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07 Oct

6 Nifty Tricks for Removing Stains from Clothes

We have all experienced the dreaded slow-motion moment of spilling something onto our favourite shirt or dress, then panicking about how to get the stain out and wondering if we have just ruined it forever. While it may seem hopeless as you watch the wine quickly spreading or the oil specks setting in – it’s not, and you don’t even need harsh chemicals to get the clothes looking good as new!

Before doing something drastic like bleaching or binning, familiarise yourself with these natural stain removal tips that are better for your body and the planet.

What you will need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon or eucalyptus essential oil
  • Cornflour/arrowroot powder
  • Water
  • Clean cloth
  • Old toothbrush

1. The most important thing to remember is to act quickly! The longer a stain has to set, the harder it will be to remove, so take action straight away. If you don’t have time to thoroughly treat it the minute it happens, rinse and then soak the item of clothing in cold salty water until you can get to it.

2. Make sure to remove the stain as much as possible before putting the clothing through the wash. In most cases, begin by carefully blotting the stain from the outside in with a clean cloth – never rub as this will just push the stain further in.

Different types of stains require different treatment.

  • Protein stains (human and animal fluids) should never be exposed to hot water or acids like vinegar or lemon as this will set the stain. Thoroughly rinsing then soaking protein stains (like blood) in cold water with a bit of sea salt will usually do the trick.
  • For oil stains, do not blot. Instead, sprinkle the stain with cornflour/arrowroot powder and sea salt to draw out excess liquid, then scrub it off with an old toothbrush. If the stain is stubborn, pour boiling water over it and soak it with some vinegar or baking soda then put through the wash as normal.
  • Thinner liquid stains (like wine) should be blotted with a clean cloth then rinsed and soaked in water and vinegar.

Different materials like denim, leather, and wool also need special care.

3. Vinegar and baking soda are your best friends when it comes to stains. Most stains can be lifted by making a paste with vinegar and baking soda, rubbing it on the stain, and letting it sit for about half an hour. This works great for yellow underarm stains and old stains, as well as most food and drink stains. Vinegar is also great for brightening your whites – simply add a cupful to your next wash cycle.

4. 100% pure lemon and eucalyptus essential oils are fantastic alternatives to stain removers. Simply apply them directly to the stain then wash immediately, or alternatively, make your own stain remover spray by mixing 10 drops of essential oil with either water or vinegar in a glass spray bottle (they will break down a plastic bottle). You can also add a capful of eucalyptus oil to your wash cycle to cut through grease stains and make your clothes smell great!

5. Finally, a note on sunshine. If all else fails, or just to seal the deal, putting your freshly treated and washed clothes out in the sun to dry can really help to kick any residue to the curb. While this is a sure thing for white and light fabric, use caution for darker colours as the sun may fade them over time.

Editor's note

References: Savory Lotus, 1 Million Women. Feature image via Unsplash.

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