Remove Common Laundry Stains

There is nothing more frustrating than to find your clothes still stained after you have washed and dried them. In many cases however, treating the stains before letting those garments join the general laundry can make all the difference. How to tackle them depends on the category of stain as each may need different water temperatures, stain removers and methods of removal. So here are the different types of stains and how to treat them:

Protein-Based Stains

These stains include many of the food stains, such as eggs, baby food, dairy products and milk, as well as things like blood, mud and even vomit. They will often have excess substances that need to be scraped off with a spoon before tackling the stain underneath. The most important thing is to avoid using hot water as heat will set protein and fix it permanently to the fibres in the fabric, making the stain impossible to remove. So always use cool water for washing and rinsing these stains. Most liquid laundry detergents (especially enzyme-based) rubbed gently onto the area before washing will be effective on protein stains although you may need to repeat the process several times if the stain is very old, heavy or stubborn. You could also try soaking the stain for several hours before washing. However, avoid using enzyme-based detergents and stain removers on wool and silk fabrics.

Dye-Based Stains

These stains include anything with bright colours such as inks, grass streaks, fruit juices, kid’s drinks, jams and even mustard. They can be especially problematic because they stain very rapidly and very strongly. However, the good news is that if you act quickly enough, you can usually soak the stain out although you may need to repeat the soaking several times. Rinse first with cold water then rub some laundry detergent into the stained area, followed by a long soak before washing as normal. In this case – unlike with protein stains – you should use hot water as this is more effective on dye stains.

Tannin-Based Stains

These stains come from tea, coffee, some soft drinks (e.g. Coke), fruit juices (berry-based) and wine. Although they often cause gasps of horror, they are actually among the easiest of stains to remove if they are tackled immediately – just running cold water over the stained area, followed by washing as usual on a hot cycle, will usually remove the stains. Choose the hottest water that is safe for your type of fabric. However, if these stains are allowed to set, then they can be more difficult to remove. They will need to be pre-treated with detergent and then soaked in water for about 30 minutes, before being laundered as usual. Remember never to use bar soaps on tannin stains as they can react with the stain and set it permanently.

Oil-Based Stains

These stains include cooking oils, mayonnaise, butter, make-up and even deodorant and petrol. You can also get oil-based stains in the rings around your shirt collars and cuffs. These stains can be quite frustrating, often reappearing just when you think you have finally removed all traces of them. The key is allowing the detergent to soak into the stained area and then washing on the hottest temperature that is safe for the fabric. Then you may need to repeat this process if the stain is still present (check carefully!) – Before placing it in the dryer as the heat will set the stain permanently.

Many stains, such as tomato-sauces, chocolate and crayons, are actually a combination of two types so you will need to treat for both types of stain. First treat for the oil-based part of the stain and then treat the colour (dye)-based portion.

While you can buy many commercial stain removers nowadays, formulated for specific types of stains, it is also a good idea to keep some general stain-removing products around the house as time is of the essence when tackling a stain. So make sure you keep things like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and a good basic laundry detergent handy.

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