How to Remove Almost Every Stain

Red wine stains, grass stains, oil stains, blood stains. We've seen them all at Who Knew, and we've managed to conquer every one! Here are tried-and-true methods for getting out any kind of stain you can think of from your clothes and other laundry.

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
4-minute read

Berry Stains

To remove berry stains, soak the stain overnight in equal parts milk and white vinegar. Then launder as usual.

Buy Now

As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Affiliate, QDT earns from qualifying purchases.

Underarm Stains

Deodorant and antiperspirant stains often seem to sprout up out of nowhere, but you can tackle them with meat tenderizer! Aluminum compounds that bind to your clothes are what cause the yellow stain, but you can get rid of them with papain or bromelain, which are found in most meat tenderizers. Just add water to the tenderizer until it forms a paste, then rub on the stain and let sit for one hour before washing.

Marker Stains

Yes, there’s even hope for permanent marker stains, and it comes in the form of something you already have in your bag: hand sanitizer. Squirt it around the edges of the stains and then work your way in, then let sit for five minutes before cleaning. Just make sure you test the material for color-fastness, as hand sanitizer can discolor it.

Lipstick Stains

Lipstick can be one of hardest stains to remove—if you don’t use the right stain remover. The grease in lipstick makes it hard to get out of the fibers in fabric, but rubbing alcohol breaks through it nicely. Just apply rubbing alcohol with a damp cloth to the stain, and dab until the lipstick starts to come off, applying more alcohol as necessary. Then launder as usual.

Suntan Lotion Stains

You had a great time at the beach, but you accidentally got suntan lotion all over your cover-up. To remove this stubborn stain, cover with liquid dish detergent and rub in. Then turn your kitchen sink on at full blast and run under cold water.

Tobacco Stains

If you have a tobacco stain on your clothes, moisten it, then rub with white bar soap (like Dove or Ivory), then rinse and launder.

Rust Stains

Did you know that toothpaste can remove rust stains? Apply to fabric and rub with a damp cloth, then rinse before washing. The white, non-gel variety works best.

Scorch Stains

If you have a scorch mark on fabric, your quest to remove it begins in the kitchen. Cut the end off of an onion and grate about a fourth of it into a bowl using a cheese grater. Rub the stain with the grated onion, blotting it with as much of the onion juice as you can. Let it sit for 8–10 minutes, and if necessary, re-apply the onion juice. Once the stain is gone, launder as usual.

Grass Stains

Sometimes our kids get so many grass stains on their clothes, we think we should just buy them all-green outfits. To get out grass stains, try rubbing the stain with molasses or corn syrup and let stand overnight, then wash the item with regular dish soap by itself.

Mud Stains

If your kid’s been playing in the mud again, rub shampoo over the soiled area and let sit for 5 minutes before washing. For tougher stains, try pre-soaking in a mixture of one part warm water, one part ammonia, and one part laundry detergent. 

Blood Stains

To get out blood stains, soak the stained area in club soda or hydrogen peroxide (if cotton) before laundering. If the blood is fresh (ouch!), make a paste of water and talcum powder, cornstarch, cornmeal, or meat tenderizer and apply it to the stain. Let it dry, and then brush it off.

Gasoline Stains 

Removing gasoline stains from clothing can be tricky. The most effective way we know of is to apply baby oil to the stain, then launder as usual. Since gasoline is an oil-based product, it takes another oil to pull out the stain and smell. 

Rust Stains

Remove rust stains by wetting the spots with lemon juice, then sprinkling with salt. Let the fabric stand in direct sunlight for 30–45 minutes.

Shoe Polish Stains

Try applying a mixture of one part rubbing alcohol and two parts water for colored fabrics and only straight alcohol for whites for shoe polish stains. Sponge on, then launder.

Wine Stains

Blot a wine stain with a mixture of one part dishwashing liquid and two parts hydrogen peroxide. If this doesn’t work, apply a paste made from water and cream of tartar and let sit.

Coffee Stains

Get rid of coffee stains with one of our favorite household helpers—vinegar. Blot the stain with a solution of one part vinegar and one part water, then let sit for 10 minutes. If it’s a tablecloth or piece of clothing, wash in the washing machine as usual.

Tea Stains 

Tea and lemon are best friends—even in the laundry room. Rub a tea stain with equal parts lemon juice and water. Just make sure the mixture only gets on the stain, using a Q-tip or eyedropper if necessary.

Oil Stains

The best way to remove stains from cooking oil (olive, vegetable, canola, etc.) is with regular shampoo. Just make sure it doesn’t have a built in conditioner.

Mustard Stains

Hydrogen peroxide is effective at getting rid of mustard stains. After making sure the fabric is colorfast, apply a small amount to the stain and let set for several minutes before laundering. 

Ketchup Stains

Remove excess ketchup with a dull knife, then dab with a damp, warm sponge. Apply a bit of shaving cream to the stain, and let it dry before laundering as usual.

Mystery Stains

Have a mystery stain you can’t get out? Try using the old toothbrush trick. First, apply some dishwashing liquid, or even just some laundry detergent, to the stain. Then rub in with an old toothbrush for about 30 seconds. The toothbrush will help penetrate the fibers of your clothes, even getting out worn-in stains.

Did we miss a pesky stain you've been trying to remove, or do you have a great stain removal tip? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page! For even more cleaning tips for all around your home, check out our eBook, Who Knew? Cleaning Made Easy, available in KindleNook, andPDF formats.

Image by Who Knew? The suggestions offered here are for informational purposes only.  The Authors and Publisher do not accept liability for damages arising from the use, attempted use, misuse or application of any of the suggestions included on this website.

About the Author

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin

Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin are the proud parents of three boys and more than a dozen books. After saving thousands per year using everyday tips and simple lifehacks, they started their own business in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with others. They have been known to go into their friends' refrigerators to turn their eggs upside down so that they last longer.