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How to Remove Stains from Clothes the Old Fashioned Way

Want to know what to use to get stains out of clothes, without relying on mod cons? These old-fashioned household stain removers might surprise you!


Reading Time: 5 minutes

laundry basket with clothes

Luckily we no longer have to rely on mangles and good old-fashioned elbow grease to keep our clothes spotless, but there are a number of tried and tested remedies that we’d do well to remember.

Read on to find out how to remove stains from clothes and what to use to get stains out of clothes the way your wise old elders did.

Get Rid of Grease Stains

A tricky stain now and in the past, follow the steps in our handy article on grease stains for the modern method or try this old fashioned remedy:

  1. Blot as much of the stain as you can with a paper towel

  2. Cover the remaining stain with talcum powder or cornstarch

  3. Leave for 15-20 minutes

  4. Carefully remove the powder with a spoon

If the stain is still on the fabric, create a paste with cornstarch and water and gently scrub with a clean toothbrush. Rinse and launder as usual with a good stain-removing detergent like OMO.

How to Remove Grass Stains

What you use to remove stains from clothes doesn’t always need to involve mod cons – grass stains were a problem for parents long before fancy remedies existed! Try this method next time your kids come back inside with grassy marks on their clothes:

  1. Soak the fabric in cold water – never hot, this will make the stain worse

  2. Apply rubbing alcohol (available in most pharmacies) gently with a sponge. Check the garment’s care label first as rubbing alcohol can damage some fabrics, like snythetics

  3. Rinse well

If the stain persists and is on white fabric, use a toothbrush to gently scrub the stain with a small spoonful of three-percent hydrogen peroxide.

Fail-Safe Ink Stain Removal

Like any stain, it’s best to treat an ink stain as soon as possible. If you need to know what removes stains from clothes caused by leaking pens, then these steps are for you:

  1. Pour salt onto wet ink stains. For dried ink stains, skip to Step 4

  2. Leave for 20 minutes

  3. Brush off the salt

  4. Make a paste of cream of tartare and lemon juice, and apply to the stain

  5. Leave for 3-4 hours

  6. Wash the garment

Remember: the choice of what to use to remove stains from clothes varies as the best technique for one stain can make another stain worse. In this case, don’t be tempted to scrub the stain with water (especially hot water), as this can spread the stain and cause more damage. Our article on how to get rid of ink stains can offer more guidance.

What Stain Remover Works Best for Scorch Marks?

It’s easy to be over-zealous with the iron sometimes, especially when trying to remove a stubborn crease. This can leave nasty scorch marks that you may think are impossible to remove – but we can help!

  1. Cut a white onion in half

  2. Scrub the mark with the fleshy side of the onion, saturating it as much as possible

  3. Leave for 1 hour

  4. Soak the stain in water to rinse

After this, you can launder your clothes as normal. Why not use a fresh-smelling softener, like Comfort, to help eliminate any lingering onion odours?

Removing Mildew and Mould Stains

Wet towels, forgotten laundry or humid conditions can create a breeding ground for mildew and mould spores, but what stain remover works best?

  1. Gently scrub away mould and mildew marks with a clean toothbrush

  2. Mix one cup white vinegar in a bucket of cold water and soak the clothing for 1 hour

  3. Wash the clothing as normal – by hand for a traditional method or in the machine for a modern twist

To help remove musty odours, you may want to use a fragrant washing detergent or fabric softener in your wash. You can find other tips on removing musty smells from clothes and your home in on Cleanipedia.

Paint Stain Removal

Paint stains can be difficult to tackle, so the trick here is to act quickly, and before the paint has dried, if possible. The exact method you need to use depends on the type of paint you are dealing with, but here is a quick overview:

  1. Scrape off any excess paint gently, taking care not to smudge the stain further if it is wet

  2. Flush the stained area with warm, not hot, water

  3. Blot water-based paint stains with rubbing alcohol or nail varnish remover. Remember to take all safety precautions and check your care label first

  4. Place a cloth under oil-based paint stains and blot the stain with white spirit or turpentine. Again, check the care label and follow all safety precautions

  5. To finish cleaning oil-based paint stains, saturate the affected area with a little detergent before leaving it to soak in hot water overnight

Once these pre-treatments are over, you can wash your clothes as normal.

With these cleaning tips, getting rid of common stains on your clothes will be easier than you thought. Sometimes the old remedies really are the best so why not give them a go next time you need to know how to remove a stain from clothes?

After scrubbing and soaking a stained item by hand, always launder it in the washing machine with a detergent that has stain-removing properties, like OMO Liquid. Add a dose of Comfort to soften fabric and leave it smelling fresh.

  • Treat the stain as soon as possible, preferably before the stain has dried and set.

  • Establish what stain remover works best for the fabric and stain type that you’re dealing with.

  • Always check the garment care tab and follow detergent instructions. If you’re ever unsure, spot test a stain removal method on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first.

  • Always launder in the washing machine after any stain-removal treatment.

Originally published