Home Laundry Care Tips

What do I need to know about removing a stain?
Take care of stains promptly. Fresh stains are easier to remove than those more than 24 hours old. Blot up any excess liquid with a clean white cloth or paper towel. Remove excess solids by gentle scraping or chipping with a dull knife or metal spatula. With some solids, such as heavy amounts of surface mud, removal may be easier after the stain has dried. Brush off the excess before the clothing is submerged for washing. Avoid rubbing the stained area with a linty terry towel or a dark-colored cloth. You may complicate the problem. Never rub a fresh stain with bar soap. Soap sets many stains.
Check laundry for stains before washing. Many stains need pretreatment. Inspect wet laundry before drying to be sure a stain has been removed. If a stain is still evident, do not dryer dry because the heat of drying makes the stain more permanent.
Before starting on the stain, test stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure they do not affect the color or finish of the fabric. Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color of the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing and agitation under running water helps remove dried food, protein, or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton/polyester blends.
Do not iron or press stained fabrics until the stain is completely removed. Heat sets most stains.
Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can be redeposited on cleaner clothing during laundering if a) too little detergent is used; b) water temperature is too low; c) washing time is too long; or d) the washer is loaded with too many clothes.
Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood. Use the water temperature recommended on stain removal products and detergents. Hot water should be between 120 and 140 degrees F, warm water between 85 and 105 degrees F, and cold water between 65 and 75 degrees F. Water below 60 degrees F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.

How are ballpoint ink stains removed?
Use a two step treatment by removing the oily portion of the ink and then removing the dye portion.
Step 1. Spray or sponge* with a dry-cleaning solvent (example: Energine) or treat with a stain stick. Then rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent and scrub in hot water.
Step 2. Soak in an all-fabric bleach (examples: Biz, Clorox 2, Snowy Bleach, Vivid) diluted according to package directions. Use liquid chlorine bleach for tough dye stains on fabrics that are colorfast to bleach. Wash in as hot of water allowable for fabric using detergent.
*”Sponging” confines the stain to a small area and keeps it from spreading. To do this, use absorbent material, such as clean rags or white paper towels, and a dry-cleaning solvent, spot remover, or aerosol pretreatment spray. Follow these steps: Pad the working surface with clean rags or paper towels that can absorb stains. Place the stained area or spot on the fabric face down over the padded surface. Dampen a small white cloth with solvent. Use the dampened cloth to pat the stain from the wrong side of the fabric. Feather the edges of the stain working from the outside toward the center to keep the stained area from getting larger. As the stain transfers to the absorbent material beneath the fabric, move the stain to a clean place on the absorbent material so the stain has a clean place on which to transfer. Repeat this procedure until all traces of stain are gone. Launder to remove any ring that might be left by the solvent.

How are ketchup stains removed?

  1. Rub heavy-duty liquid detergent into stain and scrub in hot water.
  2. Soak in an all-fabric bleach (examples: Biz, Clorox 2, Vivid, Snowy) diluted according to package directions. Use liquid chlorine bleaches for tough dye stains on fabrics that are colorfast to bleach. Wash in as hot of water allowable for fabric using detergent.

How are blood stains removed?
Soak in cold water. Launder in warm water.
Soak and agitate a fresh stain in cold water before washing. If hot water is used first, it cooks the protein, causing coagulation between the fibers in the yarns of the fabric, making the stains more difficult to remove. If the stain is dried or old, scrape or brush off any crusted matter, then soak in cold water using a detergent.
After treating the stain, launder in warm (not hot) water, rinse, and inspect. If stain remains, soak an additional half-hour, then rewash.

