|What to Do if
You Don't Know What the Stain Is
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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 latch levels.
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.
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,
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What to Do if You Don't Know