Stain Removal Guide

The Basics

Click to download Mrs. Stewart's Home Washing Guide

  • Treat spots and stains as soon as possible and thoroughly before putting into the dryer (drying may make the stain more difficult to remove).
  • Check and understand the garment care label using our Care Label Guide before attempting stain removal or using any stain removal products or remedies.
  • Begin by lifting or gently scraping off any excess material from the fabric using a dull table knife – being careful not to damage the fabric. Use a cloth or towel to gently lift and soak up any liquid.
  • DO NOT RUB! Rubbing can spread the stain and cause it to penetrate deeper into the fabric.For immediate treatment of common spots and stains, follow these guidelines: For grease, oil and fruit stains, use hottest water safe for fabric. For protein stains (blood, tomato sauce, egg, human fluids), use cold water. In any case, soak for 30 minutes, if possible. Otherwise, thoroughly sponge spot until outline disappears.
  • Identify the agent or substance which caused the stain. For most common stains, use a pre-wash stain removal product. For fruit stains, pour excessive amounts of hot water through the stain. For vegetable, animal and human fluid stains – use an enzyme presoak product. For oil, grease, and some glues – sponge with cleaning fluid, rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. For specific stains, follow instructions provided in Mrs. Stewart’s® Stain Removal Guide below. For stains caused by laundry products, call the manufacturer even before consulting a professional dry cleaner and especially before trying to remove the product stains with other products.
  • If, after laundering, the stain is not removed, proceed with a new removal procedure before heat drying.

Find Your Stain

Below is a list of substances that can stick to or stain your clothing.
They are in alphabetical order. Scroll down to find the substance you need to remove and click on it view the remedy provided. If you have stain removal secrets you would like to share or the substance you are attempting to remove is not in this list, please contact us.

Acne Medication

Must be cleaned professionally. Do not use water as this may make the stain more permanent.

Adhesive Tape

Remove excess matter with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Sponge with cleaning fluid, blotting with clean, paper towels until removed. Let air dry, then brush away remaining adhesive residue. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Alcoholic Beverages

Sponge with or soak in cold water. For beer, rinse with equal parts of vinegar and water. For wine, gently rub salt into stain or blot with club soda and then rinse with equal parts of vinegar and water. In addition, red wine can often be treated with white wine to remove the red coloring and then salt or club soda to remove any remaining stain. press detergent into stain while still wet. Launder using bleach safe for fabric. Older stains may respond to an enzyme presoak product.

Baby Formula

For fresh stains on white fabric, moisten cloth with water, dip in baking soda and blot the stained area. If stain persists, rub detergent into stain or use an enzyme presoak product. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric (and baby) in hottest water safe for fabric.

Battery Acid

Begin by neutralizing acid with baking soda. Sponge with equal parts of ammonia and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Blood

For fresh stain, soak in cold water (soak for extended period of time for dried stain). Use enzyme presoak product, following label directions. If stain persists, apply equal parts of ammonia and water (for colorfast fabrics), or hydrogen peroxide and water (for non-colorfast fabrics). Rinse thoroughly. If stain still persists, soak in equal parts of vinegar and water. Rinse. Launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Bluing

If accidentally spilled full strength or if too much bluing was used, soak fabric overnight in a solution of 1/2 C. ammonia to 1 qt. of cold water in a tightly covered container. Do not use bleach. if bluing removal was previously attempted with bleach, soak 2-3 days in a solution of 1 C. ammonia to 1 qt. of cold water in a tightly covered container. Be careful not to mix bleach and ammonia as toxic fumes will result. After stain is removed, rinse thoroughly, then launder. Complete instructions at “How To Remove Excess Bluing

Chalk

Remove chalk dust by shaking or using sticky tape. Apply pre-wash stain remover. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. if stain persists, apply an oxygen bleach paste and re-launder. Or, try rinsing with equal parts of vinegar and water. Rinse, then re-launder.

Charcoal

Press with detergent and a few drops of household ammonia (for colorfast fabric) or with detergent only (for non-colorfast fabric). Rinse, then launder.

Chewing Gum

Harden gum using an ice cube. Scrape gummy matter from fabric with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Sponge with cleaning fluid. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Chocolate/Cocoa

Soak in cold water. Press detergent into stain while wet. Use pre-wash stain remover and launder in hottest water safe for fabric. To remove remaining grease stain, sponge with cleaning fluid, let air dry. Rinse thoroughly. If stain persists, sponge with hydrogen peroxide. rinse thoroughly. Launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Coffee & Tea

Sponge stain immediately and, if possible, soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Rub detergent into stain while wet. If safe for fabric, stretch cloth over bowl and pour boiling water through stain. To remove remaining grease stain (from cream), sponge with cleaning fluid. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly. If stain persists, sponge with hydrogen peroxide. Rinse thoroughly. Launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Cosmetics

Sponge with dry cleaning fluid. Rub with detergent. Rinse thoroughly. Launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Crayon

Harden using an ice cube. Scrape off excess wax with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. For hardy fabrics, stretch over bowl and pour boiling water through fabric from height. For more delicate fabrics, place between several layers of facial tissue or paper towels and press with warm iron (no steam). To remove remaining stain, sponge with cleaning fluid or, if stain persists, with diluted household chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric) or an oxygen bleach paste (if safe for fabric). Instead of bleach, try vinegar or lemon juice for a natural remedy. Rinse thoroughly, then launder. Or, wash in hot water using laundry detergent and 1 C. baking soda.

