Removing Stains from Washable fabrics: General Procedures

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem.

  3. Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.

  4. Decide if the fabric is washable or drycleanable. If drycleanable, take to the cleaners as soon as possible (within 24 to 48 hours).

  5. Do not try to treat suede, leather, or fur. Professional cleaners are needed for these items, and even some professionals do not offer this service.

  6. Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains such as milk, egg, or blood.

  7. 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.

  8. Avoid excessive rubbing unless fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color.

  9. Do not iron or press stained fabrics. Heat will set most stains.

  10. Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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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You should consider washing your clothes if they are dirty.  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

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Chemical Solvents and Supplies

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Classification of Stains

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Stains Needing Unique Treatment Methods

Common Remedies to Avoid

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Additional Stain Removal References

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