Quick and Easy Stain Removal
In most families stain removal is a necessary part of clothing care.
Quick and cautious stain removal keeps clothes in wearable condition for a
longer time and thus helps reduce clothing costs. This bulletin explains how
to remove many stains from washable fabrics using easily available laundry
Clothing Care and Fiber Content Labels
You know if a fabric is washable by reading the care label. If the label
has warnings such as "do not use chlorine bleach," then you cannot safely
use liquid chlorine bleach in stain removal.
Clothing manufacturers are required to tell you the recommended care
procedure on a "permanent care label." These labels often appear at the
neckline of garments, but sometimes they are in a side seam. These labels
tell if the manufacturer recommends home laundering or drycleaning for
routine care of the clothing. A recommendation for drycleaning may relate to
the component parts of the garment such as interfacings and trim, rather
than to the basic fiber content of the garment. Tailored clothes of wool are
often "dry-clean only" while wool sweaters are often "hand washable."
Hang tags or other labels on clothing tell the fiber content. If you
understand fiber characteristics, this information can help you decide about
the best stain removal procedure. For example, wool or silk can be severely
damaged by liquid chlorine bleach, so this bleach should be avoided. Hang
tags may also tell about fiber finishes such as soil release or durable
press that are not visible on clothing but can make stain removal easier or
more difficult. For example, oily stains bond more firmly with durable press
fabrics than with untreated fabrics, making removal more difficult.
Fabrics Labeled "Dry-clean Only"
The procedures described here do not apply to garments labeled dry-clean
only. Clothing labeled "dry-clean" or "professionally dry-clean" should be
taken to the cleaners promptly. The fiber content of the clothing and the
type of stain should be identified for the cleaner. Even professional
cleaners cannot remove all stains. The cleaner will usually warn you if the
stain cannot be removed, but sometimes this is difficult to predict. Dye
stains on colored fabrics are an example of stains that may not be
A Note about Modern Fabrics
Synthetic fibers such as acrylic, nylon, olefin, polyester, and blends of
these fibers or cottons with permanent-press finishes are tough and durable
, but have a special attraction for oil stains. Oil stains should be removed
promptly. If oil stains get dryer dried or ironed into fabrics containing
these fibers or finishes, removal may be extremely difficult, if not
impossible. These oil stains show most on plain medium colors such as light
blue or khaki. On the other hand, if treated quickly, oil stains usually can
be easily removed.
Synthetic fiber fabrics are also heat sensitive. These fabrics shrink and
melt in high temperatures. They can get more-or-less "permanent" wrinkles in
the spin-cycle of a washing machine set for a hot-water wash, or from an
over-crowded dryer that has run too long. Steam pressing can sometimes
remove heat-set wrinkles, but the melting temperature of the fibers is so
close to the temperature needed to iron out wrinkles that pressing is
tedious and must be done carefully to avoid melting and creating holes. The
restored garment may fit differently because of the heat shrinkage.
It is easy to prevent wrinkling in washable blends and permanent press
- avoid overloading the washer; clothes should move freely,
- be sure the washer is set for "warm" not "hot" water temperature or
for the "permanent press" cycle,
- dry on permanent press setting,
- remove from dryer at end of cycle; do not overdry,
- hang on hanger; temporary wrinkles generally "elax" or fall out in a
Fabrics containing -vinyl or natural rubber will be damaged by most oil
solvents. Oil solvents tend to remove the plasticizer in vinyl film fabrics,
making them stiff.
Olefins may be damaged by perchloroethylene solvent, but are resistant to
trichloroethylene and fluorocarbon drycleaning solvents.
Acetate fabrics will dissolve in fingernail polish remover (acetone).
Triacetate and modacrylic fabrics can be damaged by acetone or paint
Silk, wool, and other hair fibers, such as camel or cashmere, will
dissolve in fresh liquid chlorine bleach. Dilute solutions of liquid
chlorine bleach will cause permanent yellowing and stiffening of wool fibers
and usually cause weakening and color loss in silk.
Cellulosic fibers, such as cotton, linen, rayon, and ramie, will be
weakened by repeated exposure to dilute solutions of liquid chlorine bleach,
but bleaches can be safely used on cellulosic fibers for purposes of stain
removal. Undiluted bleach can weaken fabrics so that they tear or wear out
Garments with Contrasting Colors or Trim
Many garments are designed with dark fabrics and white trim or white
fabrics and bright colored trim such as red piping. When these fabrics are
labeled washable, people often complain that the colors have "run." The
white shirt becomes streaked with pink from the red trim.
