Stain Fixes on the Go

Stains happen. Too often, they happen when you're out and about, with not so much as a stain-remover pen in sight. Here, our stain-removal experts relate their on-the-fly advice for common stain scenarios.


Wining and Dining

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Conversation's lovely. Dinner's delicious. You love the wine, too—until your friend discreetly points out the red stain blossoming on your favorite shirt. What should you do?

Use a dry section of your napkin to dab away as much of the stain as possible. Keep dabbing as long as the color lifts. Next, inquire about some club soda and a white washcloth, or head to the restroom for a damp white paper towel. Blot the stain, stopping either when it's gone or quits lifting. Press with a dry white cloth or tissue to absorb any remaining wetness. Now get back to the table and enjoy dessert--carefully.

At the Barbecue

Of course they served BBQ, sans wet wipes, at the family reunion. And of course your kiddos indulged—and improvised. To top things off, it's almost picture time. What do you do?

Grab a plastic spoon and scrape away as much of the excess barbecue sauce as possible, says Tara Aronson, aka Mrs. CleanJeans. Then head to the nearest fountain or bathroom ASAP. Run cold water through the back of the stain, which should force it back through the fabric, Aronson says. If it remains, and picture time looms, apply a few squirts of dish detergent or hand soap, agitate gently, rinse well, and blot dry. Smile!

Playing at the Park

You're at the park, and your kid scrapes his forearm. He's OK, and raring to get back to playing, but in his haste, he's wipes his arm on his shorts. Oh, the blood. What to do?

"Get to a water fountain, water bottle, or bathroom, stat!" Aronson says. Take a time out and flush the stain with cool, clear water before it sets. (Break out the backup shorts, if you have them, so you don't have a wiggly child working against you.) Continue rinsing until the water runs clear and the stain is gone, or nearly so. Remove excess water by pressing or gently rolling on a towel or other handy fabric. And resume playtime!

At the Bonfire

What's a bonfire without a wienie roast? And what's a wienie roast without at least one ketchup-squirting mishap? How do you best treat the stain so you can proceed to the s'mores course with abandon?

Grab a spork (or other handy utensil) and scrape off as much of the ketchup as possible. Next, blot the spot with a dry, white napkin -- rubbing could damage the clothes, and colored napkins could make the problem worse, says Steve Boorstein, aka The Clothing Doctor. If the napkin picks up the ketchup, keep blotting until it doesn't. Next, blot with a wet, white absorbent cloth until the stain quits lifting or, fingers crossed, is gone. Marshmallow time!

Celebrating a Wedding

It's been a picture-perfect wedding, from the "I dos" on through dinner. Then, as you attempt to partake in the triple-tier chocolate fountain, chocolate splatters everywhere. What's the best way to get those telltale brown spots off your fancy duds?

Gently blot -- don't rub! -- the spot with a dry, white napkin, Boorstein says. If the chocolate comes off onto the napkin, keep blotting. Ideally, this will remove enough of the stain to get you on dance floor, just make sure to point out any remaining chocolate residue to your dry cleaner later, OK? If the stain's still embarrassingly bad, try blotting it gently with a damp, white absorbent cloth or napkin. One or the other should make things appear at least a little better.

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