Some stains will never come out, and it is possible to ruin the garment trying. General principles of stain removal:

  • Time is not your friend. Wash the garment as soon as possible.
  • Scrubbing excessively may leave a damaged spot on the garment.
  • Many garments are not color/chemical safe, and many chemicals will damage certain fabrics.
  • Fur, leather and suede must always be taken to a dry cleaner who specializes in leather or fur care.
  • Hot water can set (“cook in”) protein stains (food, blood, grass, mud, feces, etc.), so wash in cold first. Hot water is needed for other types of stains (like tannin stains – wine, berries, coffee, tea, tomato juice – and oily stains).

For more details, check out this awesome article from the Cooperative Extension Office of the University of Kentucky. You can become an expert!

However, here are some things we have found to work:

  • Oil or Grease: Pretreat with Dawn dishwashing detergent, Shout, or Folex Carpet Spot Remover (found at Lowe's)
  • Chocolate: Grease solvent, such as Goop
  • Ink: Hairspray, glycerine (available in drug stores), Murphy's Oil Soap or rubbing alcohol
  • Blood: Use hydrogen peroxide; pour on affected area and let sit. Occasionally, it can BLEACH OUT the fabric, so be sure to test first in an inconspicuous spot. If there is a lot of blood, it is wise to rinse out the item well in cold water after pretreating to prevent excess blood from staining adjacent items in the washer. For a boost, you can pre-treat with Shout after rinsing out the hydrogen peroxide.
  • Dried Latex paint: Folex Carpet Spot Remover (found at Lowe's)
  • Rust: Folex Carpet Spot Remover (found at Lowe's)
  • Cat or Dog Urine: Adding ammonia to the wash removes the stink. However, the fumes are hazardous by themselves and toxic if mixed with bleach - so definitely don't use with bleach, and be careful to use in a well ventilated area, avoiding inhaling the fumes.
  • General Additives: Shout can do amazing things on stains even after being washed and dried; try it on a stubborn stain and rewash.