Dairy Products

Scrape off excess with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Sponge or soak in cold water using agitation if possible. Rub detergent into stain and launder. To treat remaining grease spots, sponge with dry cleaning fluid. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Deodorant/ Antiperspirants

Rub detergent into dampened stain. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. Antiperspirants that contain such substances as aluminum chloride are acidic and may change the color of some dyes. Color may or may not be restored by sponging with ammonia (for colorfast fabric). If ammonia treatment is required, dilute with an equal amount of water for use on wool, mohair, or silk. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Dye (from non- colorfast fabric)

Bleach immediately using bleach safe for fabric, repeating process as often as necessary. Or use a commercial color remover (if bleach is unsuccessful or if bleach is not safe for fabric).

Egg or Meat

If dried, scrape excess matter from fabric with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Sponge with cold water. Rub detergent into dampened stain and launder using bleach safe for fabric. On wool and resin treated cottons, sponge with cold water, then with dry cleaning fluid. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Fabric Softener

Dampen stain and rub with bar soap. Rinse thoroughly, then launder in hottest water safe for fabric

Food Coloring

Rinse thoroughly with cool water. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Fruit / Fruit Juice

Rub dampened stain with detergent. If safe for fabric, stretch over a bowl, then pour boiling water through stain from 12-18″ height. If stain persists, make oxygen bleach paste and press into stain. Add a few drops of household ammonia (for colorfast fabrics). Wait 15-30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Apply enzyme presoak product, then launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Furniture Polish

Lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry, then brush away remaining polish residue. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using hottest water safe for fabric.

Gasoline

Lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly. If stain persists, rub detergent into stain. Launder using hottest water safe for fabric.

Glue

For all types, begin by soaking in warm water. For animal based glue, pre-treat with an enzyme presoak product (if fabric is washable) or pre-treat with pre-wash stain remover (if non-washable). For paste or white glue, remove excess matter with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Rub detergent into stain. Wait 5 minutes. Launder with hottest water safe for fabric. For synthetic glue, attempt to remove the stain and remaining gummy matter with pure acetone (unless the fabric is acetate or triacetate based). Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Grass

After using an enzyme presoak product or a stick style pre-wash stain remover and rub detergent into stain. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. On wool, sponge stain with full strength rubbing alcohol. For acetate and non-colorfast fabrics, use 1 part alcohol to 2 parts water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Grease / Oil

Pretreat with a degreasing hand cleaner, an absorbent (chalk or corn meal product), or rub with detergent to bring oil to the surface of the fabric. Pre-wash aerosol detergent booster products work well on grease and oil. Rinse in hottest water safe for fabric. If stain persists, lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Hair Spray

Rinse thoroughly with cool water. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Ink

For ball-point pen ink, sponge stain with rubbing alcohol (hair spray may work in a pinch – but may leave a gummy residue to be dealt with). Or, apply glycerin. Rinse thoroughly, rub with detergent, then launder. For drawing ink stain, rub absorbents into stain. Apply hydrogen peroxide full strength if stain is unaffected, then steam over teakettle. Rinse thoroughly, then launder. Or, soak in ammonia solution (4 Tablespoons ammonia to 1 qt. of water) for extended period. For felt tip pen ink stains, rub household cleaner into stain. Rinse thoroughly, launder.

Ketchup

Remove excess with a dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Pretreat with detergent and/or enzyme presoak product. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Lipstick / Rouge

Lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry. Or, use a pre-wash stain remover. Rinse thoroughly. Rub detergent into stain until outline is removed. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Mayonnaise

Lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder. If stain persists, rub with detergent. Launder. If stain still persists, treat with meat tenderizer (test for colorfastness first) and launder.

Mildew

First, use a disinfectant to kill the mildew. Then, remove excess with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. Pretreat with detergent and launder using bleach safe for fabric. If stain persists, sponge with hydrogen peroxide and launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Mud

Let dry. Remove excess with dull table knife or with a household brush, being careful not to damage fabric. Sponge with cold water. Launder in hottest water safe for fabric. If stain remains, sponge with rubbing alcohol. If acetate or non-colorfast fabric, dilute alcohol using 1 part alcohol to 2 parts water.

Mustard

Work glycerin into stain. Scrub, being careful not to damage fabric. Pretreat with detergent, then launder using bleach safe for fabric. If stain persists, sponge with rubbing alcohol, then launder. It has been suggested that drying in sunlight may help fade mustard stains.

