Effective stain removal is part art and part science. The method used to remove a stain depends on what material is stained, what it is stained with, and how long the stain has been in place. There are several general steps for stain removal, including the most important, which is to act quickly. The fresher the stain, the easier it is to remove.
Scrape off as much residue as possible before washing the item, and if removing a stain from clothing, leave plenty of room in the washing machine and use plenty of water so that the items can circulate freely. Hot water is better for cleaning than cold, but stains that contain protein, such as blood, egg and milk, require a cold-water wash. The hot water will set the protein stain. When pretreating any stain, place a dishcloth behind the stain to prevent the stain from leaking through to the rest of the garment.
When pretreating any stain, avoid rubbing too hard as that may spread the stain or damage the fabric. Finally, the best way to keep laundry stain free is to check clothing before they go into the washer. Often, a quick spray with a laundry pretreatment spray is enough to remove any stain. Sometimes, however, specialized stain removal treatment is required.
Stains that leave a greasy mark are difficult to remove. Rub the stain with dishwashing liquid, and allow it to soak for fifteen minutes before placing it in the washing machine. Wash with hot water. Stains from coffee or tea often respond to a soak in warm water with one tablespoon (15 milliliters) of borax powder dissolved in one cup (250 milliliters) of water.
Deodorant stains will often come off with an application of a laundry pretreatment; however, stains that are set in may require more aggressive stain removal. Sponge the stained areas with a solution of one part ammonia and one part water before washing to remove the residue left behind by the deodorant.
Ink is another common stain problem. Alcohol based hairspray breaks down ink, although it may also damage the fabric. Fruit juices and berries are easy to remove if the stain is fresh. Dilute the stain by rinsing in cold water, use a laundry pretreatment, and check the fabric before placing in the dryer. Repeat the process as necessary to remove the stain. Do not dry the fabric until you are satisfied that the stain is gone.
Grass stains are stubborn. For clothing such as football or baseball pants, chlorine bleach is the best solution. Clothing that would be damaged by chlorine bleach can be pretreated with a laundry spray. If that does not work, try sponging the area with wood alcohol.
Stain removal is most effective if conducted before the clothing is dry. If one method does not work, simply place the item aside while researching another. Once the stained clothing goes through the dryer, even on low heat, the stain is probably there for good.