Stain Removal: How to Get Stains Out of Clothes

Remove Oil, Ink, Blood, Food, Wax, Mildew, Grass, & Lipstick Stains

July 13, 2021

The best stain remover can sometimes be found right in your home, so check out these tips for stains and stain removal. Whether it’s oil or grease, ink, blood, food, wax, mildew, grass, or lipstick—we’ve got you covered!

How to Remove Oil or Grease

  • Scrub a grease stain with a lather of laundry detergent and water. Distilled water works best for this since “soft” water cuts grease better than water having a high mineral content.

How to Remove Ink from Clothing

  • Put a piece of scrap fabric beneath the stained spot to blot any ink that may come through. Then spray the stain evenly with aerosol hair spray from four to six inches away. Blot the surface of the stained article after spraying. You may have to repeat the process a couple of times. Finally, give the garment a regular laundering.

  • Hairspray will also work to remove ballpoint ink stains from leather. Saturate the stain, let the spray dry and then brush lightly with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.

  • Another approach to removing ballpoint ink stains from leather is to coat them with petroleum jelly. You may need to leave the jelly on the stain for several days before wiping it off.

Blood Stains

  • If stain is fresh and still wet, immediate sponge with cold water and soak for 30 minutes in cold water. Rub liquid detergent into area, rinse. 

  • If stain remains, or blood stain is older, soak in a solution of 2 tablespoons of ammonia per 1 gallon of cold water. Wash in cold water and dishwashing liquid to remove an vestiges of the stain left after the ammonia treatment. Repeat detergent treatment. 

  • If the bloodstain is on a large article, such as a blanket, that you don’t want to soak completely, make a paste of cornstarch and water and slather it dry, brush it off, and keep repeating until the stain disappears.

  • Machine-wash the fabric using an enzyme detergent (most standard laundry soaps are enzyme-based), which breaks down protein stains. Make sure the blood has lifted before putting fabric in the dryer, as the heat will set the stain.

Food and Drink Stains

  • For fruit, berries, and juices: sponge immediately with cool water. If safe for fabric, pour boiling water through stain. Work detergent into stain; rinse. 

  • For alcoholic and soft drinks, sponge in cool water and glycerine. Soak 30 minutes. Sponge with alcohol if safe for fabric.

  • For chocolate, scrub the stained area immediately with ammonia, then wash as you normally would.

  • For nonchocolate candy, vegetables, and catsup: Sponge stain with cold water. Soak for 30 minutes.

  • For egg stains, scrape off the excess with a dull knife, then soak the stain in cold water. Launder as you usually would. If the article requires dry cleaning, sponge the stain with cold water and take it to the dry cleaner right away.

  • Fresh coffee and tea call for the “hot waterfall” approach. First, stretch the stained part of the fabric over a bowl, as if you were putting a head on a drum, and secure it with a rubber band. Then pour boiling water over the stain from a height of two to three feet. Be careful not to burn yourself! Wash the article as you normally would, using a small amount of bleach if the fabric can tolerate it. The “hot waterfall” also works to loosen fruit and berry stains. It works with red wine if you first sprinkle a little salt on the stain. For more tips on how to remove red wine stains, check out this list of money-saving tips for the kitchen.

  • After a wine spill, blot up as much of the wine as you can, then rinse with cool water or club soda. Sprinkle a little salt on the stain, and create a paste of salt and water. Then, if the fabric will stand it, pour boiling water through the stain with the cloth stretched over a bowl or bathtub. For tough stains, try blotting the stains with one of the following: ⅓ cup vinegar in ⅔ cup water; 2 tablespoons ammonia in 1 cup water; or alcohol, either straight or mixed with an equal amount of water. Rinse well and then launder as usual. In some cases, you may have to use an enzyme detergent to remove wine stains.


  • If spilled beer has dried onto clothing or tablecloths, mix a solution of equal parts vinegar and dish washing liquid, then sponge it onto the stain. Rinse with warm water and launder as usual.

Wax Stains from Candles

  • Small spots of hardened candle wax can be removed from tablecloths by rubbing with a generous dollop of vegetable oil. Wipe off any excess oil, then launder as usual.

  • Another way to remove small amounts of wax hardened onto a tablecloth is to spread the affected area over a large bowl and secure it with rubber bands, then pour boiling water over the wax to melt it. Follow up by washing the tablecloth as usual.

  • For larger wax deposits on tablecloths, first scrape off the excess with a dull knife, then place the stained area between two paper towels and press with an iron on a low setting. Replace the paper towels as the wax is absorbed into them, then launder when the paper no longer absorbs wax. (If the fabric is one that’s especially sensitive to heat, avoid burning it by holding the iron a couple of inches above the towels. You will still get enough heat to melt the wax.)

Mildew Stains

  •  To get rid of the black and gray stains caused by mildew, try moistening the stained area with lemon juice and salt, then drying the fabric in the sun. If this doesn’t work, sponge the stain with hydrogen peroxide and sun-dry it. 

  • If you have a leather item stained with the powdery traces of surface mildew, wipe the affected area with a solution of equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. When the leather is dry, treat it with a conditioner such as caster oil.

