How to Remove Stains from Any Garment

No matter how careful a man may be in his day-to-day life with his clothes, the occasional stain is inevitable whether it be from a plate of spaghetti and impromptu tire change on the side of the road or really any time spent with a toddler, you’re bound to encounter a tough stain at some point. Fortunately, however, stain removal doesn’t have to be a chore or involve the dry cleaner. As long as you understand some basic chemistry you’ll be all set.

Four Basic Types Of Stains

To begin, here’s a breakdown of the four basic types of stains you’re generally going to encounter. Stains can be organic or inorganic in nature and from there can be oily or not. In other words, the four types of stains are:

  • Organic.
  • Inorganic.
  • Oily Organic.
  • Oily Inorganic.

As examples of each of these, stains from living organisms including plants are considered organic, things like grass stains, blood, or red wine. Meanwhile, stains from manmade materials are inorganic, things like ink, solvents, or machine dust. Oily organics are things like barbecue sauce or sweat stains and oily inorganics are generally cosmetics like lipstick.

Stains can be unsightly
Stains can be unsightly

How To Get Rid Of Stains

Organic Stains

First, standard organic stains are best treated with hot water and a substance that’s commonly marketed as bleach alternative. Bleach alternative and oxygen bleach are marketing names for a substance that’s scientifically known as sodium percarbonate or SPC for short. It’s the active ingredient in cleaners like Oxiclean but whereas those types of commercial cleaners usually contain fillers, SPC is most effective in its pure form.

Clorox Bleach must be avoided at all costs

Here’s a related point as long as we’re talking about bleach alternative, never use conventional chlorine bleach on your clothes again. Not for stains and not for whitening. Most white clothes are actually treated with agents referred to as optical whiteners or optical brighteners. Chlorine bleach, in addition to being harmful to the body if ingested or with prolonged contact, can also remove these optical whiteners from clothing actually making them look less white and can damage the fibers of clothes over time.

For treatment of an organic stain, start by laying a towel down on your work surface. Actually, for any of the types of stains we’re about to cover, putting down a clean towel is a good idea. Next, add a bit of SPC, we used about 1/2 capful to a basin of hot water and stir to completely dissolve it. Then, thoroughly wet the stained area of the garment in question with the hot water and SPC mixture. Lay the garment flat on the towel and gently blot at the stain with a clean cotton cloth, washcloth, or towel. You can also use a garment safe stain brush on most fabrics as we’re doing here. After pre-treating your stain this way, it can be washed as normal in your machine and if you’d like, you can also add a bit more SPC directly to the drum of the machine during the wash process.

Absolut Vodka
Absolut Vodka

Inorganic Stains

Standard inorganic stains like ink are best removed by the use of a solvent. Rubbing alcohol or more technically isopropyl alcohol is best here. Although you can also use different substances like plain vodka. Applying the alcohol to the stain with a spray bottle works well after which point it can be gently blotted. Then wash as normal and as before, you can add some SPC to the machine if you’d like.

Oily Organic / Inorganic

All oily stains whether they’re organic or inorganic in nature are best treated by first dealing with the oil. As oils often surround other staining substances, we’ll be looking at these stains sort of like a stain sandwich that is oil layer, stain layer, oil layer. To remove the first oil layer, fill a spray bottle with a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% water. Spray the oil layer of the stain and then blot. Actually, using a stain brush may work best here. Next, apply a bit of water along with laundry detergent or better yet soap flakes and scrub again to deal with the main stain layer and for the final oil layer, spray again with your water and vinegar solution and blot or scrub a final time. To finish here, you guessed it! Wash as normal with optional SPC.

Underarm stains are decidedly not a good look; they can be avoided by using less antiperspirant, which contains aluminum compounds.
Underarm stains are decidedly not a good look; they can be avoided by using less antiperspirant, which contains aluminum compounds.

Sweat Stains

Finally, in this section, we’re going to pay special attention to sweat stains as they’re often a combination of oily organics and the aluminum found in many commercial antiperspirants. They’re best treated with a combination of SPC and a stain solution. Apply a few drops of the stain solution to the sweat stain then add a pinch of SPC, you should create a paste with either your finger or your stain brush. Let this paste sit for at least 20 minutes or longer if you prefer and then rinse it out with hot water. In fact, boiling water poured from a teakettle works best here then wash as normal with optional SPC. Here’s a related tip to prevent stains from returning to these garments, you can spray the affected areas with your vinegar and water solution before washing them as normal in your machine.

