How to remove stains from clothes: a handy stain removal guide

Stubborn stains on clothing can be annoying, but with these handy stain removal tips you can keep your clothes looking like new! Learn more here.

Updated 2 July 2019

stained white clothing being put in washing machine to remove stain

Key Steps:

  1. It’s always best to tackle stains as quickly as possible.
  2. Be sure to read the care label on your garment to determine which type of stain removal method to use.

There are so many different substances that can stain your clothes – from food and drink to ink, lipstick, and oil. Every stain has a different remedy, and the material of your garment will have an impact on how you clean it. So, what do you do when you get a stain on your favourite jacket, dress, or shirt? Here are some useful stain removal tips for removing a variety of stains from your clothing:

 Washing clothes with a laundry detergent like Persil will help you to fight stains with minimal effort! For tough stains, pre-treat the mark with the detergent and remember to always check the care label on the item before cleaning.

How to Treat Stains on Different Fabrics

When treating a stain, you need to think about the fabric of your garment – whether it’s cotton, synthetic, wool, or silk. This will have an impact on how you remove a stain. Before doing anything, check the garment’s care label for any instructions; then follow these simple guidelines.

How to Remove Stains from Cotton:

  • Cotton is a durable fabric, so you can use a number of techniques to remove stains from cotton garments without worrying about damaging the fabric. The only thing to be cautious of is the wash temperature as very hot temperatures can cause cotton to shrink. Read our guide on how to prevent cotton from shrinking for more advice on this.

How to Remove Stains from Synthetics:

  • There are many different types of synthetic fabric, and generally they all are durable, so you can be quite firm when you work on the stain.
  • Often synthetic fabrics will respond well to regular detergents that contain enzymes, but harsh chemicals like bleach are not a good idea.
  • Check that any specific stain removers you are using are safe for synthetic use.

How to Remove Stains from Wool:

  • Many commercial stain removers will damage wool fibres, so make sure to read the instructions on the label.
  • Use a specific detergent designed for wool such as Persil, and then dry the garment flat to maintain shape.
  • If necessary, take the garment to a professional for specialist stain treatment.

How to Remove Stains from Silk:

  • Even though you might be treating a small stain, it’s important to use an appropriate detergent on silk and to soak the whole garment to avoid water spotting.
  • Silk is incredibly delicate, so tough stains are better treated at the dry cleaners. For more advice on how to care for this delicate material, read our guide to washing silk at home.

Home Remedies to Remove Common Stains 

Let’s face it, most of us run for the all-purpose stain remover as soon as disaster strikes. But ingredients you can find at home can help remove stains, too. Always remember to try out these methods on inconspicuous areas of your garment first to make sure that there is no discolouration or damage. You can also always take your garment to a specialist for advice.

Removing Chocolate Stains with Milk

  • First, remove any excess chocolate by putting the garment in the freezer and then scraping the hardened chocolate off.
Removing chocolate stains with milk
  • Then, run hot water down the back of the chocolate stain to melt it and push it through to the front.
  • Rub washing up detergent into the stain and then soak the garment in milk for 30 minutes to an hour.
chocolate stains removal guide
  • Wash as normal and repeat if necessary.

Removing Berry Stains with Lemon Juice

  • Wash the berry stain as normal and leave it out in direct sunlight for some time to benefit from the bleaching effect of the sun’s rays.
  • If it’s a tough stain, rub lemon juice over the top, or lay a slice of lemon on the stain.
  • Rinse, dry and repeat if necessary.

Removing Tomato Stains with Vinegar

  • Soak the tomato stain for 30 minutes in neat white vinegar (1 to 2 tbsp).
removing tomato stains with vinegar
  • Rinse, and then rub detergent directly into the stain before washing on a cool cycle.
  • Repeat as necessary.

Removing Ink Stains with Hairspray

  • An ink stain can be tricky to remove. Soaking the area in an alcohol-based product, like methylated spirits or hairspray, will be the best solution in this case.
remove oil stains from dishwasher liquid
  • Dab at the stain with an absorbent cloth until it fades.
  • Then, wash as normal.

Removing Oil Stains with Dishwashing Liquid

  • Oil and any form of greasy stain can benefit from a squirt of dishwashing liquid or washing detergent applied directly and rubbed in.
  • Wash on a hot cycle, and repeat if necessary.

Removing Blood Stains with Salt

  • Time is of the essence with blood stains – the sooner you can treat it, the better the outcome.
  • Create a paste with salt and cold water.
  • Rub this paste directly onto the stain, ideally within 10-15 minutes of the stain occurring.
removing blood stains with salt and cold water
  • Rinse with cold water (not hot) and repeat as necessary.

There you have it, with these easy-to-follow tips stain removal should be a breeze!

Originally published 19 July 2018