How to Get Out Long-Term Stains

Meredith Jameson

When a spill happens, it is best to clean up the stain as soon as possible, as stains that set into the surface of clothes or other fabric can become much harder to remove. Once stains are ignored or not thoroughly cleaned when they occur, the stain removal process can be much more difficult.

Set-in stains can be more difficult to remove.

It may not be possible to completely remove a set-in stain from a fabric surface or item, but it is possible to try with some items from the local grocery store.


Spray hairspray or apply rubbing alcohol to a dye-based stain, such as ink or berries. Rub into the stain and allow to dry. Wash with color-safe bleach detergent and repeat until the stain is gone. If the stain is on a carpet, vacuum once the hairspray or rubbing alcohol has dried. Repeat until the stain is gone.

  1. Scrape off as much of the stain from the fabric item as possible using a soft brush, or use a vacuum on a larger surface such as a carpet.

  2. Dampen the long-term stain with water and add baking soda on top of the stain. Allow the baking soda to soak up as much of the stain as possible. Blot up the baking soda and water with towels you do not mind staining.

  3. Apply a stain removal product to the stained area and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes or more, if possible. If the stained item is a piece of fabric, rub the two sides of the fabric together to help push the stain removal product further into the fibers of the clothing.

  4. Wash the item in cold water and regular laundry detergent if the item is washable. If the item is larger, such as carpet, vacuum once the stain removal product is dry.

  5. Mix 1 cup warm water and ¼ cup dish-washing liquid in a spray bottle if the stain remains on the fabric surface. Spray the stain liberally with the cleaning mixture, then blot with a clean cloth you don’t mind staining. For very stubborn stains, set a towel or several paper towels on top of the stain and place a heavy item, such as book, on top. Leave overnight and then remove the towels the next day. Allow the item to finish air-drying. Repeat as necessary until the stain is noticeably lightened or gone altogether. Wash the clothing item or vacuum the area.