Five tips to remove stains from your favorite clothes

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How do you remove stains from your clothes? What should you do and what shouldn’t you do if you have a stain in your clothes? Making a stain can happen to anyone. If you have a household with small children, chances are that your children come home with stains in their clothes almost every day like grass stains after playing football, mud stains from the playground or jam stains on their T-shirts after lunch. Not only children make stains though. Think about ballpoint stains, tomato sauce stains or grease stains in shirts. Everyone gets stains in their clothes every once in a while. Do you want to make sure to remove a stain? We have listed the best tips for you, read on quickly!

The five best tips to remove stains from your clothes!

  1. Do not let the stain set
  2. Tip 2: Treat a stain directly with water.
  3. Tip 3: Removing stains from clothes?
  4. Tip 4: The right treatment for every fabric what needs which treatment?
  5. Tip 5: The right treatment for any stain.

All the stains that exist: pick your stain for the right treatment

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 What should you do if you have a stain in your clothes? How do you remove stains you’re your clothes? And more specifically, how do you remove stains from white clothing? Do you recognize that after a while, your white T-shirts start to get yellow stains from sweat or deodorant? So how do you remove those yellow stains from white clothing? In this article we will give you the best tips on how to get those yellow stains out of your white clothes. But we also provide you with the best advice for removing the ten most common stains in clothes. Here is how to treat and remove the most common stains.

Tip 1: Do not let the stain set

The most important thing, regardless of which type of stain you are dealing with, is to prevent setting. “Setting” is an informal term that refers to the stained material forming a chemical bond with the fabric. If a stain is set in the clothing, the chances are big that you will not, or only partially, be able to remove the stain. The stain is then often permanent.

In the case of a set stain, the (often cotton) fibres are discoloured by the composition of the stain. Sometimes you will still be able to remove the stain by scrubbing the fabric very hard. However, this will make your clothes wear down quickly. You then scrub, as it were, the discoloured fibres, making the fabric thinner at that spot. Often you will always still see colour differences between where the stain was and the rest of the garment.

So the most important rule for stains is: don't let the stain set in your clothes!

Tip 2: Treat a stain directly with water.

Directly treat every stain with (lukewarm) water, or with a suitable solvent if available (the different solvents are discussed later, however water is always better than nothing).

Avoid direct heat. Heat will only accelerate the setting of most stains. Never put the garment with the stain on the heater, as this will only accelerate the setting of the stain. Try to only use solvents that are at lukewarm, or room temperature.

Avoid pressure. Use the solvents carefully. Pat the stain and soak the stain in the solvent. This will generate much better results than very hard and forceful scrubbing.

If you are at home, it's pretty easy to deal with the stain. If you are not at home, but outside or in a restaurant, look for the toilet and pat the stain with toilet paper or tissues until the stain is saturated. So, first water, the rest comes later. Of course, the stain will still be visible, but at least it will prevent the stain from setting in the fabric and damaging your clothes permanently.

Tip 3: Removing stains from clothes?

If you get a stain in your clothes, it is important to prevent it from setting in the fabric. The first thing to do is patting it with (hot) water. However, with water alone, most stains cannot be permanently removed.

Fortunately, not all stains are equally hard to remove. Most general stains are fairly easy to remove. Nowadays there are many stain removers for sale in your local supermarket that can remove most stains. It is very important however that you always look at the label or washing instructions in the piece of clothing to see what is and what is not allowed for the specific type of fabric. Wool for example, needs a different treatment than cotton or silk.

Tip 4: The right treatment for every fabric what needs which treatment?

Which solution is the best for the type of material the stain is on? And what is the best solution for removing a certain stain? Removing a stain from a cotton shirt requires a different treatment than removing a stain from a silk shirt or blouse. In the same way, a grease stain needs a different treatment than a stain caused by food. Using the wrong product or method can lead to damaging your clothing. Each type of clothing and fabric has its own method and instructions.

Always check the label in a garment before attempting to remove a stain. Usually the washing instructions and what the item is made of are listed on there. For example: made of 100% cotton, wool, silk or polyester. If the label contains specific washing instructions, it is advisable to follow these strictly.

Removing a stain from cotton fabrics and clothing

Cotton: can soak, dry and endure heat (although you want to avoid the latter for most stains – warm water is fine, but dry heat will make the stain set). It is possible to bleach white cotton, however this will shorten the lifespan of the garment. Only use chlorine bleaching agents as a last resort and dilute this well before use. The best solvents for cotton are detergents and slightly acidic agents (lemon juice, vinegar, etc.).

