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Stain-removal guide

Who knew white wine and WD-40 were stain-busters? Find out how to get anything out of anything with this handy guide

Next time you spill coffee on your favourite white blouse, don’t write it off as a lost laundry cause. With a few products and some elbow grease, you can solve almost any stain dilemma. We consulted various authorities, including the Field Guide to Stains (Quirk) and The Royal Guide to Spot and Stain Removal (Pocket Books), and while there’s no guarantee these stain-busting strategies will work every time, here are some top tricks.

Stain busters

– How do I remove…- coffee cosmetics blood grass chocolate mud butter, margarine or oil mustard perspiration deodorant nail polish

Coffee

Rinse back of stain with cold water. Rub liquid enzyme detergent such as Tide into back of stain and let stand for several minutes. (For old stains, rub with detergent and soak in cold water for half an hour.) Then launder with enzyme detergent. If stain remains, rub again with enzyme detergent and soak in warm water for up to 15 minutes and rinse well.

Apply spot stain remover (such as Shout or use the Tide Buzz Ultrasonic Stain Remover gadget) and let stand for several minutes. Re-launder with enzyme detergent.

Cosmetics

Dampen stain with lukewarm water and rub with a bar of white soap—one that doesn’t contain moisturizers, perfumes or dyes (such as Ivory) or undiluted dishwashing soap. Rinse with lukewarm water. Repeat until you see no further improvement. Then launder as you normally would.

Blood

Sprinkle stain with salt and rinse in cold water. (For dried blood, soak in cold salted water for 30 minutes or until stain loosens.) If that doesn’t zap stain, soak in liquid enzyme detergent and cold water for 30 minutes and then rinse well. If stain remains, make a paste of lukewarm water mixed with cornstarch, unseasoned meat tenderizer or baking soda. Rub into stain and let dry. Brush off powder and rinse well with cold water. Apply spot stain remover to the stain and let stand for several minutes. Then launder with liquid enzyme detergent.

Grass

Place garment stain side down on absorbent cloth and sponge back of stain with rubbing alcohol. (For acetate fabrics, dilute alcohol with two parts water. Do not use alcohol on wool.) Rinse well with cold water.

If stain remains, scrub in non-gel toothpaste with a toothbrush and let stand for several minutes. Rinse well with cold water. If stain remains, repeat steps until you see no further improvement. Rub stain with spot stain remover and let stand for several minutes. Then launder with a liquid enzyme detergent.

Chocolate

Remove excess with a dull knife. Rinse back of stain with cold water. Rub liquid enzyme detergent into back of stain. Soak in cold water for 30 minutes or until stain loosens. Old stains might need to soak for several hours. Rub stain as it soaks. Rinse well with lukewarm water and then dry. If stain remains, soak in n cup (125 mL) of three per cent hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon (5 mL) of clear ammonia for 10 minutes at a time, rinsing in between.

Mud

Let stain dry. Shake out clothing or vacuum carpet to remove as much dry mud as possible. Rub in liquid enzyme detergent, then soak in lukewarm water for 10 to 20 minutes.

Agitate stain between your fingers occasionally during soaking. Old stains may need to soak for several hours. If stain is still there, apply spot stain remover and let stand for several minutes. Launder with enzyme detergent. If stain remains, rub with liquid enzyme detergent and soak again. Blot remaining stain with white vinegar or three per cent hydrogen peroxide, rinse well and launder normally. Another trick: after removing dry mud, rub with a cut potato and then launder as usual.

To remove from carpet, sprinkle with salt or baking soda, allow to dry and then vacuum. Repeat until you see no further improvement. Apply carpet spot remover according to product directions.

Butter, margarine or oil

Remove excess with a dull knife. (For old butter or margarine stains, spray with WD-40 lubricant.) Apply spot stain remover and let stand for several minutes. Apply liquid enzyme detergent and let stand again. Launder in hottest water safe for fabric.

Mustard

Remove excess with a dull knife.

If stain is dry, rub in glycerin (sold in drugstores). Run a stream of cold water through back of stain to remove as much as possible. Rub in a liquid enzyme detergent and wait several minutes. Rinse and repeat until you see no further improvement. Then apply spot stain remover and wait several minutes. Launder with liquid enzyme detergent. On carpet, remove what you can with a dull knife. Blot with a damp cloth. If stain is still there, apply carpet spot remover.

Perspiration

Sponge with ammonia or white vinegar and rinse well. Repeat until you see no further improvement.

If stain is still there, apply spot stain remover and let stand for several minutes. Launder with bleach that is safe for fabric.

Deodorant

Mix spot stain remover with lukewarm water. Sponge on and let stand for several minutes. Rinse well with lukewarm water. Repeat until no further improvement. If stain damaged fabric colour, rub with ammonia (on silk or wool, dilute ammonia with an equal amount of water). Rinse well in lukewarm water. Launder in hottest water safe for fabric.

Nail polish

Place garment on a paper towel and blot with acetone nail polish remover (test on an inconspicuous area first; don’t use acetone on silk or acetate).

If garment’s colour is affected by remover, use white vinegar instead. Blot continuously, replacing cloth when it is saturated. Rinse well. Repeat until no further improvement. Apply spot stain remover and launder. Let garment dry in sun. On carpet, blot continuously with acetone nail polish remover or white vinegar. Then blot with water. Repeat until no further improvement. If stain is still there, treat with carpet spotter.

Stain busters

– How do I remove… – coffee cosmetics blood grass chocolate mud butter, margarine or oil mustard perspiration deodorant nail polish