Quick Fixes for Stains

With these tips, you'll be prepared to battle your next stain disaster.


Stains can happen quickly, so it's good to be prepared. Make a note of these tips and tricks so you'll know what to do in case disaster strikes.

Red wine: Sponge or soak stain using cool water. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Launder with fabric-safe bleach.

Gravy: Pretreat or soak with product containing enzymes. Soak for 30 minutes if stain is dry. Launder as usual; don't dry until stain is out.

Butter: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash using hottest water safe for the fabric. Retreat if necessary.

Candle wax: Use a dull knife. For remaining wax, place between paper towels and press with warm iron. Replace towels as wax is absorbed.

Olive oil: Pretreat with a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash using hottest water safe for the fabric. Don't dry until stain is out.

Tomato sauce: Apply a prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Wash with liquid laundry detergent, using safe bleach and water temperature.

Lipstick: Sponge or soak stain using cool water. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Launder with bleach safe for fabric.

Coffee or tea: Check cloth after use. Pretreat with stain remover or liquid laundry detergent. Or rub with bar soap. Launder as usual. Rewash if needed.

Blood: For fresh stains, soak in cold water (hot water sets stains). Launder. For dried stains, pretreat or soak in warm water with a product containing enzymes. Launder. If stain remains, use a bleach safe for the fabric.

Chocolate: Pretreat or prewash in warm water with a product containing enzymes. Or treat with a prewash stain remover. Launder. If stain remains, rewash with bleach safe for the fabric.

Fruit juices: Soak in cold water (hot water sets the stain). Wash with bleach safe for the fabric.

Paint (water based): Rinse fabric in warm water while stains are wet. Launder. For dried paint, take the article to a dry cleaner, who may be able to remove the paint. Removal depends on the paint formulation and the fabric.

Paint (oil based) and varnish: If the label on the paint can recommends a thinner, use that solvent for stain removal. If label is not available, try turpentine. Rinse. Pretreat with a prewash stain remover, bar soap, or laundry detergent. Rinse, launder, or take to a dry cleaner. Oil paint is harder to remove than latex.

Mustard: Pretreat with stain remover. Launder with chlorine bleach if safe for the fabric, or with color-safe bleach.

Nail polish: This may be impossible to remove. Try this method using nail polish remover, but don't use on acetate or triacetate fabric. Place stain face down on several layers of clean paper towels. Apply remover to the back of stain. Replace towels as they accept polish. Repeat if stain begins to lift. Rinse and launder.

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