Tips for removing laundry stains
Let’s face it. Putting clothes in a washing machine with detergent is pretty simple. But sometimes some stains resist. It is those stains that can really cause problems. But if you master these ten basic tips, you can confidently remove almost any type of stain, from A to Z.
It is essential that you clean stains as quickly as possible. Fresh stains are much easier to remove than stains older than 24 hours.
However, if the stains are “installed”, you must follow the same steps to remove them; it may simply take longer or require repeated treatments.
Let’s start at the beginning
For fresh liquid stains, blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth, paper towel or even a piece of white bread (ideal for grease stains!). Don’t forget to move the garment to a clean, dry place and bring a cloth with you to absorb as many stains as possible. Avoid rubbing the stained area with a fluffy terry towel or dark-coloured cloth. You could make things worse.
For thicker stains, remove excess solids by gently lifting with the edge of a blunt knife, metal spatula or the edge of a credit card. Never rub a mustard dressing or salad dressing in the shape of a drop, as this only pushes the stain deeper into the fibres of the fabric.
With some solids, such as mud, it may be easier to remove the stain once it has dried. Brush off the excess before washing the garment.
Create an emergency stain removal kit to keep in your office or car with white towels, a small bottle of water and a pen or wipes to treat stains as soon as possible, and at any time.
Go with cold water
When tackling a stain, always start with cold water, especially for stains of unknown origin. Warm water can fix proteins such as milk, eggs or blood by cooking them into the fibres.
Warm water works best on oily stains such as mayonnaise or butter. Warm water is especially important for removing stains on synthetic fibres such as polyester.
Always read product labels and clothing care labels before taking action. Use the recommended water temperature for stain removers and detergents.
Hot water should be between 48 and 60 degrees C, warm water between 30 and 40 degrees C and cold water between 18 and 23 degrees C. Water below 18 degrees is too cold for many detergents to help remove oily stains.
Forget the soap.
Your first reflex may be to take a bar of soap or liquid hand soap to remove a stain. But never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap can actually fix many stains such as berry, fruit or vegetable stains. Instead, use liquid dishwasher detergent or a little laundry detergent.
Or, stay with plain water. Rinse the stain from the back of the fabric to expel it from the fibres. Also, it is not necessary to use sparkling water. Still water works just as well and is cheaper!
Check before washing
If you’re doing laundry for the whole family, you know there can be surprises in the hamper. Teach your family to tell you about stains or mark them with a clothespin. Always check clothes before washing, many stains need to be pre-treated.
Often, a small amount of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent, which you can find on a large surface, can penetrate the stain with a soft-bristle brush, then let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before throwing the garment into the washing machine to do the rest. These detergents contain enough enzymes to break down most stains and remove them.
Check again before drying
The stains escape us all. But it’s a good idea to inspect wet laundry before putting it in the dryer. If a stain is still visible, do not put the garment in the dryer. The heat of the dryer makes the stain more permanent.
The same principle applies to ironing. No heat should be added to stained areas.
“This is a test”
Before you start working on a fabric stain, test stain removers on a seam or hidden area of the garment to make sure they do not affect the color or finish of the fabric (especially if you have never used them before). This is especially important on silk and fabrics that may not be fade resistant.
After testing the product, give it time to work. A quick, direct treatment in the washer is probably not enough. Treat the stain and wait at least ten minutes before washing. This gives the pre-treatment time to work.
Use a soft touch
Avoid rubbing vigorously unless the fabric is strong and durable like denim. Today’s stain removal products are very good, so you don’t need to rub most of the time. Excessive rubbing can eventually spread the stain and damage the fabric.
Separate and conquer
For best results, wash heavily stained items separately. This means that really dirty work clothes or muddy children’s clothes should not be washed with your best stuff. Also, knowing how to sort clothes for washing will prevent dye transfer stains!
Dirt and stains can be re-deposited on cleaner clothes during washing if the amount of detergent used is insufficient, the water temperature is too low, the washing time is too long or the washing machine is overloaded.