How to Remove Set Stains From Cotton Shirts

Cotton is used more than any other fabric to make the clothing we wear. It is washable and comfortable, and the fiber soaks up liquid quickly and holds dyes well. These qualities make it a great fabric for everything from T-shirts to frilly blouses. Unfortunately, cotton soaks up substances that we'd rather not have in our clothes. Stains get set easily in cotton because it dries quickly. Getting stains on cotton is a lot easier than getting them out.

Sun, suds and strategy get out set stains.

Step 1

Pour a spoonful of table salt onto the shirt if it has a coffee stain.  Add a few drops of water to remove coffee or tea stains.

Dab a sponge against the stain until it begins to fade.  Rinse the shirt in cool water and let it rest in the water for 30 minutes.

Wash the cotton shirt in detergent and chlorine or color-safe bleach and warm water. 

Step 2

Dab stains with slightly diluted dish soap if they are lipstick and other waxy or greasy stains.  Spend as much time on this as the stain needs.

Do not rinse until the stain fades markedly.  When the stain does vanish, wash it in detergent and cool water.

Step 3

Apply a cleaning solvent to greasy food stains.  If the stain does not lift, let the shirt soak in a bath containing equal parts of white vinegar and water.

Rinse the shirt in cool water. 

Step 4

Soak a chocolate-stained shirt in cold water to begin working on the stain.  After two hours, if the stain persists, dab hydrogen peroxide on the stain.

Let is set for 30 minutes.  Wash the shirt in cool water with liquid detergent.

Step 5

Spray hairspray onto the cotton shirt to remove ink stains.  Wash immediately with cold water and liquid detergent.

Do not dry the shirt.  If the stain is still there, try a commercial stain remover.

Wash again. 

Step 6

Soak a blood stain in cold water overnight.  Place a stain remover product on the stain.

Wash it in cold water.  If the stain is not gone, make a paste of baking soda.

Spread it on the stain.  Rub it in and let is set.

When dry,, scrape the baking powder off and rinse.  Wash the shirt in cold water.

Things You Will Need

  • Sponge
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Color-safe bleach
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Stain remover
  • Dish soap
  • White vinegar
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Hairspray

About the Author

Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.

Photo Credits

  • Martin Poole/Lifesize/Getty Images