How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (2023)

As much as we like to think a little soap and water will do the trick on removing common household stains, sometimes the hardest stains to remove call for a little patience and some much-needed elbow grease. Enter our handy stain-removal guide that promises to tackle even the most stubborn of messes (blood, sweat and tear-stains included).

For those moments where standard laundry detergent won't do, we rounded up our tried-and true tips for keeping your most cherished items as pristine as the were on the day you purchased them. Dealing with embarrassing, sweat-stained t-shirts? We have you covered. And because you're bound to eventually encounter a lap full of lo mein or an ill-timed ink stain, we included stain-removal tips that cover everyday mishaps. Since everybody's gotta spill, drip, or trip sometime, here's your first-things-first strategy for addressing common household stains on machine-washable clothes. Take the fancy stuff straight to the cleaners and read on for recommended cleaning treatments for the most common everyday stains.

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How to Remove Ink Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (1)

To stop the stain from spreading, create a "dam" around it with petroleum jelly. Then apply isopropyl alcohol with an eyedropper or a clean toothbrush. Dab with a cotton ball and mineral spirits to remove any residue. Let dry, and rinse with a dish-soap solution. (Vow not to let this deter you from using actual pens—you don't want to completely lose the ability to write the old-fashioned way!)

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How to Remove Food Grease Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (2)

Sprinkle cornmeal or talcum powder on the spot until it is absorbed. Brush off with a dry cloth.

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How to Remove Coffee or Tea Stains

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In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water. Spritz the stain, then blot with a damp cloth. Next, dab with diluted ammonia (1 tablespoon clear ammonia in 1 cup water)—a step probably best saved for once you're home from the office, to avoid drawing attention to the aroma. Blot with a clean, damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth.

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How to Remove Sweat Mark Stains

Treat perspiration marks with a prewash stain remover, then launder the clothes in the hottest water recommended for the fabric, using an enzyme detergent and an oxygen bleach.

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How to Remove Snow and Salt Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (5)

The calcium chloride in salty melted ice is alkaline and can leave behind a brownish stain. First neutralize with a vinegar solution (1 part white vinegar to 1 part water). Blot with a towel from the edge of the stain inward. Follow this with a solution of warm water and dish soap, then remove with a damp towel.

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How to Remove Ketchup or Tomato Sauce Stains

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Apply a combination solvent (as are most standard store-bought stain-fighters). Use an eyedropper and diluted vinegar to remove any remaining color. Finish by thoroughly flushing the spot with cool water in a regular wash cycle.

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How to Remove Mustard Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (7)

Saturate the stain with white vinegar, then apply a dish-soap solution.

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How to Remove Grass Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (8)

Treat with Shout and let sit for 15 minutes. Use a clean toothbrush to rub in the solution before washing as normal.

How to Remove Lipstick Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (9)

Apply an oil solvent, available at drugstores, and let dry, then remove as much residue as possible. Treat with a liquid detergent (like Woolite) and very little water. Rub to form suds, then rinse. Use an eyedropper and diluted vinegar to remove any remaining color. Rinse with cool water.

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How to Remove Berry or Juice Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (10)

Scrape up any solids, then apply a solution of warm water and dishwashing soap. Remove soap residue with a damp towel; blot. If the stain persists, blot on an ammonia solution with a warm, damp towel.

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How to Remove Chocolate Stains

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Scrape off the excess with a plastic knife or a spatula. Then apply a solution made of 1 tablespoon enzyme detergent and 2 cups water to the delicious offender and let sit for 20 minutes before rinsing thoroughly. Use a combination of water and a mild detergent to clean the residue.

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How to Remove Dirt Stains

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When the stain is dry, gently scrape off any excess loose particles with a plastic knife. Next, apply a solution of a little dish soap and warm water. Remove the soap residue with a damp towel; blot. Repeat until the dirt stain is gone.

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How to Remove Ice Cream Stains

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Flush with cool water. Apply a prewash stain-removal product (like Shout), then soak in a sink filled with cool water and a few drops of detergent.

