Set-in stains are the worst. Even worse than set-in stains are set-in stains that have been sitting for who knows how long and are made from who knows what. Maybe it’s a tomato sauce stain from dinner a few nights ago, or maybe it’s the stain you got from helping your kid with arts and crafts before they knew how to use a paintbrush properly.
Both white vinegar and baking soda act as natural stain removers when combined together. Saturate set-in stains with a paste made from equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Let it sit overnight, then wash clothes as usual in cold water and dry when finished cleaning them out of your washing machine.
The good news is that there are many ways to get rid of almost any kind of stain, whether it’s fresh or set in. We’ve put together a list of how to remove stains from clothes, including how to remove old stains, using all kinds of common household products you probably already have on hand.
How to Remove Old Stains from Clothes Naturally
Removing Old Tomato Stains
Tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes can leave a red, stubborn stain that’s tricky to remove.
Saturate the tomato stain with vinegar. Soak for about 20 minutes. Run cold water through the back of the stain to loosen it from the fabric from behind. Use a clean washcloth to scrub the stain from behind with detergent and warm water until it’s gone.
Removing Old Tea/Coffee Stains
To remove old coffee or tea stains, soak the stained garment in 2/3 cup water mixed with 1/3 cup vinegar mixed with for 30 minutes. Then wash as usual in cold water.
Removing Grass Stains
A little white vinegar will help remove grass stains from clothes. First, rinse the stain in cold water, then rub some white vinegar directly onto it before washing as usual. For an extra boost (and to banish any lingering smell), add half a cup of white vinegar to your washing machine cycle.
Removing Mud Stains
Let the mud dry and brush off as much as possible, then rinse in hot water. Wash with a heavy-duty detergent. If the stain remains, try soaking in an enzyme de-greaser and rinsing again. Repeat if necessary.
Removing Turmeric stains
Turmeric is a tricky one when it comes to stains, but there’s a very simple trick that can help you get rid of it. Mix equal amounts of baking soda and lemon juice and mix to make a paste. Apply it to the stain and leave it overnight before washing the item in cold water. Make sure you read the care instructions for the clothes before applying any paste or chemicals to them.
Removing Crayon Stains
Vinegar is the key to dealing with crayon stains on washable clothing. Rub vinegar into the crayon stain, and then wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, using detergent and 1/2 cup baking soda. If any stain remains, repeat.
As soon as possible, rinse in cold water. For large stains, soak in cold water for 20 minutes. The sooner you can deal with blood stains the better chance you have of getting them out.
Next, pretreat with a stain remover or spray-on liquid detergent. Wash according to care instructions. If the stain is still visible after washing, repeat these steps.
Baby Formula Stains
Pretreat with a stain remover or liquid detergent and then launder according to care instructions. If a stain remains after laundering, pretreat again and let it sit for 30 minutes before washing again.
Repeat until the stain is gone. If the article can be bleached safely, you can use chlorine bleach on yellow formula stains and oxygen bleach on white items stained by formula.
Removing Pen Ink Stains
If an item is colorfast: saturate the stain with rubbing alcohol or hair spray and agitate gently with a soft brush or sponge until removed; allow alcohol to evaporate completely before laundering (this may take several hours). Or soak the item in milk, and rinse thoroughly.
Removing Vomit Stains
Rinse in cool water to remove as much of the vomit as possible.
Then soak the stain in a solution of one-quart warm water, one-half teaspoon of liquid detergent, and one tablespoon of white vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse well and then launder using the hottest water safe for the fabric.
If the stain remains, try soaking it again in the same solution for 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with warm water. Sponge with rubbing alcohol, blotting often with an absorbent cloth until the stain disappears.
Ballpoint Pen Marks
This is an easy fix! Just grab a cotton swab and dip it in some rubbing alcohol. Dab it over the stain until it disappears.
Simply dab a little bit of vinegar on the stain and throw your clothes into the washing machine. The vinegar helps break down the chocolate, making it easier to remove when you wash your clothes.
Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and dab it on the stain until saturated. Let it sit for a couple of good hours, then wash as usual. Repeat if necessary, but be careful not to let the garment soak in the vinegar for too long, or the stain might set.
Iron Scorch Marks
Add 1/2 cup salt to 2 quarts of water and mix well. Dab the mixture onto the scorch mark with a sponge or cloth. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water. Wash as usual.
Removing Old Gum and Go
Gum, goo, and other sticky substances can be removed from clothing by applying acetone. Acetone is the main ingredient in nail polish remover and is a strong solvent.
It works to break down the material the gum or goo is made of, often dissolving it on contact. You’ll have to soak the item of clothing in acetone for a while, but this method can remove older stains as well as new stains.
Make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it into the stain. Let it sit for a few hours, then wash as usual.
Treat a fresh mustard stain by rinsing it with cold vinegar. For older stains, make a paste of two tablespoons of mustard powder and one tablespoon of water and let it sit on the stain for an hour before washing.
Soak the item in acetone nail polish remover until the nail polish comes off. If that doesn’t work, apply more remover to a cotton swab and rub it onto the stain. Repeat until the stain is gone. (This method will only work on synthetic fabrics.)
If you have wood stains on your clothing, you need to act fast. The longer the stain is left, the harder it will be to remove. To remove wood stain from clothes, rub a small amount of mayonnaise into the stain and let it sit for five minutes.
Then, place the garment in boiling water and watch how the stain disappears.
Shoe polish stains can be removed by first scraping off any excess shoe polish with a spoon or butter knife. Then, dampen the stain with rubbing alcohol and blot with a clean white cloth until it is removed.
Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone. If the discoloration remains, apply a small amount of ammonia to a damp cloth and blot it away.
Tobacco stains are not difficult to remove if you treat them immediately while they are still wet. Soak the item in a bowl filled with warm water mixed with 2 tablespoons of dish soap for 15 minutes then rinse thoroughly in warm water and wash as usual in your washing machine with detergent (washing powder). Dry naturally or with low heat.
How to Remove Tough Stains from Clothes
Vinegar as a stain remover is effective because it contains acetic acid, which works to remove the stain. Mix equal parts vinegar and water (for instance, one cup of each), then saturate the stain with this solution. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then run it through the wash.
Vinegar and Baking soda
Baking soda is also an effective stain remover. Combine equal parts baking soda and vinegar, and use a toothbrush or clothes brush to scrub the mixture into the stain. Once you’ve scrubbed the entire area, wash as usual.
How to Remove Old Stains from White Clothes
Removing old stains from white clothes is easy. All you need is distilled white vinegar and a little bit of patience.
A step-by-step guide to removing old stains from white clothes:
- Soak the stained area in distilled white vinegar for at least 20 minutes (preferably an hour).
- Rub the stained area with a little liquid detergent and work into a lather.
- Rinse out the detergent with water.
- Wash as usual in your washing machine with oxygen-based bleach or liquid laundry detergent with enzymes. Dry as usual.