Laundry used to be so simple, didn’t it? All those white towels, crisp blouses, and pressed trousers remained pristine no matter how many times they ran through the laundry.
Then you had kids. And now you’ve got a laundry list of problems.
- Mysterious stains from even more mysterious sources.
- Poop where no poop has gone before.
Vomit you heroically caught with your shirt, saving the pastor’s wife from an accidental “baptism.”
- Markers that clearly aren’t as washable as the package promises.
Oh, the indignity of it all! Now instead of starching and ironing, you’re suddenly asking Google things like “Will breast milk come out of this sweater?” or “How do I get poop out of corduroy?”
If you feel like your head is in a permanent spin cycle when it come to stain removal, I’m here to help. Below are six magic potions that will solve all your clothing stain problems.
With a little elbow grease, we’ll get that bacon grease (and crayon and peanut butter…and diarrhea…) out of those clothes for good.
Stain Magic Potion #1: OxiClean
OxiClean is a staple every family should have in the laundry room. A scoop added to your wash keeps your clothes bright and fresh, and a soak will help you power through tough stains. I like OxiClean best for these particular clothing stain problems:
- Grass and Mud: A small price to pay for fostering a love of the great outdoors
- Breastmilk and Formula: Every bib and onesie has probably been hit.
- Coffee: Did your toddler spill it, or did you? (Guilty!)
How to Use OxiClean for Your Clothing Stain Problems
- Soak the stained clothes in a gallon of water with a scoop of powder.
- After the garment is saturated, rub the fabric together on the stain to agitate and loosen it a bit.
- Soak for up to six hours, depending on the severity of the stain.
- Launder as normal, but add a scoop of OxiClean to the load in addition to your detergent.
Be sure to check your clothes before transferring to the dryer, as heat will set your stain and make it much harder to get out. Repeat the process above a second time if necessary. Need some more tough stain tips? Check out the OxiClean website.
I’ve made a concentrated solution of OxiClean before and used it to clean my white kitchen grout with a toothbrush. While I don’t recommend doing this on a weekly basis as it’s mildly abrasive, it’s a great trick for those stubborn pasta sauce drips that always land right on that white grout!
Stain Magic Potion #2: Spray n’ Wash
While a good OxiClean soak can do wonders for large surface stains, some stains are a little tougher to address. You need something with grit and staying power to really get down into those clothing fibers and make that stain disappear.
For small but mighty stains, you want the muscle of a stain spray. My favorite is Spray ‘N Wash Max Laundry Stain Remover.
Use stain sprays for these clothing stain problems:
- Foods like Avocado or Red Sauce: I am the lucky mother of a child who hides her spaghetti inside her shirt if she really, really likes it.
- Permanent Marker: There is nothing more terrifying than finding an uncapped permanent marker, is there?
- Kids’ Paints: If you’re not able to rinse out the paint while it’s still wet, it’s probably going to be harder to remove, but not impossible! (Incidentally, check this article on how to minimize the crafting mess!)
I imagine not many of us are able to stop everything to take care of a potential stain. The clothing stain problems above are always easiest to get out if you spray them right away, but I’ve had really good luck with both of these sprays even a week or two after the initial stain incident.
How to Use a Stain Spray on Your Clothing Stain Problems
- Spray solution directly on the stain.
- If at all possible, let the treated stain sit for a few days. The more deeply set the stain the longer you’ll need to let the spray sit on it to work its magic.
- Spray ‘N Wash really is magical for food stains even if they’ve been sitting since Taco Tuesday. So if you’re just now discovering that shirt, balled up under the bed, there’s still hope! Spray and let it sit a day or two before washing. It’s magi-kah! *jazz hands*
Stain Magic Potion #3: Dish Soap and Vinegar
This potion happens to be my favorite on the list.
If there’s any stain I’m unsure how to tackle, you can bet I’m heading to my kitchen sink to give dish soap a shot. I’m loyal to original blue Dawn (the kind they use to save baby ducks in the TV commercials!) but any good degreasing dish soap should work on these stains:
- Poop: Becoming a parent gives you a crash course in all things poop, including how far poop reaches.
- Grease: Whether you’re making bacon in a pan and the grease pops all over your shirt or you run a fruity lip balm through the dryer, take heart! Your clothes can be salvaged.
- Crayons: Name-brand crayons are washable from surfaces, but when you run one through the dryer, it’s a different story altogether!
How to Tackle Clothing Stains Caused by Poop and Grease
- Pour about a tablespoon of this dish soap into a bowl or container.
- Using an old toothbrush, rub the dish soap into the stain.
- Let sit for several minutes, or up to overnight depending on how stubborn the stain is.
