The Busy Household's Stain Guide

It's better to have loved and lost than to have to do forty pounds of laundry a week. 
Laurence J Peter


We've all had the problem.  You bought a new shirt.  You're super excited you actually have something new because you can't remember the last time you had the time or the money to spend on yourself.  Next thing you know, the kids run up to give you a hug.  They have oily food, or paint, or who knows what on their hands.  Next thing you know, your new shirt has a giant spot right on the front for all to see.  So now what?  

This happens to me all the time.  Oil splatters from cooking, spilled coffee, the list goes on, and life's daily mishaps ruin your clothes to the point where you have to go shopping just because you're having dinner with the in-laws.  Today I'll be giving you an eco-friendly, cost-effective, clothes-saving stain guide.  Oh, the thrills of adulthood! 

First, I'll give you a breakdown of world of stains.

1. Tanin and Glucose Stains - includes berries and fruit juice, coffee and tea, beer and wine.
Best treated with a mild laundry detergent or soap.  I'm a big fan of castile soap and I love Dr. Bronners.  I always keep a bottle of the baby mild version with no added scent.  If you are worried about a lingering smell from the stain you can blot a vinegar-water mixture on it after you've treated the stain to help with that.  Make sure you treat these stains immediately before they set.

2.  Oil Stains - includes mayonnaise, salad dressing, ketchup and chocolate.  Most of these stains can be treated with soap and water, as well as borax and baking soda.  You can make a paste of sorts with borax and warm water directly on the stain and let it set for a half hour to an hour.    

3.  Protein Stains - includes egg, blood, and vomit (yuk!).  Only cold water for these stains, the heat can permanently set them.  You'll be needing some laundry detergent directly on these as a pre-treatment.  Detergents with plant derived enzymes are best, such as Seventh Generation Baby.  You'll definitely want to blot these with a vinegar-water solution to treat the smell too.

4.  Non-Water Soluble Stains - includes cosmetics, pen, crayon, and hand lotion.  These stains are tough, mostly because as the header dictates, you can't use water to treat.  Unfortunately, you may need to resort to rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to treat.  

***don't forget to check your labels and test your fabric***


Here are some tips for addressing a few of the more stubborn stains life throws at you.

What you'll need:

lemon juice
glycerin
talcum powder
salt 
meat tenderizer
rubbing alcohol
white vinegar
borax
brown paper bag
iron

Grape Juice Stains:
Sprinkle with salt to break up and absorb the stain, then soak in cold water.  Then treat with an enzymatic detergent like Seventh Generation directly on the stain before laundering.

Fruit Juice Stains:
Blot with a vinegar-water solution.  If the stain is already dry, treat with glycerin and let set for an hour. Then launder.

Coffee and Tea:
Rinse immediately with warm water.  Soak the fabric in a borax-water solution.  If the stain has set you can drape the fabric over the sink or a bowl and cover the stain with a thick layer of borax.  Pour hot water around the stain, working towards the center of the stain.  This will also work for red wine if the standard club soda trick doesn't work.

Chocolate:
Soak in cold water immediately.  Blot with laundry detergent to remove excess residue, then launder.

Oil:
Blot excess oil with a paper towel or dry washcloth (I don't buy paper towels so I improvise).  Sprinkle with talcum powder to absorb any leftover oil.  Use laundry detergent with enzymes directly on the stain and let set for a half hour.  Then launder.

Candle Wax:
Harden the wax with an ice cube, then scrape off the excess with a blunt knife.  Place a brown paper bag over the leftover residue, then press with a warm iron.  The wax will stick to the paper bag.  Any remaining wax can be treated with rubbing alcohol.

Blood:
Use a handful of salt in a sink of cold water and let the fabric set in this for about a half hour.  If the stain has set, try some meat tenderizer on it made into a thick paste.  Meat tenderizer has enzymes that will break down the proteins in the blood.

Good luck!

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