Stain removal doesn’t have to be difficult. It sometimes feels like it is, when you’re busy worrying if that mustard will come out of your favourite blouse, or if that oil mark has set in forever. Here are some quick tips to make things easier on you.
Testing for colourfastness
Before attempting to remove a stain, test the fabric to see whether it is colourfast.
- Choose an inside seam or hem where the fabric is of double thickness and out of sight.
- Apply the stain remover or pretreat product to the fabric, then hold it between two clean white cloths.
- Squeeze the fabric gently between them. If colour transfers to either cloth, the fabric is not colourfast.
If the stain persists after you’ve used the the pre-treat product, try a different product or take the garment to a professional cleaner.
Using cleaning solvents safely
Cleaning solvents, such as acetone and denatured alcohol, and certain stain removers and household cleaners are flammable, so handle them carefully. Garments so treated should not be placed in the washer or dryer until all traces of solvent, including the smell, have been removed.
- When using a solvent, place the item on an absorbent surface and work from the inside out.
- Dab — don’t rub — the stain with a solvent-soaked cloth.
- When the stain is no longer visible, sponge with water to rinse, then let the garment dry overnight.
- Never mix solvents or stain removers, especially ammonia and chlorine bleach. Mixing the two can result in noxious fumes.
- If you do not plan to launder a garment immediately after treating it, be aware that some solvents are strong enough to absorb colour and even dissolve fabric if left on for more than a very short time.
- If the solvent makes a stain spread, rinse it out quickly and try another method.
Today’s off-the-shelf pretreat products work well on most stains. If you need to use a stronger stain removal treatment, the right application will make all the difference in getting rid of the stain.
- Make sure not to sponge the stain farther into the fabric or spread it out farther than it has already gone.
- When swabbing a stain, avoid using too much remover, which can muddy the stain or create “chemical” rings.
- Work at a stain from the back side of the fabric and gently pat it from the centre towards the outside.
- Use a soft toothbrush to work in cleaning solvent on heavier fabrics.
Stopping a spreading stain
Most stains occur on the outside of a garment, and that’s as far as they should get. Here’s how to avoid letting the stain seep farther into the fabric.
- Take the garment off as soon as possible and turn it inside out.
- Lay it on an absorbent surface, such as an old white towel.
- Spray or gently sponge water on the stain from the inside. This will encourage the stain to exit on the same surface it entered, rather than doing any further damage.
If taking off the garment is not possible, keep sponging and blotting the surface area until the stain looks like it is gone.
- Air-dry to check a stain’s removal. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the stain is gone.
- To make sure a stain has been removed, let the item air-dry for a few hours and then re-examine the spot.
- Don’t put the treated garment in the dryer before you have checked to see if the stain is gone. The heat of the dryer will set a stain if it is not thoroughly removed.
Staining a favourite outfit doesn’t mean it’s ruined. Act fast and follow these tips to help clean the stain as soon as possible.