6 tips for removing unknown stains

Removing unknown stains on clothes without harming the fabric requires a bit of guesswork, a gentle touch, and the right stain treatment.

It also requires patience - you'll often need to repeat a stain removal treatment or try another, faithfully treating and rinsing until your mystery stain disappears. 

If you don't now what your daughter dribbled on her sun dress at the picnic, rinse or soak the dress in cold water before treating. 

Get into the habit of checking wet clothes for stains before tossing them in the dryer, as this can permanently set the stain. 

plan in advance for stain pretreating

Since you won't always be near a washing machine or stain stick when clothing disaster strikes, just plan to treat the spot as soon as you return home.

Not to worry: Some remedies will work even on set-in spots and stains.

Pretreating works best on small spots and fresh stains. But for old stains and protein stains, presoaking is key.

For fruit juice, coffee and blood stains, use cold water (and do not use chlorine bleach, as it can make stains worse).

Otherwise fill a tub or sink with the warmest water safe for the fabric, add a healthy dose of detergent, and toss the garment in for at least half an hour. Then wash with detergent and non-chlorine bleach. 

If the stain still isn't responding, these 6 stain removers are among the most effective around for blights of unknown origin.

  1  ammonia stain removal treatment

The ammonia stain treatment is comprised of one part of ammonia to eight parts of water. Dab onto the stained area, allow the solution to sit for 10 minutes, then wash as usual.

  2  laundry detergent solution

This laundry stain remover is comprised of one teaspoon of a laundry detergent containing enzymes added to one cup of water. Using a cloth or rag, dab on the laundry detergent solution, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Wash as usual.

  3  dishwashing liquid stain removal mix

Mix a teaspoon of hand dishwashing liquid in one cup of water. Use a cloth to dab the solution onto the stain. Allow the dishwashing liquid to work its magic on your mystery stain for about 10 minutes, and then wash as usual.

   4  hydrogen peroxide stain remover

Apply hydrogen peroxide on the stain full-strength (no need to mix it or dilute). Allow to sit for 10 minutes, then wash as usual.

  5  fels-naptha soap paste stain treatment

To mix this Fels Naphtha laundry soap solution, shave slices from the bar, then add one-part soap shavings to 10 parts water. Work the soapy solution into the stain, and wait 10 minutes. Then launder as usual.

  6  use wd-40 stain remover

Yes, WD-40 - the stuff you use to get the squeaks out - can often get mystery stains out of clothes, too. Apply it full-strength to the stained area. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before washing.

a final word on removing mystery stains:

  • If the annoying mystery stain doesn't disappear after the first wash, repeat the stain remover treatment - or try another - until the spot fades away.
  • It could easily take 3 to 5 washes before really tough stains come out. Be patient!
  • Always check that a stain - unknown or otherwise - is completely removed before placing the garment in the dryer.

› 6 Tips for Removing Unknown Stains


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