Remove Grass Stains

  • To help remove grass stains from garments, work liquid laundry detergent into the stained area, rinse, then launder as usual.

  • Saturate grass stains on cotton with rubbing alcohol, let stand for 10 minutes, and launder as usual.

Lipstick Stains

  • Rub peanut butter on the lipstick stained area. Before the peanut butter dries, wash the fabric with warm water and dish washing liquid. This is hardly peanut butter’s only odd use—check out this article on uncommon household uses of peanut butter for more tips.

  • Use vegetable oil, shortening, or petroleum jelly. Cover the stain with the oil, let it sit for five to ten minutes, and then wash with warm, soapy water. Make sure to remove all the oil, or you’ll have a different stain to deal with.

Sticky Labels

  • How do you remove the sticky substance that is left after you remove a label? Depending on the surface, try rubbing it with vegetable oil or suntan lotion. If that doesn’t work, use nail polish remover. 

Got some tricks and tips of your own! We welcome your solutions! Just comment below. Thank you.


This page was originally published in 2010 and is regularly updated.

Reader Comments

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Pizza sauce on rubberpants

Our 15 year old daughter was finially baptized at Easter Vigil last easter and Like all the other preteen and teen girls,she wore the traditional white,poofy,sleeveless,above the knees baptism dress with the matching bonnet,lace anklets and the white 'mary jane' shoes.The girls all wear the white cloth baptismal diaper with rubberpants over it under their dresses with an undershirt as their top.At her party,she sat on a chair that had pizza sauce spilled on it,and got a fairly good size orangeish stain on the back of the rubberpants.She took her outfit off at bedtime and by then the stain was dried and set in.She will be making her First Holy Communion next May,2018,and has to wear the cloth diaper and rubberpants under her communion dress as they are required for the newly baptized girls for first communion.How can we get the stain out of the rubberpants?

Stain on rubberpants

Our 14 year old daughter did her 8th grade catholic confirmation the first week of june and per the parish dress code all the girls had to wear a poofy,white short sleeve dress with a veil,lace anklets and white patent leather shoes. A white tee shirt with the cloth diapers and rubberpants had to be worn under their dresses.Our daughter got grass stain on the back of her rubberpants and i got it completely out with Goo Gone! I applied the goo gone on the grass stain and rubbed it a little and it came right out! The daughter is going to be the senior flower girl in a wedding on October 14,and i am doing the cloth diapers and rubberpants on her again under her flower girl dress.

flowergirl rubberpants stain

When our daughter was 14 she also was the flowergirl in her aunts wedding and her aunt gave her a pair of white rubberpants with pink ruffles across the back to wear over her diaper.I did the size 8 pampers on her with the rubberpants over it and at the dinner,she sat on a chair with something spilled on it and got a big stain on the back of the rubberpants,right in the center of the ruffles.Thru hardwork and much scrubbing with various products,i was able to get the stain completely out luckily! She has worn the ruffled rubberpants a couple times since then.

13 year old daughters baptism rubberpants and tights

We finially baptized our 13 year old daughter in the fall baptism class back in September and dressed her in the traditional white,puffy,midthigh length,sleeveless baptism dress with the matching bonnet,tights and white shoes.Her baptismal diaper was a size 8 pampers cruiser with white rubberpants over it under her tights.Somehow she got a dark stain on the back of the white tights that soaked thru and stained the back of her rubberpants.We discovered the stain at bedtime when she took her outfit off and by then the stain was dried on the tights and rubberpants.The stain came out of the rubberpants after soaking them in Oxy-clean,but i had to take the tights to the dry cleaners and they got it out! She has to wear a cloth diaper with the rubberpants over it and the tights under her communion dress this comming may 2019.

Stain on rubberpants

Our 14 year old daughter was also a flowergirl in her cousins wedding last October and wore a cute,poofy,white,above the knees flowergirl dress and the veil with the lace socks and white shoes.I did a 10 ply thick cloth diaper and the white rubberpants on her also under her dress and at the dinner she sat on a chair that had pink champhain spilled on it and it left a light pink stain on the back of the rubberpants.I tried getting it out the next day,but to no avail.I went to Walmart and got a box of the Rit dye in light pink,and dyed the rubberpants pink! The stain is covered and the rubberpants are now almost pastel pink!

Stain on rubberpants

To Marjory-We baptized our 16 year old daughter last year at Easter vigil also and she wore the same outfit as your daughter. Her Great Aunt Lydia gave her a pair of rubberpants with a white nylon covering on them with pink ruffles across the back to wear over her cloth diaper.She too sat on something on a chair that had something spilled on it and got a stain on the back of the rubberpants and got the bottom two rows of the ruffles.Thank god it was a food stain and i used an old bottle of Basic H cleaner to get the stain out! When she made her First Communion the next month in may,i put the ruffled rubberpants on her with out her baptismal diaper,and her under shirt that she wore for the day under her communion dress.The ruffled rubberpants looked very cute under her puffy communion dress!

