Common Remedies to Avoid When Removing Stains

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Common Remedies to Avoid

Dishwasher detergent: Although sometimes suggested for food stains, these detergents are intended for use in closed dishwashers with very hot water. They are so highly alkaline they can irritate your skin if you use them in stain removal. They also may fade colors or damage wool, silk, or nylon fibers.

Hair spray on ball-point ink: Certain hair sprays are effective on ballpoint stains, but they may deposit a gummy residue and perfume that then have to be removed along with the ink. Hair spray also may affect color in some fabrics. Alcohol is a hair spray ingredient that is useful for removal of the oily part of the ball-point stain.

Ironing candle wax: Ironing candle wax between blotting paper will only drive the stain deeper into the fabric. This process is widely used, but it's not recommended because it will make any color from the dye of the candle more permanently set and the wax more inaccessible for the detergent or solvent to reach to carry the stain away.

Milk on washable ink: This doesn't remove the ink and gives you an additional protein stain.

Salt to make dyes colorfast: Today's dyes cannot be increased in colorfastness by soaking in salt water. If bleeding of a particular dye in cotton, rayon, or ramie fabric is decreased with a salt water soak, the effect will not be permanent, When the fabric is wet again, unless there is salt in the solution, the dye will be free to leave the fabric. Salt cannot affect colorfastness of synthetic fiber fabrics or their blends because they are dyed with dyes that have chemical structures not affected by salt.

Shampoo: Clear gel-like shampoos are sometimes suggested for stain removal. While they are usually not harmful to fabrics and may work on light oil stains, laundry detergents are just as effective and less expensive to use. Additionally, colored, opaque; or milky-looking shampoos may contain ingredients that will stain fabrics or foam so much that they are difficult to rinse out.

White vinegar: Vinegar (acetic acid) may weaken cotton, rayon, acetate, triacetate, or silk fibers and may cause color change. If used as a stain removal agent, test on a hidden seam allowance for colorfastness. Vinegar will not help remove or set creases in today's synthetic or permanent press fabrics, although this is a common belief.

Special thanks to Iowa State University for allowing us to reproduce this information.

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

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No endorsement of companies or their products mentioned is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar companies or their products not mentioned. The information found on the pages in this section are provided by Ohio State University for educational purposes. is not associated in anyway with Ohio State University.  Apparel Search is simply providing viewers of the fashion industry with easy access to the helpful educational material that has been developed by Ohio State University.  Please visit the Ohio State University web site to learn more about the wonderful educational opportunities that they provide. 

Learn more about washing clothes.

Clothing Care and fiber Content Labels

fabrics Labeled "Dry-clean Only"

A Note about Modern fabrics

Garments with Contrasting Colors or Trim

Removing Stains from Washable fabrics:

Spot Treatment Technique (Sponging) for Apparel fabrics

Chemical Solvents and Supplies

Follow These Safety Precautions

Classification of Stains

What to Do if You Don't Know

Stains Needing Unique Treatment Methods

Common Remedies to Avoid

How to Identify and Prevent

Additional Stain Removal References

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