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How to Remove Stains From Clothes

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Image from Pixabay modified by Chin chin

Image from Pixabay modified by Chin chin

Removing Stains From Clothes

If you're a mom who takes care of laundry for your family members, then you may be faced with the same concerns as I am about removing stains on clothes. I have five children, and I find all sorts of stains on their clothes—ball-pen ink stains, lead pencil stains, juice stains, chocolate stains, etc. I've learned some quick fixes for these types of things.

Being able to keep clothes in wearable condition for a longer time helps reduce clothing costs, thus contributing to frugal living. In this article, I'll share tips on how to remove stains in clothes. I hope this will be as helpful to you as it is to me!

Basic Tips on Doing Laundry and How to Remove Stains From Clothes

  1. Check the laundry for clothes with stains before washing. Most need pre-treatment or specific action to remove the stain (see below).
  2. Be sure to separate the whites from the colored clothes to avoid color bleeding, which will stain the whites. Separate the lightly soiled from the heavily soiled clothes, too, to avoid the small particles of soil being redeposited on cleaner clothes.
  3. Follow the clothes' manufacturer label on how to wash the item i.e. dry clean only; do not bleach, etc.
  4. Remove stains immediately if possible because then they are easier to remove.
  5. Do not dryer dry or iron clothes with stain because the heat can set the stain into the fiber making it more difficult to remove, if not impossible.
  6. To avoid making the stain worse or damaging the fabric, avoid rubbing the fabric excessively. Also, don't use dark-colored cloth in rubbing the stain.
  7. Test stain removers and bleaches first on a seam or hidden area of the fabric to make sure that it will not further damage or affect the color of the fabric.

How to Remove Tomato Sauce Stain Using Lemon

6 Classifications of Stains and How to Remove Them

Stains can be classified into six types: protein stains, tannin stains, oil-based stains, dye stains, and also stains that are a combination of the different types of stains. Stains that go under each type are sorted in the table below.

Protein StainsTannin StainsOil-Based StainsDye StainsCombination of Stains (A)Combination of Stains (B)

Baby food, Baby formula

Alcoholic Beverages

Automotive oil

Cherry, blueberry

Ball-point ink

Barbecue sauce

Milk and eggs




Candle wax

Tomato sauce or catsup


Berries (Strawberry, cranberry)


Color bleeding in wash


Face make-up



Salad dressing

Felt-tip pen


Cocoa or chocolate



Cooking fats and oils


Eye make-up



Fruit juice

Hair oil

India ink

Floor wax

Hair spray

Cheese sauce


Hand lotion, face creams


Shoe polish

Ice Cream


Petroleum jelly

Tempera paint



Tomato juice

White glue, paste

Felt-tip water color pen

Different stains need different treatments to remove them properly from clothes. Here is a quick run-through of how to remove each kind of stain.

Removing Protein Stains (i.e. bloodstains, baby stain/poo)

Soak and agitate the fabric in cold water with detergent. Never use hot water because the heat would cause the protein to coagulate between the fabric material. Then wash in warm water and rinse. You may have this process several times to completely remove the stain. Sometimes, bleach is necessary with colored stains like baby food (pureed carrot), baby feces, or strawberry gelatin. If the stain has dried, scrape or brush it off before soaking.

Removing Tannin Stains (i.e. coffee stains, juice stains, tea stains, tomato stains, red wine stains)

Soak the cloth in hot water with detergent (NOT SOAP, it will make the stain more or less permanent). Additional bleaching may be necessary.

Removing Oil-based Stains (i.e. grease stain, baby oil stain)

Use heavy-duty liquid detergent and apply directly to the stain. You may alternatively use a powdered detergent mixed with warm water to make a runny paste. Then, wash the cloth with hot water. Repeat to remove the stain completely.

Removing Dye Stains (i.e. grass stains, felt-tip marker stain, mustard stain)

Dye stains are very difficult to remove, if not impossible. First, apply to the stain heavy-duty liquid detergent then rinse. The second step is to soak it in a diluted solution of all-fabric powdered bleach then rinse. If the stain is still there, use chlorine bleach for 15 minutes. Be sure to test the garment first for colorfastness. If the stain is still there, it might not be possible to remove it completely. Bleaching it one more time will weaken the fabric.