How are collar soil stains removed?
“Ring around the collar,” more accurately referred to as collar soil, is usually a combination of body oil and plain old dirt. Try using a strong, heavy-duty liquid detergent applied undiluted directly on the ring, followed by washing in hot water. In synthetic fibers, hot water washing may cause wrinkling during the washer’s spin cycle, requiring steam pressing after the stain is out. Air dry until the stains are removed, so they aren’t set by heat. If the shirt has cotton and polyester or nylon content, you can repeat the washing procedure without fear of damaging the fibers of the shirt.
Using a half-cup chlorine bleach in the wash water can help with stain removal on white clothes. This shouldn’t be required for every wash load, but occasional use will help keep shirts or blouses white and minimize the appearance of any collar soil that may not be removed with the detergent and hot water. For additional soil removal, pre-treatment products may be effective. The aerosol pre-treatment products or the stain sticks are usually more helpful with collar soil than the pump spray types that are detergent based.

Why do my clothes look yellow, grey, & dingy after I just washed them?
If your clothes do not look white and bright, you may not be using water that is hot enough to properly dissolve the detergent and rinse the dirt away during washing. Water temperature must be above 60 degrees F for detergent to be effective, even if it is a “cold” water detergent. Usually a crammed washer with less than recommended detergent and cold water leads to dirty (tattle-tale gray) clothes. Do not overload the washer if you want soil and odor to be completely removed from clothes.

Why do all colors dye in the wash?
No. It is possible for manufacturers to use colorfast dyes. They tend to cost more. Colorfast dyes are more likely to be found in children’s clothing than in adult clothing, because manufacturers assume children’s clothing will be washed a lot.

If clothing dye stains other clothing in the wash, can it be removed?
A dye stain like this is difficult to remove. First, pretreat the stain with a heavy-duty liquid detergent, then rinse thoroughly. Soak the stained garment in a dilute solution of all-fabric bleach (examples: Biz, Vivid, Snowy Bleach, Clorox 2) following package directions.
If the stain persists, and the garment is white or colorfast, soak in a dilute solution of liquid chlorine bleach and water. IF the stain is not removed after 15 minutes of soaking in the bleach, which has been diluted according to package directions, it cannot be removed by bleaching, and further bleaching will only weaken the fabric. Caution: Since bleaches can alter the color of a fabric as well as the stain, bleach the whole garment; do not try to bleach just the stain.

Even if the care label says “dry-clean only”, can I still wash it?
Stains on most of these items cannot be removed successfully at home. If a stained garment is labeled “dry-clean” or “professionally dry-clean,” blot up the excess stain and take the garment to the cleaners as soon as possible (within 24 to 48 hours). A label’s recommendation for dry-cleaning usually is based on the fiber content of the clothing, but may relate to other parts of the garment, such as the interfacing, elastic, and/or trim.

Can I use a hot iron to remove candle wax spills on my clothing?
Ironing candle wax between blotting paper drives the stain deeper into the fabric. This process is widely used, but not recommended. It more permanently sets the dye from the candle and makes it difficult for the detergent or solvent to reach the wax portion of the stain.

What is mildew, how do I remove it from my clothing, and how do I prevent it?
Mildew is a living organism that grows with warmth, humidity, and nutrients. It is the common name for various molds, simple plants that are classed as fungi. It tends to have a fuzzy appearance and may be white, rust, green, or black, the latter being more common. As mildew grows it “eats” the fiber, causing permanent fiber damage and weakening. Bleaching to remove mildew further weakens fabrics.

  1. Shake or brush the items outdoors to remove loose growth.
  2. Presoak in cold water.
  3. Wash in hot water and heavy duty detergent. If items are white, add 1/2 cup liquid chlorine bleach to wash load. If colored, use all fabric bleach.
  4. With permanent press or synthetic fabrics, use the permanent press cycle with automatic cooldown before the spin cycle to prevent wrinkles.
  5. If staining remains on items, repeat washing before drying.
  6. Dry thoroughly; heat and sun tend to kill mildew.

Mildew attacks and destroys fibers, so clothing may not be restored to original appearance.
Mildew is the common name for various molds, simple plants that are classed as fungi. It tends to have a fuzzy appearance and may be white, rust, green, or black, the latter being more common. Because it is a living organism that grows with warmth, humidity, and nutrients, keeping materials dry is key to preventing mildew. Removal efforts are not enough to prevent mildew. The source of moisture must be identifyed and corrected to prevent future growth.

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