That moment when you grab one too many things in your hands, the first being your coffee, but also the closest to your nicely laundered white shirt! Or, you decide to just do the dishes quickly before running out to that meeting and that fateful splash on your silk blouse…

Those dreaded surprise stains are NOT created equally and therefore should not be treated equally. For anyone that still enjoys wearing white, here are some stain busting solutions for all the different kinds of stains imaginable.

Two important and general rules for ALL stains…

The earlier you catch the stain, the better! If you are out and don’t happen to carry around one of those Tide pens or Shout wipes, the best thing to do is wet the stain with water or an ice cube is better, just to keep it from completely setting into the fibers of your clothing. Be sure to dab as rubbing can also speed up the damage.

Secondly, when it does come time to wash the stained clothing item, check the wet laundry to be sure the stain is gone, putting the washed item with a stain in it will often ‘seal the deal’. Pretreat the stubborn stain and try it in the washing machine before drying.

It’s important to classify your stain into one of these categories so you can have the best chance at treating the stain. For the purpose of this article, the categories that stains fall into are dye stains, protein stains, combination stains, dairy product stains, fruit and fruit juice stains, grass stains, mud stains and of course…coffee stains.

Dye and coffee stains are best treated by running them under very cold water and then wash the item in the machine using the hottest setting that is still safe for the fabric. If that doesn’t work then try the dry cleaner and remember to do this all before drying the article of clothing.

Protein stains like vomit, sweat, and blood are best treated with an alkaline stain removal solution. Most detergents have alkaline components like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, and these are ideal for attacking these organic types’ stains.

Combination stains are things like makeup or sauces that may have components of both dye and protein stains. The best results come from spot treating with detergent directly on the stain, washing it out spot treating with a stain spray or stick and laundering in the wash as usual.

Dairy or rocky road ice cream 😉 stains are protein stains in nature because they are natural. Soak fresh stains in cold water and even agitate them if you can. If you are dealing with a dried stain, brush off any crusted matter and soak for several hours in a detergent or an enzyme presoak (which is least suggestable due to potential allergies). Launder in warm water and if the stain remains, soak for another 30 minutes and rewash.

Fruit stains are a dye stain but they also have the added component of sugar and if that is not removed completely you could end up with a dash of crème Brulee when added to the heat of the dryer. To ensure you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, wash it in the hottest water possible with detergent but AVOID soap based products as they can make the stain permanent. Old or set fruit stains may require a fabric safe form of bleach.

Grass stains are a dye stain and should, therefore, be treated with laundry product and cool water. Hot water can cause the stain to set and make it very difficult to remove! A laundry product with enzymes will also attack the stain but again, unless your laundry detergent has it included its best to avoid pure enzymes.

Mud stains are considered a protein stain and the most positive results come from letting the stain dry, removing the soil and soaking for 15 minutes in a solution of:

  • 1 TBS white vinegar
  • 1 tsp liquid dish detergent
  • 1 quart of warm water

If the stain does not seem to budge, dab with rubbing alcohol and rinse multiple times with clear water. Wash in warm water and repeat if the stain does not come out.

Lastly, fighting the fateful coffee stains. Because coffee stains often come with dairy in it, you need to treat it as a dye stain with a protein stain combination. If the stain is fresh immediately rinse with cold water if you are able to remove and add laundry detergent, rub it with cold water. Afterwards, its best to soak for 30 minutes, with agitation every 5-10 minutes. Lastly, wash the clothing on the hottest setting possible and like every other item, be sure to check before throwing it in the dryer. If the stain has not left, repeat the steps above.

Happy cleaning and if you really want to be safe, borrow a bib from your nearest baby or toddler because the reality is life happens and all those stains and spills are proof we’re living.

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