How to Remove Set-in Stains From Clothes

Tiffany Bennett

Although stains are almost always easier to remove when they are fresh, there is still hope for stubborn set-in stains. With a little extra elbow-grease, keep your clothes sparkling clean and stain free. The majority of stains belong in one of several categories: protein, dye, fat and oil, fruit, tannin or ink.

Keep your whites this bright with a few simple stain removal techniques.

It helps to determine what kind of stain you are dealing with so you can treat it properly.

  1. Spot treat protein stains (blood, urine, sweat and so forth) by rinsing the area with hydrogen peroxide. If peroxide doesn't do the trick, try treating the stain with Oxyclean or another similar product. Using the scoop included in the package, add 1/8 scoop of Oxyclean and two cups of warm water to a spray bottle. Spray the affected area thoroughly, rinse and treat again if necessary. Once the stain is gone, wash as usual. While neither of these methods generally damage the color of the fabric, you may want to test them in an inconspicuous area to be sure.

  2. Eliminate dye stains by using a cloth to rub a combination of bleach and detergent into the stain. Afterward, soak the affected area in hot water. For colored clothing, use color-safe bleach. Once you have treated the stain, wash the item as you normally would.

  3. Remove oil-based stains by using your fingers to rub the stain with cornstarch. If the stain persists, spray the area with a citrus-based solvent like Citra-Solv, which works almost without fail on this type of stain.

  4. Dissolve fruit-based stains (including wine and tomato sauce) by pouring boiling water over the affected area.

  5. Spray tannin stains, including coffee and tea, with Oxyclean. Mix 1/8 scoop of Oxyclean with two cups of warm water, and follow the directions in step 1.

  6. Saturate ink stains with hairspray, and wash as you normally would.

  7. Soak garments with unidentifed stains in cold water, and treat with a stain remover. If the stain persists, wash it in hot water with extra detergent and color-safe bleach. If that doesn’t help, spray with a solvent such as CitraSolve.