Thursday, August 21, 2008

Removing Stains

Picture from HousetoHome

It's so easy to ruin garments, carpets and sofas by approaching stains the wrong way (I know because I've often grabbed the nearest cloth, dunked it in water and vigorously rubbed a stain until it was there to stay). I partly blame advertisements for stain removal products that lead us to believe there is one solution to all stains. But realistically each stain needs to be carefully considered based not only on the spill, but also the material on which the spill is.

A stain is a chemical reaction between the staining agent and the fibers and finishes of a fabric. Because many different chemical reactions can be involved, depending on the staining agents and the fabric involved, no one method can remove all stains.
From the article Scientific Stain Removal
by Edward Willet

Not all of us are scientists armed with the knowledge about chemicals, colourants an acidity, so we don't necessarily know the chemistry behind stain removal. But that doesn't mean we need to buy the most powerful stain removal product from the supermarket, use and hope for the best. There are a few tips to follow for stain removal, and then it's best to follow a chart to help you use the correct products to successfully remove a stain. A brilliant stain removal chart that you can print off is available from the Martha Stewart website here. Print it off and keep it near your washing machine. But before you use this, here are the rules of stain removal - learn them well and stop yourself next time before you reach for that kitchen rag.
  • First off, check the care label on a garment. If it says Dry-clean only, then do just that.

  • Start off with mild natural products, and then only if they don't work should you move onto stronger products. For example, use vinegar (a mild bleach) before moving on to household bleach.

  • Dab the stain rather than rubbing.

  • Do not use a regular bar of soap to wash a stain, if you do not have detergent at hand use dish washing liquid... but try to ignore that bar of ordinary soap in the bathroom.
  • Never rinse or wash a stained garment in hot water as this often sets the stains. Instead rinse with cold water. Blood and mud stains for instance will respond much better in cold water.
  • For non oily stains, try rinsing out the stain with cold water from the back of the fabric under a tap to try and push the stain out of the fabric.

  • If possible place the fabric with the stain down onto an absorbent fabric or some kitchen towel, then apply the stain removal method from the back of the fabric, that way you will avoid rubbing the spill deeper into the fibres.

  • Prevent the stain from spreading by working from the outside of the stain inwards.

  • Often you will need to scrape some of the spill off the fabric before treating what's left. Use the end of a piece of cardboard gently, and try not to push down on the fabric

  • For mud on carpets (ugh, this one really gets me!), wait until it almost dries off and use the vacuum hose to pull the mud off the carpet - do not use a brush attachment or the mud will rub deeper into the fibres. Then treat the stains left behind accordingly.

  • Vinegar is great for treating lots of stains (but not all, so check first!), but keep a spray bottle filled with white one part vinegar to two parts water near your washing machine. You can use it to treat sweat stains, grass stains and tea and coffee spills before items go in the washing machine.

  • For those oil stains that have a habit of ruining our favourite sweaters in the kitchen, try blotting some cornflour on the spill. Hold an absorbent sheet of paper towel on the underside of the garment where the stain is then brush the cornflour off with a soft brush or cloth.

Here are some great articles to read about stain removal:

Eco friendly Stain Removal

Uses for Vinegar: Doing Laundry

All Natural Stain Removal Guide

I've got a few posts lined up for the next few weeks, Ill be writing about drying laundry correctly, cleaning stairs and sorting out household paperwork. If you have anything specific regarding house keeping that you would like me to write about please leave me a comment or email me at and I will do my best to post about it ASAP.

Hope to see you back again soon!


Steph @ Handmade Heaven Glassy Goodies said...

Super-informative and useful, as ever :)

Ivy said...

Very, very, very, useful.
You're blog just mught be my favorite. :)

Judy said...

Wow if you could teach me how to keep my household paper at a lower stack I would really appreciate it. It just seems to keep stacking up and I try really hard to keep in organized but I'm not doing well. Thanks for stopping bye today, I enjoyed your visit.

Debbies-English-Treasures said...

So many wonderful and useful tips!
Some of them are really simple, but, I never thought of doing them...
My housewife skills are getting better and better everytime you do a new post!


We are ALL benefiting with it!

With LOVE From "THE MOSSES" family!

Lesley said...

this is getting strange (these coincidences between us!)
as I have two stains to deal with at the moment :- chocolate stains in new white cotton pj's of my daughters and blood from her tooth coming out all over her nightdress :-( wish me luck!!!!!!!!!! looking forward to the future posts ! Lesley x

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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