Grass stains have a well-earned reputation for being difficult, but a little applied science is the secret to eliminating them.
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Grass stains on clothing, picnic blankets, and canvas or leather sneakers are an almost inevitable fact of outdoor fun. Grass stains have a reputation for being difficult to get out, and that reputation is well-earned. Fortunately, understanding the science of grass stains—and of grass stain removal—will take much of the guesswork out of treating these tricky stains.

Most grass stains can be easily removed through regular laundering by using a stain pretreatment product in concert with laundry detergent. However, there are times when a more intensive stain removal process is required—we'll walk you through how to do it.

Food on blanket in grass
Credit: Tom Merton / Getty Images

General Grass Stain Removal Tips

It is always best to treat grass stains as soon as possible—the longer a stain is left untreated, the more set in it will become, and the more difficult it will be to eventually remove.

If you cannot find time to do a full load of laundry, apply a laundry pretreatment product to grass-stained items before tossing them in the hamper. If the stains are small and the garment allows for it, applying a small amount of liquid laundry detergent or dish soap to the stain, massaging it into the fabric using your thumb and forefinger, and flushing with cool running water may eliminate the stain entirely without requiring that you do a load of laundry.

These instructions are for machine-washable fabrics such as cotton, denim, linen, nylon, polyester, and spandex; if the care tag says that fabric content includes rayon, silk, triacetate, or wool, the item will typically need to be washed by hand or dry cleaned.

What to Avoid When Treating Grass Stains

Grass stains are protein stains, which should be treated using an enzymatic stain remover. Avoid using chlorine bleach on grass stains, as chlorine bleach can cause a chemical reaction that deepens, rather than removes, protein stains.

It is also important to avoid letting a grass stain linger on fabric without being treated, and to check the garment after washing to ensure the stain has come out completely in the wash. Do not put a still-stained item in the dryer, as heat will set a stain, making it difficult—if not impossible—to remove.

How to Remove Grass Stains

Removing grass stains from clothing involves brushing away solids, treating the stained fabric with an enzymatic stain remover, and laundering the item.

What You'll Need

  • An enzymatic stain treatment product
  • Laundry detergent
  • A laundry brush (optional)

Step 1: Shake out or Brush Away Solid Matter

Before applying a stain treatment, brush away loose dirt, clumps of grass, or dried mud using your hands or a laundry brush. (An old toothbrush or a nail brush can be used as a laundry brush.) Larger items, like picnic blankets, can be shaken to loosen stuck-on grass or soil.

Step 2: Apply an Enzymatic Stain Treatment

Clothing, blankets, and other machine-washable items that are stained with grass, which is a protein stain, should be pretreated with an enzymatic formula like Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover or Zout.

Step 3: Scrub with Laundry Brush (Optional)

Grass stains can be stubborn, and your removal efforts could benefit from a bit of extra encouragement: Using a laundry brush to gently work the enzymatic stain remover into grass stains prior to laundering will help to penetrate and break down the stain.

Step 4: Launder as Usual

Most grass-stained items can be washed in cold water using the machine's regular cycle. However, always check the care tag for special instructions regarding water temperature and cycle speed and follow those. If a grass-stained item can tolerate being washed in warm or hot water, or in a heavy duty cycle, do so.

Step 5: Check the Stain Prior to Drying

After laundering a grass-stained item, it is crucial that you check that the stain was fully eliminated in the wash. If there is still staining, do not put the item in the dryer, as heat will set the stain.

Step 6: Repeat, If Necessary

If the grass stain was diminished but not fully eliminated in the wash, repeat the process of applying an enzymatic stain treatment and laundering. Sometimes it simply takes two passes to fully remove a stubborn stain. If the stain was not discernibly reduced in the wash, follow our instructions for treating set-in grass stains.

How to Remove Set-in Grass Stains

There are two methods for removing deeply set-in grass stains. The first involves using a laundry bar on the stain: This is the best choice for smaller, more concentrated grass stains. The second method involves soaking a heavily stained item in an oxygen bleach solution, which will be the best choice for larger items, like picnic blankets, or clothing with numerous or very large stains.

Grass-stained baseball uniform
Credit: Swell Media / Getty Images

Using a Laundry Bar to Remove Set-in Grass Stains

What You'll Need

Step 1: Shake out or Brush Away Solid Matter

Before beginning to treat a grass stain, brush away or shake off loose dirt, clumps of grass, or dried mud using your hands or a laundry brush.

Step 2: Apply the Laundry bar

Wet the laundry bar and rub it directly on the stain. If needed, use a laundry brush to gently work the Fels Naptha into the stain.

Step 3: Rinse, or Launder as Usual

If the item is machine washable, launder it as usual, checking that the stain was fully eliminated in the wash prior to putting the item in the dryer. If it is something that cannot go in the washing machine, rinse the Fels Naptha thoroughly and allow the item to air dry.

Using the Soaking Method for Removing Set-in Grass Stains

Soaking a heavily grass-stained item in an oxygen bleach solution is a hands-off way to remove stains from larger items, like picnic blankets, or clothing with numerous or very large stains.

What You'll Need

  • Oxygen bleach
  • A wash basin (optional)
  • Laundry detergent

Step 1: Identify a Place to Soak and Fill with Hot Water

Soaking a stained item can be done in any place large enough to hold water and the item in need of cleaning, such as the kitchen or bathroom sink, a utility sink, the bathtub, a bucket, or a wash basin. If you have a top-loading washing machine that allows for it, you can also soak the item right in the washer's basin.

Fill the basin about halfway up, and no more than ⅔ full, with hot water, leaving enough room to fully submerge the item without the water spilling over.

Step 2: Add Oxygen Bleach

Oxygen bleach should be dissolved in hot water; if the garment in need of soaking cannot tolerate hot water, allow the solution to cool before adding the item. Follow the package instructions for guidance on how much bleach to add.

Step 3: Submerge and Soak the Stained Item

Place the item in the oxygen bleach solution, using your hands to fully submerge it. Then, use your hands to agitate the item so that the solution can penetrate its fibers. Allow the item to soak for an hour up to overnight, then launder as usual.

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