- Rinse the items with cold water (this prevents too many suds foaming up in your washer).
Launder as normal, but add a ½ cup of white vinegar for an extra boost. Grease comes out best in hot water, if your clothes can handle it.
How to Tackle Clothing Stain Problems Caused by Melted Crayon
- Shake out all your laundry to be extra sure all the crayon pieces are gone and double check your washer and dryer.
- Put your clothes back in the washer. Fill the drum on the hot setting, but turn your water heater up (and maybe even add some boiling water). Don’t forget to turn your water heater back down to kid safe immediately after you’re done with this, though!
- Add your usual amount of laundry detergent, plus a ½ cup of white vinegar and ¼ cup of dish soap.
- Soak your clothes for about 15 minutes.
- Run the wash cycle as normal.
- Inspect the clothes before transferring to the dryer, and repeat if necessary.
Stain Magic Potion #4: Hairspray
This next potion might make you reminisce about your love for Saved By The Bell. Hairspray is a simple potion for stains you might not expect, but is fantastic for these artistic clothing stain problems:
- Latex Paint: Just because you wore those jeans to paint doesn’t mean they have to be your designated paint jeans!
- Pen Ink: When a forgotten pen takes a tumble around the dryer, it tends to leave its signature over all the other clothes.
How to Use Hairspray on Your Clothing Stain Problems:
Buy a cheap bottle of aerosol hairspray. Depending on how many stains you have, it may take a bottle or two. Simply spray the stain to saturate it, give it a little rub, and run through a normal wash with detergent.
For pen ink, this works best if you catch the pen disaster before transferring the load to the dryer, but can still help if you’ve dried it. For pen that’s been dried in the dryer, give OxiClean spray a try instead.
Stain Magic Potion #5: Sunshine and Lemon Juice
An alternative to a few of the potions above is right in your backyard (and your fridge)! Sun bleaching can lighten stubborn stains and brighten fabrics in just a few hours. I like to let the sun do my dirty work for these ugly clothing stain problems:
- Poop: If the dish soap trick doesn’t perfectly remove the stain, you aren’t done yet! There’s another choice! This trick works especially well for stains on the microfiber liners of cloth diapers.
- Sweat: Heat from the dryer reacts with anti-perspirant deodorants to cause those yucky yellow pit stains, but you can lift them out and smell sweet again.There are two ways to use sunshine to bleach stains, and I recommend using the sun as a laundry aid for light clothing only. The sun will definitely fade your navy, red, and black clothes (but those are less likely to show staining anyhow).
How to Use Sun Bleach for Your Clothing Stain Problems:
For really tough stains like sweat or severely stained cloth diapers, take wet laundry from the wash and spray the stain with a little lemon juice or cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side of the lemon on the stain. Hang it in the sun for a few hours, then launder as normal. If the stain isn’t gone, repeat this process once or twice.
Bonus: The sun trick will work even in a sunny window if the weather is too cold to put laundry outside. Sunshine can also help get the “barnyard stink” out of diapers if you’re working out the right wash process for them.
Stain Magic Potion #6:
This final potion is the easiest of all and works for the toughest stains. Instead of mixing solutions or adding something to your washing machine, you just need to turn on the the cold water tap on your bathroom sink or laundry room wash basin.
Use cold water for these stubborn clothing stain problems:
- Chocolate: It’s the answer we always hope for when the question is, “Is that poop or is that chocolate?” but it’s still pretty hard to get out of clothes. (HINT: Always assume it’s poop…)
- Blood: Cold weather brings bloody noses and warm weather brings skinned knees. The poor laundry just can’t win!
- Juice: Try as you might to ban red juice from your house, it sneaks up on you and is attracted by the magnetism of a clean shirt.
The most important thing about using cold water in your stain removal arsenal is that you need to use it immediately.
How to Use Cold Water for Your Clothing Stain Problems
Soak the shirt or towel in a sink full of very cold water as soon as you notice the stain. If the stain is still wet, even better. While you fill the sink, let the stain sit under the faucet as it runs. The pressure from the water will help agitate the stain to loosen up.
You: The True Magician
Simply put, stains are scary. There are few things worse than finding an entire load of laundry has been ruined by a single orange crayon or getting dressed for the day only to walk straight into projectile spit up.
Clothing stain problems don’t have to be nightmares anymore. Roll up those sleeves, summon your elbow grease, and get ready to work some magic in your own laundry room.
Armed with these six potions, most of which are hanging out in your cabinets already, any stain you come in contact with will be no match for your magical powers.
Time to Wingardium Leviosa those stains straight out of there!
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