Removing a stain from wool fabrics and clothing

Wool: is more sensitive to heat than cotton and must be treated with care. You can immerse it in water, but you will have to let it dry on a flat surface to prevent it from distortion. Only use solvents that are safe for wool and lukewarm (not hot) water. Bleaching agents and acid treatments will permanently damage the wool. Treat the stain immediately with water or wool detergent and take the garment to a dry cleaner as soon as possible.

Removing a stain from synthetic fabrics and clothing

Synthetic fabrics: the treatment varies depending on the material. Rayon and polyester can be washed and scrubbed rougher than cotton, but will be damaged by the use of bleaching agents such as hydrogen peroxide. It is usually a good idea to clean these fabrics with the use of normal laundry detergent, or with dish soap if the stain is greasy.

Removing a stain from silk fabrics and clothing

Silk: is very temperamental. You can treat the stains with water, but then do wash the garment completely. Dried water droplets on silk will look almost as bad as the original stain. Glycerine-based stain remover is also effective and neutral.

Regardless of what you use, test the stain remover on the inside of the material before you use it on a stain to ensure that the material will not be damaged. Applying water is the only method that you can apply immediately – but pay attention to the temperature.

What types of solvents (and stains) are there?

The right treatment for a particular type of stain?

Treating with water

Water is universal, safe to use on practically everything and is a cheap solution. It is effective as a fast treatment to prevent the stain from setting. It takes longer to soak in order to be effective for greasy stains, but significantly reduces the effect of discolouration (lipstick, hair dye, colours of other garments, etc.). Water is generally not a 100% effective treatment. But treating the stain with water directly almost always prevents the stain from setting.

Treating with salt

Salt is cheap and almost always available. It can be applied to the wet stain to soak up the chemicals. Effective with sweat or deodorant stains, red wine stains and bloodstains.

Treating with vinegar and lemon juice

Mild acids like vinegar and lemon juice are excellent for coffee and tea stains, grass stains and sticky remnants such as tape and glue. Vinegar is also effective against mould – perfect for laundry that has been in water for too long if you forgot to take the laundry out of the washing machine. Watch out: you can never treat wool with acids like vinegar and lemon juice.

Treating with laundry detergent or dish soap

Laundry detergent and dish soap are very effective solutions and can be used on many types of fabric. Dish soap is often more aggressive than detergent and can affect sensitive materials if it is not washed out directly. Both products are effective against greasy stains and thus can be used with meat stains, gravy stains and, for example, chocolate stains.

Treating a stain with oxidate bleaches

Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing bleaching agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a fairly aggressive solution for removing stains and is not suitable for all types of fabric. Oxidizing bleaching agents are often used for colourful stains like makeup stains, grass stains, blood stains, fruit stains and more. Oxidizing bleaching agents are less effective with fat and can damage sensitive materials. Dilute the agent for a milder treatment.

Treating with glycerine

Glycerine (or Glycerol) is a fatty acid and is extracted from plants (usually soybeans) or animals (usually tallow). Glycerine is a component that is also used in hand soap, for example. Many types of fabric and clothing can be treated with glycerine, like ink and paint. Many popular stain removers that are available in the supermarket are made with glycerine.

Treating with enzyme bleach

This method is very effective on organic stains and on stains with an bad odour (egg yolk, pet urine, blood, sweat, etc.). It can however not be used on wool or silk as the agents react with proteins and both wool and silk are made of proteins.

Treating with dry cleaner solvents

Dry cleaner solvents are available in supermarkets and drugstores in a diluted form. Use them with caution. You are rarely better off using these products at home. It is wiser to bring your clothes to a professional dry cleaner.

Treating with chlorine and bleach

These are rough, aggressive and 'last resort' products. Use this product carefully as it can seriously damage and discolour materials and clothes. Always test before use and only use if the label in the garment does not say "do not use bleach".

Stubborn stains sometimes require multiple treatments in order to remove them. A combination of the above-mentioned treatments is often necessary for difficult stains. If you are unsure about the correct method, it is advisable to take the item of clothing to the dry cleaner or launderette.

Tip 5: The right treatment for any stain.

If you know which product you can use to remove a stain, it is still important to act careful. By applying a product incorrectly, you may actually make the stain worse. Always treat the stain carefully and not too roughly. Dabbing gently and soaking is always better than scrubbing with a cloth or your hands.

That being said, you get better results if you follow a number of steps in order to remove the stain from the material.

