Don’t throw away your favorite cocktail dress or commit to tearing out the living room carpet over a stubborn stain. While it’s true that many substances are nearly impossible to remove from textiles once they’ve set in, using the right tactics based on the composition of the stain can have shockingly high results. Try these techniques for fighting the world’s five worst stains to reclaim your favorite outfits.
1. Hot Cocoa
Hot cocoa sounds so innocent and sweet, but it packs a combination punch of the world’s most staining ingredients. Chocolate is already tough to remove due to the combination of proteins, fat, and sugar, and if milk was used to make the cocoa the amount of protein and fat is even higher. The tannins in the cocoa powder also contribute to a darker stain. Using heat cooks the proteins to lock them in, so rinse first with cold water. When the visible remnants of the drink are gone, switch to lukewarm water and use a mild soap to break up the sugar and fat. Citrus based cleaners also work well for loosening these two. Finally, use hydrogen peroxide or bleach to remove the remaining tannins, then wash normally.
Whether it’s left behind by an animal or a baby with a diaper accident, an unexpected bit of feces can quickly ruin the nicest and newest carpeting. You don’t even need anyone home to cause the stain if you track it in on the bottom of a shoe. Nothing will combat either the odor or the visible stain like enzyme-based cleaning products, so find a pet stain treatment regardless of what species created the mess. Most enzyme cleaners are liquid based, but gel products are especially powerful at lifting carpet stains. Follow the directions on the product and be prepared to repeat the process a few times to get the results you want.
One surprise nosebleed and your brand new shirt is ruined. Or is it? The proteins in blood make it as tricky to treat as hot cocoa, and the red blood cells provide a lot of pigment for leaving a rusty brown color behind. Rinse immediately in cold water until you’ve removed as much of the visible blood as possible. Use a stain treatment that is designed specifically for blood, which is usually enzyme based like the products designed for pet messes. Bodily fluids require these enzymes to break them down, so you’ll know what to do about a piddle puddle as well.
4. Permanent Marker
It’s called permanent, but you still have a chance to get it out of your clothing or carpet by using an ink solvent. Look for a cleaning product designed for use on marker ink. Even if it doesn’t claim to work on permanent markers, there’s a good chance it will at least weaken the stain. Brush the cleaning product into the carpet or fabric with a stiff bristled brush and blot until the ink is nearly gone, then rinse the area with clean, warm water.
5. Tomato Sauce
Finally, spaghetti night has ruined many outfits. The meat sauce is even harder to treat thanks to the greasy spots it leaves behind after the red sauce is gone. Treat sauce alone with a soak in cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar mixed in. Hot water sets tomato stains, but it’s necessary for residual grease. After using a spot treatment to lighten any red or orange stains, use the hottest water possible and a strong detergent to get rid of greasy residues.