16 year old daughters First Communion rubberpants stained

Our daughter is 16 and finially made her First Holy Communion this past June 2nd with the first and 2nd graders.We dressed her like the little girls in a cute,poofy,short sleeve,knee length communion dress and matching veil with the lace anklets and white patent leather shoes.We did a white tee shirt with the cloth diaper and rubberpants on her under her dress just like the little girls all wear.After her party,she took her communion dress off and was sitting at her desk in her room re-doing her nails,when she spilled the bottle of nail polish and it got the bottom of her tee shirt and the front of her rubberpants.Some one told me that non-acetone nail polish remover will take the nail polish out of the rubberpants.Does anyone know if this is true or not?

Stain on rubberpants

To Linda D.-Yes,the non-acetone nail polish remover does work to take spilled nail polish out of the rubberpants.Our daughter is 16 also and has been a bedwetter for over a year now and she wears the cloth pin on diapers and rubberpants to bed every night.A few times,she has dripped nail polish on her rubberpants while redoing her nails and she just wipes it off with the non-acetone remover on a kleenex.When she was confirmed back on May 19th,she wore a pair of her rubberpants with ruffles across the back under her white dress,and later on,while redoing her nails,dripped pink nail polish on the rubberpants and it was the non-acetone remover to the rescue!

Blood stain removal

After working in a laboratory for 40 yrs., I am an expert on blood stain removal. The salt solution given definitely works. More salt may be needed though. If there is still a small residue or the blood has been on the fabric for a while and dried, pour hydrogen peroxide to remove any stubborn blood stain.

How to get out red clay mud?

How to get out red clay mud?

Red clay mud

I also would like to know how to remove red clay mud. It is impossible and I usually end up dyeing the article of clothing or placing the entire piece in a bucket of red mud to give it the natural orange look! In Hawaii they sell red mud dyed shirts!

A grease spots on fabrics are

A grease spots on fabrics are best removed by sprinkling talc power on greased spots. Do not rub , wash or press before putting on the powder. Put on a think layer of talc powder and let it stay
for a while . The powder will absorb the grease. Do not rub the powder into the grease spot. After letting sit for a while brush powder off repeat if needed. If you iron or wash the spot before putting on the talc the grease will not come out.

I have known talc powder to remove grease spots in minutes. It is wise to always have talc powder with you at all times. Any talc powder will do.

Grease spot removal

Grease spots that could not be removed with talc can be removed by scrubbing gently with a few drops of Dawn detergent. Then launder as usual.

How do I get gum out of a

How do I get gum out of a sweater? Thanks

To get gum out of a sweater

The Editors's picture

To get gum out of a sweater or clothes, apply ice to hardened gum. Crack or scrape off excess. Spray with pretreatment aerosol product. Rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Rinse with hot water. Repeat if necessary. Launder.

Ice cubs have been known to

Ice cubs have been known to remove gum from fabrics.

on many stains(tomatoe sauce,

on many stains(tomatoe sauce, red wine, blood, etc) I use peroxide followed by toothpaste scrubbed in with a toothbrush. 99% of the time, the stain does not stand a snowball's chance in the desert of remaining on the clothing.

Peroxide definitely gets out

Peroxide definitely gets out blood stains. Never tried following with toothpaste as another reader suggested but I apply peroxide and let it soak in then scrub with a brush on inside of clothing and outside. Eventually it will be gone. The sooner you start working on the stain, the better. Good luck

What is the best way to get

What is the best way to get rid of yellow perspiration stains

I believe the best way is to

I believe the best way is to saturate the stained area with lemon juice & let sit in the sun for a few hours.

Sometimes the stain is from

Sometimes the stain is from anti-perspirant, which creates a waxy build-up on your t-shirts.

I use those little hotel

I use those little hotel bottles of shampoo to remove oil or grease from clothing. It pulls the oils out of our hair, and I have found by making a paste with baking soda and shampoo, and covering stain, and launder as usual. This works most times, it worked on my fast-food uniforms from way back when I was in college.

Don't forget about dawn dish

Don't forget about dawn dish detergent, it removes heavy grease on pots and pans it works a wonder on clothes, my boys like using their shirts for napkins

My hands and fingernails are

My hands and fingernails are stained from yardwork. How can I remove the stains?

I always use a cap full of

I always use a cap full of bleach in a half filled kitchen sink and scrub a few think sthe bleach whitens your fingernails, and gives them a french manicure look. Rinse real well and use a good hand lotion afterwords.

Wyllow, and use a nail brush

Wyllow, and use a nail brush while hands are under the bleach water

Blood - Do nothing except

Blood - Do nothing except soak in cow's milk. The Enzyme in the Milk Digests the enzymes in the blood. Don't know why.... but it always works.

If your water is city water, the bleach used to purify the water will set the blood stain in. I've also used Plain old Seltzer Water to get blood out of a freshly stained white t-shirt or hankie. DON'T use Tonic water!!

As a nurse we discovered that

As a nurse we discovered that to remove blood from fabric is to apply hydrogen really works!

On color fabrics it won't

On color fabrics it won't remove the color?

for blood stains, before the

for blood stains, before the first wash i pour peroxide on them. it bubbles up and i let it sit then rise with cold water. you can do this a few times until the stain is almost completely gone. then wash.