Sometimes this problem can be resolved by rewashing the garment in a
heavy-duty detergent with warm or hot water. The excess dye that was not
permanently in the trim is not likely to be very firmly deposited in its new
location either, and sometimes a simple repeat washing will rinse it away.
Sometimes bleaching will help, but often the bleach will change the color of
the trim and further change the appearance of the garment.
Since there are no regulations about color-fastness labeling, there is
little that consumers can do when they have problems with color-fastness
except complain to the manufacturer or retailer who sold the goods. As long
as care labeling procedures have been carefully followed, most reputable
businesses will respond to your complaint in a positive way.
Although it may cramp your style, a way to avoid these problems is to not
buy clothing with extreme color contrasts.
Removing Stains from Washable Fabrics: General Procedures
The following general procedures apply to nearly all stains. Fresh stains
are much easier to remove than old ones, so take care of stains promptly.
- Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth, paper, or other
towels. Remove excess solids by gentle scraping or chipping with a dull
knife or metal spatula. With some solids such as heavy amounts of
surface mud removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Excess can
be brushed off before the clothing is submerged for washing.
- Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a
dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem.
- Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.
- Decide if the fabric is washable or drycleanable. If drycleanable,
take to the cleaners as soon as possible (within 24 to 48 hours).
- Do not try to treat suede, leather, or fur. Professional cleaners
are needed for these items, and even some professionals do not offer
- Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set
protein stains such as milk, egg, or blood.
- Test stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of the garment to
be sure it does not affect the color or finish of the fabric before
starting on the stain.
- Avoid excessive rubbing unless fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing
can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color.
- Do not iron or press stained fabrics. Heat will set most stains.
- Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need
- Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure stain has been removed.
If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry. The heat of drying will
tend to make the stain more permanent.
- Wash heavily soiled items separately. During laundering soil is
broken into smaller particles and can be redeposited on cleaner clothing
if insufficient detergent is used, water temperature is too,low, washing
time too long, or washer is overloaded with too many clothes.
Spot Treatment Technique (Sponging) for Apparel Fabrics
A spot treatment confines the stain to a small area and keeps it from
spreading. This method is sometimes called "sponging." For spot treatment
you need a supply of absorbent material such as, clean rags or paper towels,
and a drycleaning solvent, spot remover, or aerosol pretreatment spray.
Follow these steps:
- Pad the working surface with clean rags or paper towels that can be
stained as you work.
- Place the stained area or spot on the garment face-down over the
- Dampen a small white cloth with solvent.
- Use the dampened cloth to pat the stain from the wrong side. Feather
the edges of the stain working from the outside toward the center to
keep the stained area from getting larger.
- As the stain transfers to the absorbent material beneath, move it to
a different place on the absorbent material so the stain has a clean
place to exit into.
- Repeat this procedure until all traces of stain are gone. Launder to
remove any ring that might be left by the solvent.
Chemical Solvents and Supplies
Supplies needed for stain removal can usually be found in grocery, drug,
general merchandise, or paint stores.
Many commercially available products have proprietary formulas that are
protected by patent rights and not available to the public. Ingredients
listed on labels for safety purposes can help you decide if the product will
be useful for the stain removal task- you have to do. There is no miracle
product that will remove all stains.
- Heavy-duty liquid detergents (Era, Fab, Grease Relief, Tide, Wisk)
- Light-duty liquid detergents (Delicare, Ivory, Lux,Woolite)
- Powdered detergents (Amway, Cheer, Dash, Oxydol, Sears, Tide)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Powdered all-fabricc bleaches (sodium perborate)(Biz, Borateem,
Clorox 2; Purex, Snowy)
- Liquid all-fabric bleaches (Snowy, Vivid)
- Liquid chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite)(Clorox, Hi-lex,Purex)
- Liquid chlorine bleaches have a limited shelf-life. If your bleach
is more than six months old and has no effect on stains, it may need to
be replaced with fresh bleach.
