Red wine spilled all over your winter white coat, ink leaked through your pocket, mustard on your white blouse, or dirt on the knee of your pants—stains are something I’m very familiar with. I’d like to call my clumsiness charming in a Bridget Jones kind of way, but the truth is, in all the spots and spills that cover my wardrobe, charm is nowhere to be found.
But no tiny violins are needed here because through all the mess, I have become a master of stains. I used to rely on my dry cleaner to take care of them, but sometimes you need an immediate remedy and sometimes (when you have a stain on every item of clothing you wore that week), you just can’t afford professional help.
I asked my family and friends for their stain removal secrets and then put these remedies to the test to find out what really works.
Red Wine Stains
This has been tested on my white jeans, my boyfriend’s khaki pants, my friend’s cream carpet, and my white winter jacket. Not to sound like an alcoholic, but I’ve gotten red wine on just about everything possible. Pour some white wine on the stain immediately and dab with an old cloth or paper towel. It’s like magic—the stain vanishes before your eyes! I found this to be much more effective than tonic water.
When asked her stain secret, my college roommate Cameron told me rice works every time. When I tried it out (on one of my roommate’s dishcloths), it did soak up much of the wine, although there was still a red stain. If rice is your only option, wet the rice and rub it on the stain to soak up the wine. Once most of the wine is soaked up, wash immediately in hot water. The red wine is gone … and your roommate will never know.
Ballpoint Pen Ink Stains
One of my friends told me about this remedy, and after two sons and two grandsons, it’s safe to say she knows her stains. But to see for myself, I put hairspray to the test. I selected an old blouse, spotted it with some ink, and sprayed my regular, drug store-bought hairspray on it. After dabbing with an old cloth, the ink stain disappeared.
Growing up in the Barger house meant that, on any given afternoon, you could find the three girls, and any number of our friends, wreaking havoc on our house. Needless to say, we caused my parents a little stress—and a lot of mess. Perky Spotter was introduced to us by a musician who cleaned carpets on the side. He guaranteed my mom that Perky Spotter was the solution to just about any carpet stain: music to her ears. It’s been put to the test time and time again and I have yet to find a more reliable carpet stain solution.
My friend Gaines and I have been friends since the third grade and she’s taught me numerous life tips. But her latest one—removing carpet stains with Windex—was something I wasn’t so sure about. So I tested it on an old bathroom carpet. I found that it worked for the lighter stains like light-colored makeup and soap but not for the heavier stains like toothpaste and mascara. But it’s a great remover to use in a pinch and is a lot cheaper than many carpet cleaners.
Oil or Grease Stains
Dawn Dishwashing Detergent
With four boys, a fire engine converted to spray fertilizer on her farm, tractor pulls in her front yard, and a car graveyard in her backyard, my aunt Evie has dealt with many oil and grease stains. When this happens, she relies on Dawn dishwashing detergent to kick these stains. The clean-up is simple: put Dawn on a paper towel or old cloth, wet with water, and scrub away. If it’s a clothing item that’s stained, you can throw it in the normal laundry; if it’s carpet or upholstery, wipe down with water to remove the soap layer.
Part of being clumsy is having, as I like to call them, “battle wounds.” Skinned knees, cut knuckles, scabs, hang nails, and busted lips have been the source of many blood stains in my house. Hydrogen peroxide not only heals my wounds but cleans up after them too. For small spots, dab some hydrogen peroxide on a cotton ball and dab lightly. For larger spots, you can put the peroxide on a towel and scrub. If you’re cleaning a delicate fabric (like linen), you might want to dilute the hydrogen peroxide with equal parts water; if you’re worried about color fading, you should do a spot test first.
The everyday reaction to spilled hot coffee on clothes is to curse and then just hope it comes out. But a little citrus juice does the trick. As soon as possible, drip lemon juice on the spot and dab. Rubbing the stain will spread it and push it deeper in the fabric. Let the lemon juice soak the stain, blot the coffee away, and you’re good to go.
No matter what the stain, the number one tip I’ve learned, particularly from an elementary school teacher, is to take immediate action. The longer the stain sets, the harder it is to get out. Also, if you flip the fabric over and press on the stain area, it helps to push the stain to the surface.
Whether it’s a red wine spill or car trouble, stains are a pain. Hopefully, the next time you find yourself in a messy situation, one of these stain remedies will come to your rescue.