Cleaning and Maintenance

The 15 Worst Types of Stains and How to Clean Them

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Stains can appear on your clothing no matter how clumsy or messy you are. There’s nothing more frustrating than noticing that your freshly washed shirt has been stained after enjoying a delicious meal. It’s even more embarrassing when you realize later that your clothing was stained and can’t even remember how the stain occurred. There’s typically a straightforward method involved when it comes to cleaning common stains. However, some types of stains can be more challenging to deal with compared to others.

Preventing stains can be considered a good solution to keep your clothes clean but you should still be prepared to clean the mess once it happens. This article is focused on applying the best strategies against particular types of stains that are usually very stubborn to remove. It’s time to reclaim the look of your favorite outfits and avoid the frustration created by a difficult stain. Check out the worst types of stains and optimized methods to clean them in record time.

1. Ink

Ink Stain On Clothing

The colored pigment of ink is mixed with a powerful solvent that makes this type of stain very persistent. An ink stain will quickly oxidize and become firmly embedded in the fabric of your clothing unless you tend to it as fast as possible. Fresh ink stains are easily eliminated with the help of rubbing alcohol that destroys the pigment. Cold water is used for rinsing while the process might require some considerable effort to restore the original look.

Keep in mind that you will have a tough time dealing with a dried ink stain. It’s recommended to pretreat it with a strong laundry detergent before throwing the item in the washing machine. If you don’t have access to a washer or detergent, ink stains can be tackled with a mixture of fresh milk and vinegar. However, this DIY method doesn’t work for all types of ink.

2. Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter Stain on Clothing

Peanut butter can make a wonderful snack together with jelly but it’s not very appealing when staining your clothes. How do you deal with that unsightly brown smear? The first step is removing the solid goo carefully to avoid spreading the stain any further. Minor peanut butter stains can be removed by applying a reliable cleaning agent quickly. A good example is dishwashing liquid that should be able to dissolve the fat in the stain.

Rinse the stained area gently with the help of hot water and then throw the item in the washer. Peanut butter stains that have already set in the fabric are more challenging to remove. We recommend a dry cleaning solvent or a more heavy-duty stain remover. Be careful when using stronger chemicals to ensure they won’t damage the fabric.

3. Red Wine

Red Wine Stain on Clothing

This is a notorious stain because it’s known to require considerable effort to remove. Before you start to panic, it’s worth mentioning that red wine stains can be dealt with quite effectively. Assuming the stained item doesn’t make use of a delicate fabric, you should be able to get rid of the stain with a powerful cleaning agent. Always check the label of the clothing to reduce the risk of fabric damage.

Similar to other types of challenging stains, it’s best to start working on a red wine stain immediately after it happened. Use paper towels or a sponge to dab the stained area and extract as much red moisture as possible. It will help your cleaner solution work more effectively on the stained area. Consider getting a liquid stain remover for the job, preferably a product containing bleach. Conventional stain removers are also suitable but the process would need to be repeated.

4. Blood

Blood Stain on Clothing

Blood is among the worst types of stains that you may have the misfortune to deal with. The reason for this is that it’s a potent oxidizing stain that bonds very strongly to the inner parts of the fabric. An important aspect to note about this stain is that blood enzymes penetrate the fabric more efficiently at high temperatures. That means you need cold water to tackle bloodstained items.

Give a good soak in cold water to any clothing item freshly stained by blood. The faster you act, the better. Next, you need to clean the stained area properly with the help of detergent or dishwashing liquid. Scrub gently the fabric and always rinse with cold water. Finish off the cleaning job by throwing the stained item in the washing machine. Dried stains should be soaked in cold water, oxygen bleach, and laundry detergent for a longer time.

5. Coffee

Coffee Stain on Clothing

Coffee contains an impressive list of ingredients that contribute to the removal difficulty when staining your clothes. The caffeine, oils, and brown pigments make a potent combination against fabric. It’s recommended to act quickly after the splotch to prevent the oxidizing components from setting in. High temperatures need to be taken into account because hot coffee stains are typically more stubborn.

Ideally, you should spot treat a coffee stain with detergent but any kind of soap available will do. Baking soda is also recommended when you lack other options. Rub the stain gently to allow the dish soap or detergent to penetrate. If you’re dealing with a dried coffee stain, pretreatment is necessary. Let the stained item soak in cold water and detergent for approximately half an hour.

6. Grease

Grease Stain on Clothing

Whether it’s cooking grease or butter, this is a fairly tough stain to clean. Similar to peanut butter stains, it’s recommended to use a detergent optimized for breaking down fats. Dish soap can work pretty well against a grease stain. Use a spot cleaning technique that involves rubbing the detergent in the stained area and rinsing properly. Try scrubbing the stain with a gentle brush for added efficiency. Remove grease stains completely by using an enzymatic stain remover that’s allowed to sit for some time.

7. Lipstick

Lipstick Stain on Clothing

Lipstick stains on clothing can appear impossible to remove but don’t get discouraged. There’s a time-tested process to get rid of this type of challenging makeup stain. Before you start working on the fabric, make sure the top layer of lipstick is eliminated. Any solid residue left behind can be accidentally spread out to other areas and expand the stain.

Apply a grease-fighting product for lipstick stains. Regular dishwashing soap can work wonders against these stains. Place the face of the stained area on a paper towel and work the cleaner through the back of the fabric to dissolve the lipstick. After you finish this process, it’s time to work on the main area of the stain with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse and wash normally to get rid of all traces of lipstick in the fabric.