- To test for colorfastness to liquid chlorine bleaches, mix I
tablespoon of bleach with 1/4 cup of water. Use an eyedropper to put a
drop of this solution on a hidden seam or pocket edge inside the
garment. Let it stand two minutes, then blot dry. If there is no color
change it is safe to use the product. Powdered bleach packages have
directions for doing colorfastness tests.
- Aerosol sprays-petroleum-based solvent (Clorox, Shout, Spray'n Wash)
- Pump-type sprays-- detergent based (Clorox, Shout, Spray'n Wash)
- Clean white cloths
- Paper towels (white)
- Sponges (white or neutral colored)
- Caution: Colored sponges or paper towels can bleed dyes onto
fabrics, making dye stains that may be difficult to remove.
- Activated charcoal
- Calcium carbonate
Stain Removal Chemicals
||Ajax, Bo Beep, Top Job
|Commercial stain removers*
||isopropyl alcohol or other unspecified ingredients
||Easy Wash, Tech, Whizz
|Drycleaning fluid or petroleum-based pretreatment solvent
||perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene petroleum distillates
||Energine, Clorox Prewash, Shout, Spray n'Wash
|Enzyme presoak products**
||amylase, protease, lipase
||Biz Bleach, Axion
|Lemon juice and salt
||citric acid and sodium chloride
|Nail polish remover
||hydrofluoric acid, oxalic acid
|Photo supply acid fixer
* Limited testing on these products has shown them to be less effective
**These must be used at body temperature for enzyme action to occur,
Chlorine bleach and hot water inactivate enzymes.
***Do not use these products with chlorine or oxygen type bleaches.
Note: Some of these products may no longer be available; while new
products have also been developed.
Follow These Safety Precautions
While many stain removal, chemicals and bleaches are commonly used around
the home, they are still dangerous. Some are flammable; others are toxic.
Here are some rules to keep in mind regarding their use:
- Store stain removal materials out of the reach of children. Do not
store with food products.
- Read all label directions and warnings. Store chemicals in their
original containers so label directions are available in case of an
- Use all chemicals and commercial stain removal product according to
- Avoid getting the chemicals on your skin. Some are easily absorbed.
- Use drycleaning solvents and other chemicals in a well-ventilated
room. Toxic fumes can cause illness.
- Do not use solvents near an open flame or electrical outlet.
- Seal containers so that fumes can't escape.
- Never mix stain removal materials together (bleach and ammonia
together form toxic fumes).
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.
What to Do if You Don't Know What the Stain Is
If you don't know what the stain is, its odor, location, and color may
give you a clue. Old oil stains may smell rancid, but appear dry. Food
stains are often on the front of garments; perspiration stains around
collars and underarms; black grease is often on pants or skirts at car-door
Stain color may be a misleading clue. For example, rust-colored stains
may be coffee, tea, old lemonade stains (carmelized sugar), cosmetics
containing benzoil peroxide (which can bleach many colors to look rusty),
felt marker, crayon, aged baby formula, or a number of other things. If a
heavy waxy or gummy residue is present, you may be dealing with a stain that
will respond best to spot treatment with a drycleaning fluid.
Since the appropriate removal method varies with the stain, start by
using the least destructive stain removal methods first. If the whole
garment can be submerged, start by soaking the garment in cold water (as for
protein stains). If not, use warm water and spot treatment technique. Next,
use liquid detergent and lukewarm or hot water, rinse and let air dry (as
for oil stains). If you suspect the stain is iron rust, treat with rust
remover before bleach. If stain persists, use a pretreatment spray or
solvent (as for combination stain) and all-fabric bleach. If the all-fabric
bleach is ineffective on the stain and the garment is colorfast or white,
finally try a dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach.
Stains Needing Unique Treatment Methods
Chewing gum: Apply ice to harden gum. Crack or scrape off excess.
Spray with pretreatment aerosol product. Rub with heavy-duty liquid
detergent. Rinse with hot water. Repeat if necessary. Launder.
Deodorants: Apply liquid detergent,wash in warm water. Build-up of
aluminum or zinc salts may be impossible to remove.
Fingernail polish: Do not use nail polish remover (or acetone) on
acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic fabrics as they will dissolve. Take these
fabrics to professional drycleaners and identify the stain. For other
fabrics, use nail polish remover,acetone and spot treatment method.
