Infographic: Best Stain Removal Tricks

Banish household stains with these tips.

Updated on January 31, 2018 16:01 pm

Erin Trafford and Dan Basquill

It happens to the best of us: spaghetti sauce on a brand-new white shirt, red wine on the carpet, grease on a silk tie. Sometimes stains mean a piece of clothing is no longer wearable—but that’s not always the case! There are some tried and true stain-removing methods and a few lesser-known methods that can help you revive, reclaim, and continue wearing those previously stained items. After reading this guide you'll be ready to make stain removal a regular part of your cleaning schedule.

Removing Grease Stains

If you like bacon (and who doesn’t like bacon?), or if you indulge in greasy food, you know how insidious grease stains can be. At first they appear to be easy to clean with simple water and a dab of a towel. But that’s not the case. Grease almost instantly adheres to fabric fibres and leaves a dark stain that, if left untreated, will set and remain forever.

Here’s what to do if you end up with a grease stain:

Do not panic! And do not rub it in. Rinse your clothing with warm water and then add a few drops of dish soap directly to the stained area. Rub it in gently with your fingers to create a lather. Let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse and repeat. And then launder your shirt right away as per the regular washing instructions. Dish soap is designed to cut through grease! You use it to wash your pots and pans, so it is one of your best defences when grease lands in your lap.

Ballpoint Pen Marks

You are overzealous when making your grocery list on the sofa and you end up with a line of ballpoint pen on the cushion! What do you do? You are bored in a meeting and twirl your pen, leaving a giant ink stain on your sleeve! Now what?

As with all stain removal—don’t panic! But you shouldn’t allow the ink to dry out. Saturate the area with a bit of water to reliquify the ink, if even a little bit. Let the damp area dry out. While that’s going on, grab a can of aerosol hairspray and lightly spray the stain. Dab with a cotton swab, and the ink should start to lift. As an alternative, you can try spritzing the stain with vinegar and rubbing a bit of baking soda into it. Once it’s soaked in, rub it with a kitchen scrubber or toothbrush, rinse it, and the stain should lift.

Cat Pee on Hardwood Floors

If kitty has an accident on a tile floor, it’s typically fairly easy to clean up with soap and water. But hardwood and cat urine do not mix well. Sometimes, if left to soak in for even a short while, it can result in an unsightly, discoloured stain on the floor. The trick to removing it? Hydrogen peroxide. Cat urine will darken your wood (a bigger problem if the finish on your floors is blonde or light oak), so the peroxide will effectively bleach it back to its original state. Use sparingly on a paper towel and allow it to soak into the stain for a few minutes, then clean the area with simple soap and water and dry with a clean cloth. It may take a few days, but the outer edges of the stain will soften and fade.

Dog Pee on Carpet or Upholstery



Fido failed to hold it in between walks and now you’ve got a gross wet spot on the carpet! First thing, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the wet stain to neutralise the odour. Then spritz with a vinegar-and-water solution and add in a bit of lemon essential oil to disinfect the affected area. Let it dry out and then vacuum as normal. Dog urine isn’t as potent as cat urine (there’s higher water content), so the stain shouldn’t be as hard to clean up.

Reviving Old Fabrics, Carpet, or Upholstery

In a spray bottle, mix one part plain vodka with three parts lukewarm water and shake it up. Spray generously onto your item (antique fur coats, upholstery, suitcase liners—anything!). Let it air out for about 30 minutes and then repeat the process. This process will be sped up even more if you can do this outside on a warm, sunny day. Sunshine and vodka cure many things!

Article originally published in Fix.com. Edited and published with permission.


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