Banish Household Stains:
Best Stain Removal Tricks

It happens to the best of us: spaghetti sauce on a brand-new white shirt, red wine on the carpet, grease on a silk tie. Sometimes stains mean a piece of clothing is no longer wearable – but that’s not always the case! There are some tried and true stain-removing methods and a few lesser-known methods that can help you revive, reclaim, and continue wearing those previously stained items. After reading this guide you'll be ready to make stain removal a regular part of your cleaning schedule.

Removing Grease Stains

If you like bacon (and who doesn’t like bacon?), or if you indulge in greasy food, you know how insidious grease stains can be. At first they appear to be easy to clean with simple water and a dab of a towel. But that’s not the case. Grease almost instantly adheres to fabric fibers and leaves a dark stain that, if left untreated, will set and remain forever.

Here’s what to do if you end up with a grease stain:

Do not panic! And do not rub it in. Rinse your clothing with warm water and then add a few drops of dish soap directly to the stained area. Rub it in gently with your fingers to create a lather. Let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse and repeat. And then launder your shirt right away as per the regular washing instructions. Dish soap is designed to cut through grease! You use it to wash your pots and pans, so it is one of your best defenses when grease lands in your lap.

Removing a Grease Stain - Stain Removal

Ballpoint Pen Marks

You are overzealous when making your grocery list on the sofa and you end up with a line of ballpoint pen on the cushion! What do you do? Or you are bored in a meeting and twirl your pen, leaving a giant ink stain on your sleeve! Now what?

As with all stain removal – don’t panic! But you shouldn’t allow the ink to dry out. So, as soon as possible, you’ll want to saturate the area with a bit of water to reliquify the ink, if even a little bit. Let the damp area dry out. While that’s going on, grab a can of aerosol hairspray and lightly spray the stain. Dab with a cotton swab, and the ink should start to lift. As an alternative, you can try spritzing the stain with vinegar and rubbing a bit of baking soda into it. Once it’s soaked in, rub it with a kitchen scrubber or toothbrush, rinse it, and the stain should lift.

Removing a Ballpoint Pen Stain - Stain Removal

Getting Paint Off Clothing

Did you end up with a DIY whoops and get paint on your jeans? First step is to identify the type of paint. Most of us paint walls with latex (or water-based) paint. If this happens, soak your stained jeans in cool water and then wash with heavy-duty liquid laundry soap so that most of the excess paint runs off. What if you’ve waited a bit and the paint is dry? Soak in hot water and detergent instead. In either case, simply repeat the process and the stain will fade each step of the way.

Removing Cat Pee From Hardwood Floor - Stain Removal

Oil-based, acrylic, and spray paints are more difficult to treat – so the recommendation is to paint while wearing coveralls or clothing that can be stained. If you do end up with paint of this sort on your clothing, you will have to treat it with an ammonia- or petroleum-based solvent (like mineral spirits or Varsol) on a sponge, hot water, and heavy-duty detergent. It’s unlikely, however, that the stain will lift completely.

Pet Stains on Carpet or Upholstery

Pets: we love them, but sometimes they make a mess! Here are a few remedies for the most common pet-related problems.

Cat Pee on Hardwood Floors

If kitty has an accident on a tile floor, it’s typically fairly easy to clean up with soap and water. But hardwood and cat urine do not mix well. Sometimes, if left to soak in for even a short while, it can result in an unsightly, discolored stain on the floor. The trick to removing it? Hydrogen peroxide. Cat urine will darken your wood (a bigger problem if the finish on your floors is blonde or light oak), so the peroxide will effectively bleach it back to its original state. Use sparingly on a paper towel and allow it to soak into the stain for a few minutes, then clean the area with simple soap and water and dry with a clean cloth. It may take a few days, but the outer edges of the stain will soften and fade.

Removing Dog Pee From Carpets - Stain Removal

Dog Pee on Carpet or Upholstery

Fido failed to hold it in between walks and now you’ve got a gross wet spot on the carpet! First thing, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the wet stain to neutralize the odor. Then spritz with a vinegar-and-water solution and add in a bit of lemon essential oil to disinfect the affected area. Let it dry out and then vacuum as normal. Dog urine isn’t as potent as cat urine (there’s higher water content), so the stain shouldn’t be as hard to clean up.

General ‘Unidentified’ Carpet Stains

We can blame these on kids, pets, whomever – sometimes a stain will appear and we won’t know what caused it. This is almost always a case for oxygen bleach crystals. Available in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, these small (great smelling!) crystals can be mixed with warm water to form a paste. When rubbed vigorously into a carpet, it acts as a stain agitator and remover. Nine times out of ten, this trick will solve your mystery stain! Oxygen bleach is not like regular bleach because it doesn’t cause discoloration and is safe for use around kids and pets. Just be sure to vacuum it up once you’ve rubbed it in.

Reviving Old Fabrics - Stain Removal

Reviving old Fabrics, Clothing and Upholstery

Quite possibly my favorite stain removal and fabric tip of all time! If you are anything like I am, you can’t pass up a good find at a thrift or antique store. Sometimes, though, those gems bring home smells and stains that are unsightly, musty, and gross. The trick to getting rid of that musty smell is in your liquor cabinet! And no, it doesn’t mean drink until you stop noticing the smell! This is a trick that has been used by Broadway stage managers for decades.

In a spray bottle, mix one part plain vodka with three parts lukewarm water and shake it up. Spray generously onto your item (antique fur coats, upholstery, suitcase liners – anything!) Let it air out for about thirty minutes and then repeat the process. This process will be sped up even more if you can do this outside on a warm, sunny day. Sunshine and vodka cures many things!

There is a lesson here: try not to stain your clothing and upholstery to begin with. But, if it does happen, the number one most important thing to remember is to stay calm before rubbing, dousing, or scouring the blight on your fabric. Sometimes, you’ll be out of luck and the piece will be ruined, but more times than not, you will win against the stain with some well-planned removal tricks. Now go forth and conquer those stains!

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