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How to Remove Blood Stains

How to Remove the Most Stubborn Stains (14)

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First flush the area with cold water, then daub it with a paste made from an enzyme detergent (such as All brand laundry detergent) and let sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. Place diluted ammonia in an eye dropper and treat the area. Rinse and finish with a regular wash cycle.

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How to Remove Red Wine Stains

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Blot—don't rub—with a clean, damp cloth, then use a fresh cloth to apply white wine. (Who knew?) Blot again. Still there? Sprinkle on baking soda, let sit for 20 minutes, and remove with yet another cloth.

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How to Remove White Wine Stains

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Dab with water and a little clear dish soap. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth. Easy peasy.

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How to Remove Beer Stains

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Soak in 2 cups cool water and ¼ cup white vinegar. Sponge off the stain, then wash the item as normal.

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How to Remove Permanent Marker Stains

Apply Amodex Ink and Stain Remover ($11; to the area. Rub in with a clean, stiff-bristled toothbrush until the ink is almost gone.


How do you get rid of stains that won't come out? ›

Douse the stain with white vinegar, then apply a paste made of equal parts baking soda and vinegar. If this doesn't work, immerse the item overnight in a bucket of water containing a few tablespoons of detergent and vinegar. Rinse and wash the following morning.

How do you get super tough stains out? ›

SB TIP: For tough stains, pretreat the area with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide after or in place of the dish soap. Then wash as hot as the garment allows. If you still see the stain, repeat until you don't.

How do you get deep set stains out of clothes? ›

  1. Apply white vinegar to the area, let it soak in for a couple minutes.
  2. Pour salt onto the stained area, then work it in with your fingers.
  3. Put the garment in the sun and let it air dry.
  4. Wash as usual.
  5. Check to see if the stain's gone, repeat the steps if not.
Dec 1, 2019

Can some stains be permanent? ›

Unfortunately for everyone, some stains are permanent. They simply become part of the fabric. Continued attempts to remove them will cause dye loss or fabric damage, known as chafing or fraying.

Can permanent stains be removed? ›

Rubbing alcohol, hand sanitiser, hairspray, nail polish remover, or non-gel toothpaste can all be used to remove permanent marker from everyday fabric items like clothes, pillows, or bedsheets. So, before dumping your permanent marker-stained clothes in the bin, try wiping the stain with an alcohol-based hairspray.

Does hydrogen peroxide remove stains? ›

Hydrogen peroxide works differently than vinegar and is better at removing different types of stains. Hydrogen peroxide doesn't actually remove stains—it just makes them invisible! It breaks up strong chemical bonds in stains including ink, and in doing so it makes the stains colorless—but they're still there!

How does hydrogen peroxide remove tough stains? ›

Try this sure-fire remover: Mix a teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a little cream of tartar or a dab of non-gel toothpaste, rub the paste on the stain with a soft cloth, and rinse. The stain, whatever it was, should be gone.

Does vinegar get rid of tough stains? ›

Distilled white vinegar is actually one of the best stain removers we have been given from nature. Found in invariably every household, it is mildly acidic, so acetic vinegar removes the tough spots and blotches without ruining the fabric of your clothes.

What is the best stain remover for set in stains? ›

OxiClean has the best overall value for its ability to tackle tough, set-in stains on clothes and throughout other household areas. We think it's the best laundry stain cleaner on the market and can replace several products in the laundry room. OxiClean is also easy to use in most cases.

Can you remove old set in stains? ›

Rub the stain with a bar of soap, brush the product in gently, and rinse in cold water. This is a particularly good first option when you want to remove set in stains from delicate materials. Another simple way of getting rid of a set in stain is with a paste made from vinegar and baking soda.

Does OxiClean work on set stains? ›

Even if that stained shirt has been sitting at the bottom of the laundry bin forever, OxiClean™ Versatile Stain Remover can get out even old, set-in stains.

How do you remove stains that have been there for years? ›

For this method, you'll:
  1. Fill an empty water bottle with straight vinegar.
  2. Completely saturate the stained area.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the area.
  4. Gently rub the mixture in to the fabric, respraying vinegar as necessary.
  5. Allow to sit for up to 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the back of the stain with cool water for a few minutes.
Dec 10, 2019

What are all stains permanently set by? ›

Heat can set stains permanently. Once you toss the item into the dryer, the stain is set for good. If the stain remains after the first wash, pre-treat and wash again before drying to try and remove the stain.