Never attempt to use a stain brush on any delicate garment
Never attempt to use a stain brush on any delicate garment

Wool & Silk Garments

Wool and silk are usually more delicate in nature so you won’t want to apply SPC to them directly or scrub them with a stain brush. For these fabrics, it’s best to pre-soak for a little while in water with a bit of stain solution and then wash as normal. Of course, these garments, if placed in a washing machine, should be individually and tightly packed in mesh washing bags. You can add a bit of SPC to the drum of the machine while washing if you’d like since the low concentration and minimal direct contact won’t be overly abrasive.

Stain Removal Tips

Whichever stain type and consequential removal method you’re dealing with, know that you shouldn’t expect to see a complete clearing up of the stain as you’re scrubbing it. Rather aim for about an 80% reduction in stain visibility and then machine wash, the rest should come out. As we said, washing on warm and with the express setting should be sufficient for most garments and you can always add a little bit of SPC to the drum if you so choose.

The process of removing stains
The process of removing stains

Finally, it may well be that a given stain isn’t solely one type of the stains we’ve covered today. Therefore, if you’ve tried one removal method and the stain hasn’t completely come out, just try one or more of the other removal methods and you should ultimately be successful. As an example of having to use multiple methods, we found both the fountain pen ink and the lipstick that we used for demonstration purposes in this video to be especially resilient. They didn’t come out with each of the first methods we recommended so we used a few other methods to get them out. We think that they got to about the 80% stain removal threshold we were looking for and putting them through the washing machine should get the rest of the stains out.

With these techniques in your arsenal then, stains should no longer pose a significant threat to you or your garments and you should be able to take care of them completely from the comfort of your own home.

How to Remove Stains from Any Garment
Click on the infographic to view in full-size.

Which of the techniques we laid out today were you most surprised by and do you have any alternative techniques for stain removal that we didn’t mention here? If so, let us know in the comments section below.


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Netflix agrees to remove controversial footage from ‘Bird Box’

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Nearly three months afters its streaming debut, Bird Box is getting an edit.

Following public backlash, Netflix has confirmed to Mashable that it will re-release Bird Box in the “next few weeks” — this time without the use of a controversial clip. 

The new version of Bird Box will remove stock footage used in one of the film’s establishing apocalypse sequences, the contents of which depict the very real aftermath of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. The tragedy killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town. 

“Netflix and the filmmakers of Bird Box have decided to replace the clip,” a Netflix spokesperson told Mashable. “We’re sorry for any pain caused to the Lac-Mégantic community.” Read more…

More about Entertainment, Netflix, Controversy, Footage, and Train Derailment


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Which Clothing Tags Do You Remove?

I just got a McQueen scarf from Yoox on deep discount (pictured), and when it arrived I had the usual “ugh, tag” reaction. On really fine fabrics, trying to remove the clothing label can sometimes feel like a game of Operation! So, inspired by that thought, here’s today’s topic: What clothing labels do you remove? Which ones do you leave on even though you know you should remove them? On a related note, are there any clothing brands you specifically hate the tags or clothing labels of — or buy them because you prefer their clothing labels?

For my own $ .02:

What Clothing Labels You Should Remove

I’ve always heard that you should remove the labels on scarves (certainly the care labels, and possibly the brand label like the one pictured) but that you could choose to keep the label affixed and just fold the scarf so the tag is hidden.

Remove the label that comes on the sleeve of your winter coat. (Here’s a fabulous stock photo example of the winter coat sleeve label, which I wasn’t willing to pay $ 175 to use to illustrate this post!) 

On a related note, as we’ve noted in the past, you should rip any vents that are sewn shut with an X (such as on blazers or skirts), and you may also find it easy to rip the pockets for pants and blazers that are sewn shut. (If you can see the lining of the pocket on the inside of the pant or blazer but can’t access it, that’s an indication that it’s meant to be ripped.)

Brands with Itchy Clothing Labels

Personally, I don’t have an issue with itchy clothing labels, but I’ve started noticing them because one of my sons is sometimes sensitive to them. I also remember that one of the female partners I worked with at my firm always wore Hermès scarves along her blazers in large part because she found the blazer collars to be itchy. So I’m curious to see what people say! In general, the places we find eczema-friendly clothing for kids tend to have friendly tags — for example, H&M Conscious and Hanna Andersson — and I’ve found Eileen Fisher clothing to have pretty comfort-friendly labels.

Readers, over to you: What clothing labels do you always remove? Do you ever find clothing labels to be itchy or annoying — and if so, do you avoid that brand in the future? 

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