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Laundry Stain Removal Guide

Updated on June 26, 2011

Stain removal is a crucial, yet often daunting skill in a homemaker's arsenal of knowledge today, but it doesn't have to be complicated. If you learn to distinguish the type of stain, and have a few handy tools on hand, you can remove just about any stain, no matter how un-homemaker-ee you are! The following is a list of common stains, according to type (ie: protein, wax, etc...) and how to treat them. Be sure to check out my upcoming post for a complete list of items you should keep on hand to handle those tough stains.

Common Oil-Based Stains

  • Automotive, hair, and other Oils
  • Bacon fat/lard, cooking fats
  • Face creams, lotions, sunscreen
  • Mayonaise, butter

Oil-Based Stains

When possible, begin treatment as soon as you notice the stain as waiting allows the stain to set into the deeper layers of teh fabric, making it more difficult to remove.

Lay garment on a flat surface and sprinkle a generous amount of baby powder over the stain. After several hours (overnight if possible), brush away powder to check stain. Repeat process if neccessary. Next, apply a grease-cutting laundry detergent to the stained area with HOT water and scrub wiith an old toothbrush. Blot with a clean "junk" towel until all of stain is removed.

Wash according to tag specifications and check stain BEFORE drying. If stain is still visible, repeat scrubbing with dishwashing liquid.

Common Protein Stains

  • Baby food, formula. glue
  • Milk, Ice cream, pudding, creams, egg, cheese sauce, gtelatin
  • Feces, urine, vomit, blood, mud

Protein Stains

Apply a solution of vinegar and water to stain and rub with old toothbrush. Soak and agitate garment in cold water. Launder like normal. Check for stain before putting in dryer.

Looking for a complete guide to stain removal? Try one of these books from amazon!

Common Dye Stains

  • Berry juices, wine
  • mustard
  • grass (also a protein stain)
  • felt-tip pen (permenant ink may not come out)

Dye Stains

Dye stains are some of the hardest stains to remove and as such, require special care to remove. Pour some denatured alcohol (found at most hardware stores) over the stain. Rub clear dishwashing detergent over stain using an old toothbrush and rinse well. If stain is still present, rub glycerin into the stained area. Let stand 20 minutes and flush with denatured alcohol, followed by cold water. Launder like normal.

Common Wax Combo Stains

  • Inks, typewritter ribbon, carbon paper
  • Eye makeup, lipstick
  • Candle wax, floor wax, furniture polish, shoe polish, tar

Wax-Oil or Wax-Dye Combination Stains

For wax-oil stains like gum, mascara, lipstick or candle wax, place garment in freezer until frozen and scrape to crack off as much as possible; then apply mineral spirits or an oil solvent to the stain.

For wax-dye stains like inks, rub glycerine or a bleaching agent into the stain using an old toothbrush. Rinse and rub vinegar-water into stain. Launder as normal.

Common Protein-Combo Stains

  • Bar-B-Q sauce, tomato sauce, catsup, chocolate, gravy
  • Face make-up (powder, foundation, blush)

Protein-Dye or Grease-Combo Stains

Remove excess and rub dishwashing liquid into stain using an old toothbrush. Rinse. Flush with vinegar-water solution. Launder as normal.


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