8. Tomato Sauce

Tomato Sauce Stain on Clothing

A big stain of tomato sauce can easily ruin your pasta dinner. This is a type of oxidizing stain that becomes harder to clean if you neglect it. Reach for any detergent of dish soap you have available to treat a tomato stain immediately after the splotch. Similar to other oxidizing stains, it’s recommended to use cold water for rinsing. Try to eliminate excess sauce before applying a drop of your detergent solution.

Fresh stains are relatively easy to deal with compared to older ones. If the tomato sauce stain has set in the fabric, your best bet is to give the clothing item a thorough soak in laundry detergent before normal machine washing. Let the detergent do its job to ensure the swift removal of the stain.

9. Chocolate

Chocolate Stain on Clothing

Having a chocolate stain could seem alarming but it can be removed effectively if you use the correct cleaning approach. Due to the natural presence of minerals in cocoa powder as well as other ingredients that give it the characteristic brown color, you should be wary of using baking soda or acidic substances like vinegar or lemon juice. They can produce an undesirable reaction that makes the chocolate stain tougher to remove.

Instead of DIY methods, it’s a better idea to use laundry detergent for spot treatment. Inspect the stain closely and get rid of any solid pieces without spreading the stain on the clothing item. Pretreat the stain with a strong detergent and wash quickly afterward using cold water because high temperatures contribute to the persistence of the stain.

10. Paint

Paint Stain on Clothing

Paint splatters on clothes can be exceptionally difficult to remove, especially if the stains have set in. The type of paint matters, however, when it comes to assessing the difficulty of the stain removal process. Water-based paints are typically much easier to deal with compared to oil- and acrylic-based paints. The removal instructions for paint stains are similar to the methods used against ink stains.

Treat the stained area with rubbing alcohol before washing normally with laundry detergent. Depending on the severity of the paint stain, it could be required to apply rubbing alcohol and rinse the stain multiple times until the strong binders in the paint finally start dissolving. Oil-based paint stains are the toughest so make sure you deal with them immediately for the best cleaning results.

11. Grass

Grass Stain on Clothing

Grass is another frustrating type of stain that can be complicated to remove. It’s frequently encountered if you have kids playing outdoors. There are multiple methods that you can use to break down even the most stubborn muddy grass stains. Before applying any cleaning solution to the stained area, make sure you scrape off any debris with a gentle tool like a plastic spoon.

A mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water seems to work wonders against grass stains on fabric materials. Apply the vinegar solution to the stain and let it work for a few minutes. There’s no need to scrub yet. After the stain’s ingredients become loose, you can add a stain remover and wash the clothing item normally. If you still see signs of the stain lingering prominently, try scrubbing with diluted hydrogen peroxide before throwing the item into the washing machine.

12. Armpit Sweat

Sweat Stain on Clothing

Most body sweat stains are not difficult to remove but armpit stains are the exception. This is because the sweat from armpits mingles with sebum and whatever deodorant products you’re using. The result is having tricky yellowish stains that are extremely hard to eliminate properly. As opposed to more obvious splotches, armpit sweat doesn’t usually create an immediately visible stain.

It can take a considerable period of time until you discover unsightly pit stains on your shirts. The sooner you notice it, the easier it will be to deal with the stain. Presoak the stained item in an enzymatic detergent. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes if you can already see obvious discoloration. Consider adding an oxygen booster to deal with the odor. Wash normally in warm water after the pretreatment.

13. Berries

Berry Stain on Clothing

Berry stains happen quite commonly whether from raw fruits, juices, or foods such as blueberry pies. Although these stains have a bad reputation, they’re not that challenging to remove as long as you use the correct cleaning approach. White vinegar is the top choice when it comes to tackling a stubborn stain caused by berries. It works best for most fabric types because it’s relatively safe to use without the risk of additional damage.

Treat fresh berry stains with the help of a mixture of white vinegar and dish soap in equal quantities. Let it sit for around 20 minutes to break down the stain. After giving the area a proper rinse, it’s recommended to machine wash the stained item as usual. Keep in mind that dried berry stains are tougher to work with. They will require treating the stained area with a generous amount of boiling water and thorough drying of the fabric before applying the vinegar mixture.

14. Gum

Gum Stain on Clothing

Stains caused by chewing gum are probably some of the most disgusting that you need to deal with. However, they’re not as difficult to remove as some of the others on this list. Gum tends to stick to fabrics very well, making the removal of a stain quite frustrating. It’s recommended to throw the affected clothing item in the freezer to harden the gum and simply scrape it off.

This method doesn’t work for carpets but you can bring some ice cubes to the stained area to achieve a similar effect. Even though you can remove a large part of the gum, the stain will most likely still persist. That’s why you should get rid of the remainder using white vinegar. It should dissolve any gum leftovers so you can throw the clothing item into the washing machine normally.

15. Baby Food

Baby Food Stain on Clothing

If you have small children, you’re probably familiar with baby food stains. They can be really hard to remove. Although the ingredients can be different, most baby foods are purees of some sort. Cleaning this stain requires the gentle removal of solid pieces or hardened bits of food.

Start eliminating the stain with the help of a practical pretreating solution. It should typically involve a dedicated spot stain remover or a reliable detergent. In case you’re dealing with an older baby food stain, it’s recommended to soak the item for more time, usually several hours. Make sure you avoid the dryer because stain residues can set into the fabric from exposure to high temperatures.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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