — but not egg, mustard, or ketchup," Varney tells us. "Soak the fabric in warm-hot water and detergent for at least 30 minutes. Then, machine wash as usual. If any egg stain remains, soak the clothing again and wash as usual."
How to Remove Fruit Juice Stains From Clothing
Fruit juice stains have to be handled quickly and carefully to ensure, they don't set, Varney recommends. The first step is to rinse any excess liquid from the fabric, then carefully flush the stain with cool water so that it doesn't spread further. From there, you can pretreat the stain using a liquid laundry detergent and let it sit for 15 minutes before machine washing, using the warmest water and chlorine or color bleach the fabric allows. You also want to make sure the stain is gone before putting in the dryer, otherwise the stain can set, Varney warns.
How to Remove Ink Stains From Clothing
Out of all the stains, ink is the toughest to remove, according to a representative from Madame Paulette, a high-end dry cleaners in NYC. How you go about eliminating those stains ultimately depends on the garment's material and type of ink (oil-based, water-based, or glue-based). Generally speaking, it's best to leave this type of stain to the professionals, but ink stains from pens (oil-based stains) can be removed at home.
"Grab a white, absorbent cloth and place it under the stain. Nail polish remover is known to work on some fabrics, but should not be applied to synthetic materials such as rayon, acetate, or polyester," Madame Paulette says "If your fabric is made of these fabrics, mix together four parts water (5 oz), one part ammonia (1 oz), one part peroxide (1 oz), and one part color-safe detergent. Use a cotton swab or rag to lightly tap on the stain, which will push it through to the cloth underneath. Rotate the absorbent cloth as the stain comes out."
How to Remove Sweat Stains From Clothing
Yellow pit stains are the opposite of cute. To remove, Conroy recommends a concoction of "good ol' fashioned hydrogen peroxide" by mixing one part baking soda and one part hydrogen peroxide in a bowl. Carefully spoon the liquid-y paste directly onto the sweat stain and gently rub the area with your fingers. This breaks up the fibers before you put the garment into the washer so that, when it comes out, "those annoying yellow stains will be long gone!"
How to Remove Deodorant Stains From Clothing
"An easy way to get [deodorant stains] off your clothing before you head out the door is makeup wipes, believe it or not," says Kathy Turley, director of marketing at Home Clean Heroes. "Just lightly rub the deodorant mark with a makeup wipe and by the time you get out of the car to your final destination, the area will be dry and nobody will have any idea."
How to Remove Rust and Metal Stains From Clothing
Rust and metal stains can appear after sitting on old patio furniture, rubbing up against a worn out bicycle — your iron can even stain your clothes. Whatever the source, rust and metal stains are salvageable. But, again, it's going to take a little grunt work.
According to Conroy, you should start by mixing a small amount of table salt with white vinegar and, using an old toothbrush, add a dollop of the paste to the stain. "Let it sit for 30 minutes. If the stain persists, boil a pot of water and carefully hold the stained area over the puffs of steam. Then, remove and make a paste of lemon juice and salt. Apply it in the same way as before and let it sit for 30 minutes in the sun. Rinse and the stain will be gone."
How to Remove Grass Stains From Clothing
"In the absence of laundry detergent or a stain remover, apply a small amount of the hand or liquid dish soap to the [grass stain] and let it sit for a few minutes, then rub and rinse using clean water. Do this as soon as possible," Dr. He says. "Rub and rinse in cold water. Be sure to avoid washing in warm or hot water so the stain does not set in."
How to Remove Toothpaste Stains From Clothing
Who hasn't dribbled toothpaste down their blouse right before they have to leave for work? Irritated as you may be, Conroy tells us that when it comes to toothpaste stains, there's no time to get frustrated.
"The key is to move quickly. Otherwise, the stain might become permanent or indefinitely strip the color of your top," she says. "Using your finger/nails or butter knife [and] gently scrape as much toothpaste off as you can. Be careful not to rub the minty-fresh glob, or it will start to set. Wet an old t-shirt or J Cloth with water and blot. Then, mix a few drops of detergent in water so it's nice and sudsy. Dip the stained area into the mixture and gently agitate it with your fingers or an old soft-bristle toothbrush. Rub clockwise and counterclockwise to break-up the toothpaste stain. The glob will start to lift and dissolve, but if not, repeat the process, then allow the spot to air dry."
This is Ask the Experts: Where our favorite fashion know-it-alls share their wisdom. Just because you can trust your style instincts doesn't mean you should have to.