Tips for removing stains from washable fabrics

July 28, 2015

When removing stains from washable fabrics, one of the advantages you have (apart from the fact that you can machine wash it) is that you have access to both sides of the stain. Pre-treatment often consists of pushing the stain out from the back side of the fabric.

Tips for removing stains from washable fabrics

1. Pre-treat before washing

  • Remove as much of the stain-causing material as possible by using paper towels to blot it up or scraping it with a dull knife.
  • Pre-treat the stain by soaking or applying a cleaning solution. It helps to remove the stain by lightly agitating the fabric being soaked or to gently rub together the stained fabric with your hands.
  • Wash in your washing machine according to the instructions on the fabric's care label.

2. Upholstery can be tricky

  • With upholstery you face the same problem you have with carpet: You rarely have a chance to get at both sides of the stain.
  • Even if you can remove the upholstery material, most upholstery manufacturers warn against washing cushion covers separately from the cushions because of possible shrinking and other problems.
  • The trick, as with carpeting and pads, is to remove the stain from the top side without soaking the cushion beneath.

3. For dye stains in washable fabrics

  • Dye stains include those from blueberries, cherries, grass and mustard and can sometimes be difficult to remove. After all, dyes are usually meant to stick. They're what colour our clothes.
  • Pretreat stain with a commercial prewash stain remover.
  • Or, apply liquid laundry detergent directly to the stain, work the detergent into the stain and rinse well.
  • Next, soak the fabric in a diluted solution of oxygen bleach (you will find the words 'oxygen', 'sodium percarbonate' or 'chlorine-free' on the label), following the instructions on the packaging.
  • Wash, and then inspect the item to see whether the stain is still there. If so, try soaking the entire garment in a solution of chlorine bleach and water (following the instructions on the bleach container).
  • But be careful, because bleach can drastically alter colours and weaken fabric.

4. Treat acrylic paint while it is wet

  • Soak the fabric in cold water and then wash it in cold water with laundry detergent.
  • If the paint has dried, even for as little as six hours, treat it as you would a combination stain.

5. Remove oil-based paint when it is wet, too

  • Spot treat with paint thinner or turpentine and a sponge or cloth until the paint is loosened and as much of it is removed as possible.
  • Then, before it can dry, wash in hot water and detergent.

6. Handle mud after it has dried

  • Once it has dried, scrape off the excess solids.
  • If a rust stain remains after removing mud, a solution of lemon juice and salt will sometimes remove it. Sprinkle salt on the stain, squeeze lemon juice on it and put the item in the sun to dry. Make sure you test the lemon juice first, since it can bleach some fabrics.
  • Don't use chlorine bleach, as it makes rust stains permanent.

7. Yellowing of a fabric

  • Yellowing can occur for several reasons: not enough detergent in a wash cycle, too much detergent, insufficient wash temperatures, colour transfer from other items while washing or a fabric's loss of artificial whiteners.
  • Your best bet for restoring the original brightness and whiteness is to wash with the proper amount of detergent and bleach.
  • First, try oxygen bleach.
  • If that doesn't work, try a cycle with chlorine bleach.
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