Hog confinement odor: Wash clothes adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup household
ammonia to wash load with heavy-duty detergent. Do not mix ammonia and
bleach in same wash load. Toxic fumes are produced. Ammonia can be used on
colored fabrics, but occasionally its use will change the garment's color.
Iodine: Iodine is quickly removed with sodium thiosulfate, which
is sold in photo supply stores as "acid fixer." If the photo supply fixer
solution contains other chemicals in addition to sodium thiosulfate, it
should not be used. Iodine may also be removed by some commercial stain
Lead pencil: Use art gum eraser to lift off excess; avoid hard
rubbing. For delicate fabrics use spot treatment methods. For most durable,
washable fabrics, spray with pretreatment aerosol product. Rub in heavy-duty
liquid detergent. Rinse in warm water. Launder.
Mildew: Mildew is a growing organism that must have warmth,
darkness, and moisture to survive. Mildew eats cellulosic fibers, causing
permanent damage and weakening of fibers and fabrics. To remove mildew:
Shake or brush item outdoors. Pretreat darkest stains with heavy-duty liquid
detergent. Launder in hot water with a heavyduty detergent. Bleach as safe
Odor: Most odors are removed by laundering.For persistent odor
problems, place calcium carbonate crystals, activated charcoal, or soda in
an open container and store with clothes in closet or sprinkle soda directly
on fabric and let stand; then shake or vacuum.
Paint-latex: Treat while wet. Soak in cold water; wash in cool
water with heavy-duty detergent. After paint has dried 6 to 8 hours, removal
is very difficult. Treat as combination stain. Wash in hot water, Rinse.
Paint-oil-based: Treat while wet. Use thinner recommended for
paint. Use spot treatment technique and thinner on spots until paint is
softened and can be flushed away in heavy-duty detergent wash. Usually
turpentine or alcohol will work as solvents.
Perspiration: Apply liquid detergent or soak in warm water with
presoak product 15 to 30 minutes. Launder.
Pesticide: If full-strength liquid concentrate spills on clothes,
handle only with rubber gloves. Discard clothing immediately. Laundering
does not remove concentrate to a safe level for reuse of clothing. Launder
other pesticide- contaminated clothing separate from general family laundry.
If visible staining from diluted spray of pesticide residues remains after
laundering, rewash using hot water, heavy-duty detergent, and a full water
level. Then line dry.
Rust: Rust stains cannot be removed in normal laundering. Use of
chlorine bleach makes them permanent. Rust removers such as RoVer or Whink
are effective and safe for most fabrics, but rust removers that contain
hydrofluoric acid are extremely toxic, can burn the skin, and can damage the
finish on appliances. A solution oxalic acid crystals in water will also
remove rust stains,-but it is often difficult to obtain the crystals.
Lemon juice and salt are more readily available and are helpful
sometimes, Sprinkle the salt on the stain, squeeze lemon juice on it and
spread the garment in the sun to dry. A word of caution: Lemon juice can
bleach some colors and many washable garments are not manufactured to be
colorfast to sunlight.
Scorch: Excess heat on cellulosic (cotton, linen, ramie, rayon),
wool, or synthetic fibers can cause permanent damage. If fabric is thick and
fuzzy, brush to remove charring. Rub liquid detergent into scorched area.
Launder. If stain remains, bleach using,all-fabric bleach. Fabric will be
permanently weakened in scorched area. Synthetic blends that are melted or
glazed cannot be fully restored.
Smoke, soot: Shake off excess soot outdoors. Launder in washing
machine using heavy-duty phosphate-based detergent or heavy-duty liquid as
recommended by manufacturer, one cup of water conditioner, and 1/2 cup of
all-fabric bleach. Use water temperature appropriate for fabric. Air dry.
Inspect for smoke odor. Repeat as necessary. Three or four washes may be
needed for cottons and cotton blends.
Urine: Rinse in cold water and launder. For stains on mattresses:
(1) sponge with cloth using detergent solution, (2) rinse with cloth using
vinegar solution, (3) let air dry, and (4) if odor remains, sprinkle with
soda or calcium carbonate; wait 1 day, then vacuum.
Water Spots: Launder. For drycleanable draperies, consult a
professional cleaner. Water marks on drapes are water soluble and not
removable by drycleaning solvents.
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.
