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Outdoor Stains

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 20 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Outdoor Stains Grass Stains Oils Stains

For those of you who love the great outdoors or even those who just enjoy pottering about the garden, stains from a variety of substances will be a frustrating but inescapable part of life. And those with pets in the family, particularly rambunctious dogs, will probably have resigned themselves to a daily dose of dirt and stains! However, if tackled quickly and effectively, many of these stains can be removed with no permanent marks left.

I’ve Got Green Marks on My Trousers!
Anyone who has ever had a grass stain will know what a nightmare they are to remove. The combination of chlorophyll pigments in the grass juices together with other organic material such as brown dirt enables this stain to penetrate deep into the fabric and makes it particularly difficult to dislodge.

Having said that, if you act quickly, you will have a good chance of removing the green stain. There are several different methods of tackling a grass stain and you may need to try a few before deciding on which is the most effective. Just remember never to use ammonia or alkaline detergents as these contain chemicals which will react with the grass compounds and set the stain permanently.

If your fabric is washable (and not silk or wool), rubbing alcohol is a good stain remover to try: just sponge it into the stain before washing, let it dry and then sponge the area again with cool water, followed by some liquid detergent. Rinse and let dry again and then wash as normal. Alternatively, you can treat the stain with a solution of warm water and white vinegar (not fruit vinegars) soaked in for one hour before washing.

If you’re using a commercial detergent, use one which contains enzymes and bleach. Apply the detergent directly to the stain and rub it in vigorously, then leave it for 10-15 minutes before washing as usual. If there are still marks left, you may need to repeat the process. Alternatively, you could try just a paste of water and digestive enzymes, such as acidophilus which you can buy from health food stores – cover the stain with the paste and let it work for about one hour, before washing in hot water. Note, however, that digestive enzymes should not be used on any fabrics containing silk or wool.

As a last resort, you can try a solution of chlorine bleach and hydrogen peroxide but this is a very strong chemical that is best avoided if possible. In particular, the bleach could easily discolour the fabric or damage it irreversibly.

The Dog Has Tracked Mud all Over the House!
Believe it or not, mud stains are actually best left alone – at least initially. In fact, most mud stains – especially those on carpet - if left to dry naturally, can be easily removed later by gently brushing with a soft-bristle brush or vacuuming thoroughly. Conversely, wetting the stain and scrubbing vigorously can actually cause it to set deeper.

However, some mud stains in clothes – such as those after children’s sporting events – may require more work. Again, brush off the dried mud and then wash in as hot as wash as possible, using a mild detergent. If the stain is stubborn, you may need to pre-soak the garment before washing or rub some neat detergent into the stain before rinsing and blotting dry and then washing in the laundry as normal. Commercial stain removers can also be very effective. If the stain is old or very heavy, you may need to soak it for several hours before washing.

Car Grease and Leaked Oil in the Garage!
Quick action is required whenever you’re dealing with cycle oil, lubricating oil and car greases. These oils can be particularly corrosive to the garage floor surface, as well as being a potential slipping hazard and tracking the oils back into the house, so need to be tackled as soon as possible.

Soak up as much as possible using old newspapers, paper towels, old terrycloth towels or other cleaning rags. Make sure you dispose of these carefully, however, as they are serious fire hazards. A great alternative, if you have any handy, is cat litter which contains absorbent clay and deodorise. Most commercial brands nowadays will also clump when wet, making disposal much easier. If you do not have any kind of absorbent substance handy, hosing the oil spill with a little water can help as it will force the oil to rise to the surface and thus provide a protective barrier between the oil spill and the ground. Once you have removed as much excess oil as possible, you can purchase professional products from hardware stores to help clean up the oil.

Ideally, however, it is best to prevent such oil stains in the first place by placing protective vinyl sheeting beneath the car when you’re doing any mechanical work and getting your car oil checked regularly.

Remember that when trying to remove any stain from a fabric, it is always wise to test an inconspicuous corner of the fabric first to make sure that your method is not causing more damage.

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