How long is too long for a stain? ›

Wood Finish Shelf Life: Can Stains and Finishes Go Bad?
ProductShelf Life
Traditional Oil-Based Stain3 Years
Gel Stain3 Years
Oil-Based Stain + Poly5 Years
Water-Based Stain + Poly3 Years
4 more rows
Jan 3, 2021

Do stains eventually come out? ›

"The good news is that almost any stain will come out eventually," says Mr. Macpherson. As for stain-removal sprays and pre-treatments, these can be useful, but you will still have to rinse, check the stain and repeat if necessary.

How long should hydrogen peroxide sit on a stain? ›

To treat stains, pour or spray a small amount of hydrogen peroxide on the stain. Allow it to soak into the fabric for about 10 minutes before washing the garment as usual.

What is the best homemade stain remover? ›

  1. Mix 1-part Dawn dishwashing liquid and 2-parts hydrogen peroxide in a *dark spray bottle or bowl. ( ...
  2. Spray or pour Miracle Cleaner directly on the stain, launder as usual and watch it disappear like MAGIC.
Aug 20, 2014

Can you mix hydrogen peroxide and Dawn dish soap? ›

Add one part Dawn dish detergent (you can substitute an eco friendly, plant based dishwashing liquid if you wish) to two parts hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. I usually use ½ cup detergent and 1 cup hydrogen peroxide for my small spray bottles. Shake the bottle to mix well, and mix before each use.

Which is better hydrogen peroxide or vinegar? ›

Vinegar and peroxide work well in tandem because they both kill germs but in different ways. They make a good one-two punch because vinegar is good at killing some germs and hydrogen peroxide is better at killing others.

What should you not clean with hydrogen peroxide? ›

“Peroxide kills bacteria, fungi and viruses,” Dr. Beers explains. “It can come in handy if you don't have disinfecting wipes or bleach. Just be careful not to get it on your clothes or furniture, or it may bleach them.”

Does peroxide and Dawn remove stains? ›

Hydrogen peroxide and dishwashing liquid is one of the best stain removers around. Nurses have long known that this is the magic solution to getting rid of blood stains, and you can also use it on stains like mustard, ketchup, and even red wine. Scrub until the stain is gone, then launder as usual.

How long should vinegar sit to remove stains? ›

To remove stains with vinegar via pre-treating, you can dilute the vinegar with water (vinegar 1:3 Water) or soak in undiluted vinegar and allow garments to soak between 15-30 mins or even overnight depending on the stubbornness of the stain.

Does dawn and vinegar remove stains? ›

Mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1 tbsp. of dish soap, and water in a spray bottle. Spray the area liberally and let soak for 5-10 minutes and then blot again with a clean, dry towel until stain is removed.

Can you leave vinegar on a stain overnight? ›

If the stain is old and the odor is strong, mix a solution of cool water and add two cups white distilled vinegar. Completely submerge the fabric and allow it to soak overnight,” she says.

Can some stains be impossible to remove? ›

The short answer is unfortunately no, not all stains can be removed, and here are three reasons why. The longer a stain is left untreated, the less likely it is to be removed.

What causes permanent stains? ›


Certain types of fibers, such as wool, cotton, silk, and some nylons are particularly susceptible to permanent staining from coffee, tea, wine, etc. Be aware of hot liquids, especially. Of course, bleach and household chemicals (see below) can cause permanent staining as well.

What is the best stain remover for old stains? ›

Stain Removers
  • OxiClean MaxForce Spray. Price. Sold by. ...
  • OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover Spray. Price. ...
  • Shout Triple-Acting Spray. Price. ...
  • Spray 'n Wash Laundry Stain Remover Spray. Price. ...
  • Spray 'n Wash Max Spray. Price. ...
  • Shout Advanced Action Gel Liquid. Price. ...
  • Tide Plus Ultra Stain Release. Price. ...
  • Persil ProClean Stain Fighter. Price.
Nov 27, 2019


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