Smudges, drips, drops, and smears - no matter what their source, the key to keeping them from ruining your favorite clothes is to take quick action before the stain gets the chance to dry.
For most fabrics, this means blotting up the excess or rinsing the stain with cold water (don't rub; this spreads the stain and grinds it in deeper), and then pretreating the spot.
But thanks to modern detergents, keeping your favorite garments blemish-free is easier than ever.
These stain removal tips can save your beloved clothes from ending up in the rag pile.
When mixed with water, powdered detergent is especially effective at loosening ground-in dirt before washing so it can be carried away during the machine wash.
Liquid detergents can help make oil, grease, and food stains disappear.
Prewash stain removers (available as sprays, sticks, and liquids) are effective on most fibers.
Either chlorine or oxygen bleach ("color-safe") in the wash cycle can help your detergent remove tough stains, including rust spots and dye stains.
But only chlorine bleach kills bacteria and viruses.
When pretreating, allow your stain-busting product to sit for a minute to a week, depending on the product.
Save time by keeping a stain stick or spray near the hamper, and dabbing or spritzing it on blighted clothes.
Put them in the hamper and forget about them; then wash as usual following the label directions. These stain busters usually eliminate all but the most stubborn spots.
And for those, these stain removal tips can help.
The best way to remove blood stains is to rinse or presoak the garment in cold water and wash in cold water with your regular laundry detergent. Don't use chlorine bleach, which can make the stain even worse.
To remove chewing gum, rub the gummy sport with ice to harden it. Scrape away as much of the gum as possible with a dull knife. Saturate what remains with a prewash stain remover; rinse, and launder as usual.
Pretreat or prewash the garment in warm water with a laundry product that contains enzymes. Launder as usual.
To remove coffee stains, sponge with or soak in cold water.
Apply a pretreating product on the stain. Wash as usual and air-dry; repeat if the coffee stain remains.
Pretreat the spot with prewash stain remover or a liquid laundry detergent. Pretreat the spot with prewash stain remover or liquid laundry detergent.
Wash the garment in the water temperature recommended for the fabric.
Scrape off surface wax with a dull knife. Soak the fabric in a product containing enzymes or oxygen bleach in the hottest water safe for the material. Launder using the hottest water it can withstand.
Presoak or prewash the garment in warm water in a bucket or your washing machine (using the presoak setting) with a detergent containing enzymes. Launder as usual with chlorine bleach if it's safe for the fabric.
If the cleaning instructions advise against it, use oxygen bleach instead.
To remove an ink stain, place the stain over the mouth of a jar or glass. Hold the fabric taut. Drip rubbing alcohol through the stain so the ink will drop into the container as the soil is removed. Rinse thoroughly and launder as usual.
Soak juice stains in cold water, then apply a pretreating product on the stain. Launder as label instructions recommend. Air-dry; do not place in dryer until the stain is completely gone.
To remove mildew stains, douse the garment with a diluted solution of bleach and launder as recommended for the clothing. For mildewed leather, brush on an antiseptic mouthwash.
Brush off as much of the surface dirt as possible. Pretreat or presoak with laundry detergent. Launder as usual.
Use a prewash stain remover; if the stains are old, apply white vinegar. Rinse, then launder using oxygen bleach in the hottest water that's safe to use with the fabric.
Cover with salt until all excess liquid is absorbed. Rinse in cold water. If a residual stain remains, apply white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Launder according to the instructions on the item's fabric-care label.
Generously sprinkle salt on the site of the wine stain to keep additional liquid from saturating the surface. Immerse item in cold water or a solution of borax for 30 minutes. Wash as label instructions recommend.