Nail Polish

Do not use acetone nail polish remover on colored fabrics. Sponge with chemically pure amyl acetate. Launder. If stain persists, sponge with rubbing alcohol to which a few drops of ammonia has been added.

Paint / Varnish

If possible, treat stains quickly before paint dries. If stain or paint can has stain removal instructions, follow them. Otherwise: For wet latex paint stains, rub with detergent, then launder, using extra water. Dry latex paint stains are impossible to remove, although sand paper has been suggested, as has methanol (found in hardware stores). For wet or dry oil paint stains, sponge with mineral spirits, blot with clean, white paper towels. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Pencil Lead Marks

First, try a clean eraser. Then, sponge with equal parts of ammonia and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Perfume

Sponge with equal parts of alcohol and water. Rinse thoroughly. If stain persists, sponge with equal parts of vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Perspiration

Sponge with equal parts of ammonia and water and then equal parts of vinegar and water. Rub with detergent, then launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. If color is affected by perspiration, sponge fresh stain with ammonia, old stain with vinegar. Wash in hot suds. Soak in diluted chlorine bleach (if safe for fabric) or rub with oxygen bleach paste (if safe for fabric). Or, dip in a sodium hydrosulphite solution (1 tsp. crystals to 1 C. water). Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Ring Around the Collar

Apply liquid detergent or a paste of granular detergent and water. Wait for 30 minutes. An enzyme presoak product especially designed for this purpose may be used, follow manufacturer’s directions. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Rust

Launder in hottest water safe for fabric using detergent and rust removal product (such as Rover Rust Remove by Maytag). If a rust removal product is unavailable, use a solution of 1 Tablespoon oxalic acid crystals in 1 C. of warm water. Sponge this solution into the stain. Rinse thoroughly as oxalic acid is poisonous, then launder. A natural remedy is to rub the stain with salt and lemon juice, dry in the sun, then launder.

Sap (Wood Resin)

Sponge stain with dry cleaning fluid, turpentine or pre-wash stain remover. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly. Rub with detergent paste and launder as usual. If stain persists, apply a few drops of household ammonia. Air dry. Rinse thoroughly. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Scorch

Severe scorching cannot be removed, as fabric may have been permanently damaged. For light scorching, launder in hottest water safe for fabric using bleach safe for fabric. For heavier scorching or for non-bleachable fabric, cover stains with cloth dampened with hydrogen peroxide. Cover with a dry cloth and press with hottest iron safe for fabric. Rinse thoroughly. Rub detergent into stained area wile still wet. Launder. Repeat if necessary. Another suggested method is to rub scorch lightly with fine sand paper, then sponge with equal parts of vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Shoe Polish

Scrape off excess with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. rub detergent into dampened stain. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. If stain persists, sponge with full strength rubbing alcohol (for colorfast fabrics) or a solution of 1 part alcohol to 2 parts water (for non-colorfast fabrics). Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Smoke / Soot

Shake off excess soot outdoors. Or, for small spots, take up excess ashing with sticky tape. Use pre-wash stain remover. Launder using heavy duty detergent and bleach safe for fabric. To remove odor, use baking soda.

Soft Drinks

Sponge stain immediately with cold water. Apply pre-wash stain remover and glycerin. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. Some soft drink stains are invisible after they dry, but turn yellow after aging or heating. This yellow stain may be impossible to remove.

Syrup

Soak in warmest water safe for fabric. Or, if safe for fabric, stretch over bowl and pour boiling water through fabric from 12-18″ height. If stain persists, use pre-wash stain remover. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric.

Tar & Asphalt

Act quickly before stain is dry. Tar removal products are available at auto supply stores (test first). Or, pour cleaning fluid or turpentine through stain. Repeat. For oily or greasy stain remains, sponge with dry cleaning fluid. Rinse thoroughly, rub with detergent, then launder. This stain is often impossible to remove.

Urine

Treat with equal parts of vinegar and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder. Or, treat with equal parts of ammonia and water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Vegetables

For green vegetables, use an enzyme presoak, then rub with detergent. Launder using bleach safe for fabric in hottest water safe for fabric. On wool, sponge stain with full strength rubbing alcohol. For acetate and non-colorfast fabrics, use 1 part alcohol to 2 parts water. Rinse thoroughly, then launder.

Vegetable Cooking Oil

Treat light stains with pre-wash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. For heavy stains, lay flat face down on top of several clean paper towels. Sponge with dry cleaning fluid from back side. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder in hottest water safe for fabric. Before drying, check stain. Repeat process if necessary.

Wax

Harden using an ice cube. Scrape off excess with dull table knife, being careful not to damage fabric. For washable fabric, stretch over bowl and pour boiling water through stain from 12″-18″ height. For non-washable fabric, place between several layers of facial tissue or paper towels and press with warm iron. To remove remaining stain, sponge with cleaning fluid. Let air dry. Rinse thoroughly, then launder. Or, if stain persists, sponge with diluted household bleach (if safe for fabric) or an oxygen bleach paste (if chlorine bleach is unsafe for fabric). Rinse thoroughly, then launder.