  • Immediately put water on the stain, even if you are still wearing the clothes. We said it already before, however it doesn't hurt to repeat it. Make sure the water is at room temperature and pat the stain as soon as possible with some toilet paper or a tissue. Make sure to soak the entire stain, not just the surface or the top layer.
  • When you take the clothes off, wet the stain again and treat the stain with a liquid absorbing product. Salt is the most common and the cheapest, however some people also use cornstarch or talcum powder for a similar effect. This works best on flat surfaces like woven cotton. Applying salt to, for example, a woollen tweed jacket will only cause more problems when you have to scratch it off the fabric again. Let the absorbing product sit for about 10 to 15 minutes before brushing most of and washing the rest with water.
  • Lightly apply a solvent to the backside of the stain so the stain will be driven to the surface instead of soaking further into the material. The application on the inside of the garment also gives you more certainty in case the solvent causes discolorations.
  • Place the garment upside down on a clean piece of kitchen paper. This allows the stain to be soaked into the kitchen paper. Leave the garment upside down on the kitchen paper for at least an hour.
  • Different solvents need different amounts of time to react, so make sure to allow them some time to work. The only important guideline is that you should not allow the solvent to dry up before you wash the garment. Pay attention because if the solvent dries up completely, you can be left with a larger and lighter coloured stain than before.
  • Wash the garment with water to remove both the stain and the solvent. If possible, wash the clothes immediately in the washing machine or take it to a dry cleaner. Read the washing label first, not all types of fabric and clothing types can be steamed.

The 11 common stains

To illustrate the above mentioned methods, we give you ten examples of the most common stains. This stain guide helps you to treat common stains the right way.

  1. Removing blood stains

Directly wash with cold water. If possible soak in water that is at room temperature for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. Treat the stain with a product with enzymes or with ammonia. Wash separately.

  1. Removing butter/fat/baking oil stains

Treat immediately with lukewarm water. If possible, immerse in warm water with some laundry detergent. Carefully take the garment out of the water and pat the stain with laundry detergent, place it upside down on kitchen paper and let it rest. Repeat if necessary. For difficult stains you can use bleach on the inside of the clothing. Then let it rest upside down on kitchen paper before washing the garment properly.

  1. Removing coffee stains

Immediately immerse in lukewarm water. Dab gently with laundry detergent or with diluted vinegar in water. Wash in the hottest water allowed for the material and repeat if necessary. Avoid soap bars or powdered soap; these can cause the stain to set permanently.

  1. Removing discolouration in the collar and sweat stains


Wash with warm water and a detergent. If the yellow discoloration remains, you can soak the garment in warm water with some salt, or you can use an enzyme-based agent. Bleach can be used on white clothes, but only as a last resort.

  1. Removing tomato sauce stains

Carefully remove the residual sauce with a knife or spoon. Pat some liquid detergent on the stain. Wash with cold water from the inside of the garment (turn the material over), as you do not want the stain to penetrate further into the clothing. Then follow the washing instructions on the label.

  1. Removing mud stains

Immerse and stir in lukewarm water in order to remove as much mud as possible. Add some laundry detergent and let soak for about 20-30 minutes. Rinse and repeat. Then wash the garment normally and optionally treat the remaining stain with bleach if possible and necessary.

  1. Removing wine stains

Treat immediately with warm water. Apply salt to the stain and let it rest for a while. Remove the salt with the use of some water, pat the stain with detergent or glycerine and let it rest upside down on kitchen paper. Rinse the garment and wash it normally according to the label. Do not use green soap; it can make the stain worse.

  1. Removing urine and feces stains

Remove the remains and immediately rinse the clothing in cold water. Do not use warm or hot water, as the stains will be even more absorbed by the activation of proteins. Soak gently and stir regularly in cold water with laundry detergent. Repeat this and allow the clothing to soak for approximately 20-30 minutes. Then wash immediately. You can bleach the garment if necessary but don’t do this when it comes to diapers, as bleach is too aggressive for baby skins.

  1. Removing bad smells

Not all stains are visible. If any bad smells remain after washing, you can apply calcium carbonate (lime) and let this sit for a few hours. You can shake the excess product off the clothing or you can use a hand vacuum cleaner for this.

  1. Removing chocolate stains

Mix one teaspoon of gentle liquid laundry detergent with some water. Gently rub this into the stain to clean it. Chocolate is brown but especially very FAT! So you choose a substance that dissolves fat, which detergent is the best at. Clean the stain with a sponge with clean water.

  1. Removing lipstick stains

You should never rub a lipstick stain, for the lipstick will then only sink deeper into the fabric. Lipstick is greasy but also contains an adhesive so that it adheres well (normally to your skin). Gasoline is the product that you will want to use with this type of stains. Use a new wad of cotton every time you dab the stain with gasoline. Do this until you see no more colour pigment on the cotton wad. Then wash normally. You can afterwards remove the (fatty) leftovers with dish soap.

Hopefully we have been able to help you tackle all types of stains from now on. One last tip: make sure you always have a bottle of water in your car. This way, if you are not at home and get a stain in your clothes, you always have a first resort right at hand. Smart right?

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