How to Identify and Prevent Some Common Staining Problems
Greasy-looking fabric softener splotches: Use of fabric softener
sheets in the dryer can deposit softener unevenly, causing greasy-looking
splotchy stains on silk-like polyester and blends of cotton/polyester
broadcloth. This problem is especially noticeable on medium-colored fabrics
such as khaki and medium blue. Avoid this problem and control static by
using a fabric softener that is added to the final rinse.
Odd colored or rusty looking stains on collars, sheets and pillow
cases, bedspreads, towels, or wash cloths: These stains are often caused
by the benzoil peroxide used in cosmetic products (including acne medicine).
This chemical acts as a bleach, is very insoluble and hard to rinse off the
body. It can permanently change colors of some dyes. The damage cannot be
remedied, So it should be prevented. When products containing this chemical
must be used, white collars and household textiles may be a good choice.
Stiff, coarse textures and/or dull colors in freshly laundered
fabrics: Nonphosphate granular detergents can combine with hard water to
leave behind a residue that can cause fabrics to become stiff and feel
harsh. Avoid the problem by using a phosphate-based detergent, a heavy-duty
liquid detergent or a nonprecipitating water conditioner with the
nonphosphate granular detergent. Soaking stiffened clothing in a solution of
white vinegar and water (1 cup vinegar per gallon of water) may help restore
them, however you should first test clothing for colorfastness to vinegar on
a hidden seam allowance. Another way to restore this clothing is to treat as
for yellow, gray, or general discoloration.
White powdery streaks on dark clothes: Powdery streaks on dark
clothes are probably caused by undissolved detergent being incompletely
rinsed out. Some nonphosphate detergents can deposit mineral hardness
residue that shows as streaks. Avoid this problem by changing detergents or
by adding detergent to the wash water first, then adding clothes and
starting washer. Usually a repeat rinse and spin cycle with clear water will
remove these streaks.
White streaks on blue jeans: White streaks on blue jeans are
probably not caused by un- dissolved detergent. Blue jeans are often dyed
with indigo dye, which is a fugitive dye that bleeds in a water solution. As
the washer spins, the edges where the fabric is folded get more abrasion and
rougher treatment, causing the color to escape. Turning jeans wrong side out
before laundering will reduce these white streaks and give more even fading.
To avoid the natural fading that accompanies use of indigo, look for
polyester/cotton jeans that are labeled colorfast. They will retain their
Yellowing, graying, or general discoloration: This condition
occurs when insufficient detergent issused for proper cleaning, wash water
temperature is too low (especially for oil stains), too much detergent is
used and insufficiently rinsed out, synthetics are washed with a light-duty
detergent in cold water, or color is transferred from other non-colorfast
items in the wash. To refurbish clothing with this discoloration, wash in a
permanent press cycle with hot wash water, a cool-down rinse, and a cup of
water conditioner instead of detergent. If discoloration persists, repeat
this procedure or wash again using the correct amount of detergent, an all-
fabric bleach, or diluted liquid chlorine bleach if safe for fabric.
The treatment of last resort for white items is treatment with a
commercial color remover (Rit or Tintex). This reducing bleach must be used
very carefully, as it will easily fade colors in any fabric it touches.
If the yellow color is on silk, wool, or spandex it may be a result of
fiber alteration due to improper use of chlorine bleach and is not
Additional Stain Removal References
Boschetti, M. Carpet Care, Cleaning and Stain Removal. Nebraska
Cooperative Extension Service EC 82-2057. Lincoln, Nebraska, 1982. Available
to Iowans from Publications Distribution Office, 112 Printing and:
Publications Bldg., Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011.
Diez, R., Feather, B., Johnson, S., and Sohn, M. Stain Removal for
Washable Fabrics. North Central Regional Extension Publication 64.
University of Wisconsin: Madison, Wisconsin, 1979.
How to Prevent Mildew, Home Methods. Home and Garden Bulletin No.
68. USDA: Washington, D.C., 1974.
Laundering Fact Sheet Notebook. Soap and Detergent Association:
475 Park Ave. South, New York, New York, 10016, 1983 or current edition.
Removing Stains from Fabrics. Home and Garden Bulletin No. 62.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service: Washington D.C., 1976.
Stain and Spot Removal Handbook. By Editors of Consumer Guide,
Beekman House: New York, 1981.
Stone, J. What to Do When Clothes Are Soiled With Pesticide Pm
1087. Iowa State University Extension Service: Ames, Iowa, 1983
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