Classification of Stains
The system used here in classifying stains for removal from washable
fabrics is not the only one that has been used. Other books or sources may
suggest different methods that also may work. The purpose here is to
describe at least one method that should give good results using readily
available consumer products or supplies if used correctly.
This stain classification system starts with stains that require similar
treatment and are easiest to remove if treated promptly and correctly.
Stains that require two-step or special treatment are listed last.
Soak in cold water. Launder.
- Baby food
- Baby formula
- Cheese sauce
- White glue; school paste
- Ice cream
Fresh protein stains can be removed by soaking and agitating in cold
water before washing. These stains contain other ingredients besides
protein, but it needs treatment first. If hot water is used first, it cooks
the protein, causing coagulation between the fibers in the yarns of the
fabric, making the stains more difficult to remove. If protein stains are
dried or old, scrape or brush off crusted matter (if any), then soak in cold
water using a detergent or an enzyme presoak product.
After treating the stain, launder in warm (not hot) water, rinse, and
inspect. If stain remains, soak an additional half-hour, then rewash. Bleach
may be necessary if the stain was colored, such as baby food beets,
strawberry gelatin, or ice cream.
Do not use soap (bar, flake). Use detergents.
- Alcoholic beverages
- Berries (cranberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- Felt-tip water color pen or washable ink
- Fruit juice (apple, grape, orange)
- Soft drinks
- Tomato juice
Fresh tannin stains are usually removed by detergent (not soap) washing
in hot water (as safe for fabric) during laundering without any treatment.
Use of soap (bar soap, soap flakes, or detergents containing natural soap)
will make a tannin stain permanent or at least more difficult to remove. Be
sure to check the ingredients list of your detergent for soap. More brands
now include it for economic reasons. Old tannin stains may need bleaching
for more complete removal.
Use heavy-duty detergent with hot water.
- Automotive oil
- Hair oil
- Bacon fat
- Hand lotion
- Car door grease
- Collar/cuff greasy rings
- Salad dressing
- Cooking fats and oils
- Suntan oil or lotion
- Face creams
Oil stains can be removed by pretreatment with a heavy-duty liquid
detergent, an aerosol petroleum-based solvent pretreatment spray, or a
pump-type detergent-based pretreatment spray. If these products are
unavailable, you can use a powdered detergent that is mixed with water to
make a runny paste and apply that to the stain.
The heavy-duty liquid detergents or aerosol sprays are more convenient
and effective. Work the full-strength heavy-duty liquid detergent into the
stain or spray with the pretreatment product, then wash the garment using
hot water (if safe for fabric), the recommended amount of detergent for a
regular laundry load, rinse, and inspect before drying. Repeat this
treatment if removal is incomplete the first time.
Need detergent wash and bleach as safe, for fabric.
- Cherry, blueberry
- Color bleeding in wash (dye transfer)
- Felt-tip pen (permanent ink-may not come out)
- India ink
- Tempera paint
Dye stains are very difficult to remove. First,pretreat the stain with a
heavy-duty liquid detergent, then rinse thoroughly. Soak the stained garment
in a dilute solution of all-fabric powdered bleach.
If the stain persists, and the garment is white or colorfast, soak in a
dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. Bleaching damage to
colored garments is irreversible. To decide if a fabric can be bleached
safely, use the test described previously. If the stain is not removed in 15
minutes, it cannot be removed by bleaching and further bleaching will only
weaken the fabric.
Caution: Since bleaches can alter the color of a fabric as well as
the stain, bleach the whole garment and do not try to bleach just a spot.
Two step treatment: (1) Remove oily/waxy portion, (2) Remove dye portion
using bleach as safe for fabric.
Combination stains contain a variety of ingredients, but these stains
usually have an oily/waxy component and a dye or pigment component. Use the
procedures recommended for removing oil stains first.
Step 1 procedure depends on whether stain is in Group A or B as follows:
Group A. Spray or sponge with drycleaning solvent (perchloroethylene,
trichloroethylene) then rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent before washing.
- Ball-point ink
- Candle wax
- Carbon paper
- Carbon typewriter ribbon
- Eye make-up (mascara, pencil, liner, shadow)
- Floor wax
- Furniture polish
- Livestock paint
- Pine resin
- Shoe polish
Group B. Rub heavy-duty liquid detergent into stain before
- Barbecue sauce
- Calomine lotion
- Catsup or tomato sauce
- Cocoa or chocolate
- Face make-up (powder, rouge, foundation)
- Hair spray
After you've done the procedures above, do step 2-removing dye stains.
Start with an all-fabric bleach because it is less damaging to colors and
fabrics. Use liquid chlorine bleaches for tough dye stains, if fabrics are
colorfast to bleach.
Special thanks to Iowa State University for allowing us to reproduce this
Reproduced with permission from the Cooperative Extension Service, Iowa
State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011.
Prepared by: Janis Stone,
Textiles and Clothing Specialist,
Iowa State University
No endorsement of companies or their products mentioned is intended, nor
is criticism implied of similar companies or their products not mentioned.