Removing Combinations of Stains (i.e. lipstick stain, crayon stain, ink stain, tomato catsup stain)

This takes two steps to remove the stain. The first step is to remove the oily or waxy part of the stain. Stains listed under Combination of Stains (A) in the table above need treatment or application with a dry cleaning solvent, next with heavy-duty liquid detergent, and then to be washed in hot water. For stains listed under Combination of Stains (B), simply rub the stain with heavy-duty liquid detergent before washing.

The second step is to remove the dye part of the stain. To do this, bleach the garment using an all-fabric bleach. If this does not remove the stain, use liquid chlorine. Again, make sure that the fabric is colorfast.

The sun can help fade stains, so consider hang drying clothes outdoors.

The sun can help fade stains, so consider hang drying clothes outdoors.

Other Stains Requiring Extra Special Treatment

Here's a look at some other kinds of stains that require certain kinds of special treatment.

Removing Rust Stains From Clothing

The environment-friendly way to treat rust stain is to use lemon juice or calamansi juice and salt. Sprinkle some salt on the stain and then apply lemon juice or calamansi juice on it. Let it stand in the sun to dry. (Note this may cause discoloring as in bleaching the fabric). Then wash with detergent and rinse. Repeat if necessary.

Removing Bubble Gum Stains

Rub ice on the gum until it hardens. Scrape off the hardened gum. Rub the remaining stain with a cotton wet with oil. Then, wash in warm water and detergent. Repeat if necessary.

Removing Deodorant/Perspiration Stains

Apply liquid detergent directly on the part of the garment with perspiration or deodorant stain. Let stand for 15-30 minutes then wash in warm water and detergent. Don't allow the build-up of aluminum or zinc salts as this may be impossible to remove.

Removing Mildew Stains

Shake or brush off any sight of mildew outdoors. Then, apply a heavy-duty liquid detergent on the darkest stains. Wash in hot water. If the stain remains, bleach as necessary.

Removing Lead Pencil Stains

Use a pencil eraser to remove the stain without rubbing too hard. Then, wash with liquid detergent and rinse in warm water.

That's it for all the tips on how to remove stains from your clothes.


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© 2011 Chin chin


Chin chin (author) from Philippines on March 23, 2012:

@Tamarajo, I'm glad you found it handy. It is difficult to remember everything. Good to print it. God bless.

Tamarajo on March 23, 2012:

This will come in handy. Im going to print it and hang it in the laundry room otherwise I won't remember what goes with what stain.

Very informative article.

mathira from chennai on December 07, 2011:

very useful tips.

Chin chin (author) from Philippines on December 03, 2011:

Hi Angelladywriter. I have no experience removing hairdye from clothes but here's a page where it talks about how to do it - Hope it helps.

Angelladywriter on December 03, 2011:

Do you have any suggestions for removal of a stain from hair dye. I got some in a nice pair of pants. I hate to get rid of them now. Thanks for any suggestions.

Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on December 02, 2011:

thanks for the tips, its very useful, I really don't like washing clothes specially with stubborn stains but this tips will make it a little easier.

Deena from India on December 01, 2011:

Useful hub. Thanks for Sharing

Chin chin (author) from Philippines on November 30, 2011:

@reese, Oh, I am so glad that you dropped by. Thanks.

reese on November 30, 2011:

bookmarked this hub of your chin...

very helpful!

Chin chin (author) from Philippines on November 29, 2011:

@homesteadbound, Thanks for the tips, I haven't tried those two. I have read in my research that if you are going to use chemical products on the fabric, you still have to test it first because some type of fabrics (especially the synthetic ones) may react with it and be damaged.

Have a nice day.

Cindy Murdoch from Texas on November 29, 2011:

I can share two great tips for you. With ink like that in a ball point pen, if you spray with hairspray and wash with cold water, it comes out.

And blood can be removed by repeatedly pouring a small amount of peroxide on blood, letting it fizz, rinse with cold water and repeat until the blood is gone. Do this before washing.

Great hub for removing stains. I am bookmarking it!

Brittany Kennedy from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on November 29, 2011:

Wow. What a useful table! Thanks.

Chin chin (author) from Philippines on November 29, 2011:

Mathair, have you seen the video on how to remove tomato sauce stain using lemon? I think spaghetti sauce stain can be removed in the same way. Thanks for reading.

mathair from Ireland on November 29, 2011:

I always find that my kids ruin their clothes with Spaghetti sauce. I can never wash it out. This makes the meal a very jumpy affair involving paper towels, cloths etc!! Now I have some tips.

NarayanKrishna from The country of Mount Everest on November 29, 2011:

Very useful hub.