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Cleaning & Tackling Life’s Toughest Stains

January 14, 2013

It never fails – you’re in a rush to get to work and you spill coffee down your favorite shirt. Or maybe your kids have gone strangely silent in the other room, which can only mean a juice stain all over your rug or favorite piece of furniture.

Then there’s that dinner party where at least three guests got a bit sloppy and spilled wine on your new carpet or furniture and you still need to fully scrub it out.

Stain removal is a big part of house cleaning chores, there’s just no way around it. With dogs, and kids, and friends, and everyday tasks in and out of your home, a few spills are part and parcel with life. Rather than spend loads of money on commercial stain removers that fail to deliver, you can usually use everyday household items to get the job done.

Our guide will show you down and dirty cleaning tips for life’s toughest messes.

House Cleaning Guide to Stain Removal

Click on the stain type to be taken directly to the cleaning tips.

How to Remove Blood Stains

Clothing Blood Stain Removal:

  • Treat stains before they set in if possible.
  • Blot excess blood off, then soak in cold water and scrub with a bit of detergent or shampoo.
  • For old stains, try soaking in an enzyme product for 30 minutes, then scrubbing.
  • If this doesn’t work, wet it further with hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of ammonia then rinse with cool water for 15 minutes.

Alternate options:
• Wet with cold water, then scrub with hydrogen peroxide.
• Soak for 15 minutes in a mixture of 1 quart lukewarm water, ½ teaspoon liquid hand soap dishwashing detergent, and 1 tablespoon ammonia.

Carpet Blood Stain Removal:
• Use cold water and a sponge.
• Scrub from the outside in, then blot dry.
• You can also try sprinkling the stain with pepsin powder or spreading a thick paste of raw starch and water over it.
• Once dried, simply brush off and repeat if necessary.



How to Remove Candle Wax Stains

Clothing Candle Wax Stain Removal:
• Place garment into a freezer until the wax is frozen and brittle.
• Shatter/pull the wax off the garment.
• Treat any residue by placing the stained area between two pieces of white blotting paper and press with a warm iron, then replace the paper as it absorbs the stain.

Carpet Candle Wax Stain Removal:
• Use an ice cube to freeze and harden wax, then gently scrape wax away.
• Use a small amount of carpet cleaner to remove any excess residue.





How to Remove Cat or Dog Urine Stains

Clothing Cat or Dog Urine Stain Removal:
• With pet urine, typically the smell is worse than the stain.
• Treat immediately, as old stains may set in and destroy the color of fabric.
• Fresh urine can usually be removed with normal laundering.

Alternate options:
• If the urine is more acidic in nature, sponge/scrub with a solution of 1 tablespoon ammonia in ½ cup warm water and rinse well.
• If urine is more alkaline, sponge with a solution that is equal parts vinegar and warm water, then rinse thoroughly.

Carpet Cat or Dog Urine Stain Removal:
• Cat urine, and to some extent dog urine, is one of the toughest stain/smells to remove from carpet. While the stain may respond to regular household carpet cleaner, the smell often does not.
• You will need to find a cleaner specifically made to neutralize cat urine, such as products by Whisker City or Nature’s Miracle.



How to Remove Chocolate Stains

Clothing Chocolate Stain Removal:
• Allow the chocolate to harden and then gently scrape off as much of the chocolate as possible.
• Apply a drop of laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, or prewash stain remover – rub gently.
• Launder garment according to label directions.
• If any stains remain, use a small amount of color-safe bleach (or regular on whites) and re-launder.


Carpet Chocolate Stain Removal:
• Allow stain to harden (using ice if necessary), and then scrape off as much of the chocolate as possible.
• Mix 3-5 drops of laundry detergent with 3 cups of water and blot the stain, working from the outside in.
• Use paper towels to blot dry and remove stain.
• Rinse with clean water to remove detergent, again working from the outside in.

Alternate option:
• Cover stain with paper towels and, using the lowest setting, gently iron the area.
• The heat from the iron should draw the stain up into the paper towels.




How to Remove Coffee & Tea Stains

As with most stains, the sooner you can treat it, the better chance you’ll have at a complete stain removal.

Clothing Coffee & Tea Stain Removal:
• If treated immediately, sometimes simply pouring cold water through the back of the stain will remove it.
• If that doesn’t work, rub liquid laundry detergent and a little bit of cold water on the stain.
• Soak the stain for 5 minutes, check, and, if necessary, continue to soak (up to 30 minutes).
• Launder as usual.
• If any remnants remain, try bleaching it in the sun.

Carpet Coffee & Tea Stain Removal:
Blot the area with a clean paper towel or cloth, drawing up excess liquid. Spray cold water and continue to blot. If the stain is fresh enough, this might suffice.

If not:
• Mix 1 teaspoon of mild detergent with 1 cup lukewarm water. Blot the area with a clean cloth or paper towel.
• Mix 1/3 cup white vinegar with 2/3 cups lukewarm water and sponge the area with a clean, white cloth.
• Finally, sponge the area with clean water and blot with a clean towel.




How to Remove Fruit Juice or Berries Stains

Clothing Fruit Juice or Berries Stain Removal:
Treat immediately by pouring boiling water over the stain.

You can also try:

• Blotting the stain to remove excess liquid, then rinsing in cold water.
• Rub the stain with a cut lemon or lemon juice and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
• Rinse with cool water and let air dry.
• Treat with a pre-wash treatment and then launder as usual.

Carpet Fruit Juice or Berries Stain Removal:
• Blot up the juice as much as possible
• Moisten a white cloth with any of the following solutions:
• 1 teaspoon mild detergent with 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1 quart cold water.
• ¼ cup baking soda and 2 cups cold water.
• ¼ teaspoon mild, non-bleach detergent with 1 liter cool water
• Use 3% hydrogen peroxide then ammonia for cranberry juice
• Place the cloth over the stain, and press gently with the cloth, working from the outside towards the middle.
• Repeat with a clean cloth each time until no more stain appears on the cloth
• Rinse with water and blot with cloth to dry.

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How to Remove Grass Stains

Clothing Grass Stain Removal:
• Take a cloth or sponge; wet it with isopropyl rubbing alcohol (do a bleed test on a small portion of cloth in a hidden spot first).
• Let it air dry and then rinse with cool water.
• Work in a liquid or powdered detergent and rinse again.
• Let it air dry and then launder as usual.

Alternate option:
• Mix warm water and white vinegar.
• Rub it into the stain.
• Launder as usual and repeat if any remnants remain.

Carpet Grass Stain Removal:
• Vacuum to remove loose debris then blot a damp white towel over the stain.
• Make a paste of laundry detergent and water, then rub it into the stain with a stiff brush.
• Rinse with water and blot with paper towels.
• If some stain still remains, try wetting a cloth in rubbing alcohol and rubbing over the remaining grass stain. Continue to rub until the stain is lifted.
• You can also try rinsing with a solution of five parts water and one part vinegar. Then place a towel over the spot and weigh down with a heavy object until the spot is dry.




How to Remove Grease Stains

Clothing Grease Stain Removal:
• Cover the grease spot with a liquid dish detergent (one with a good grease cutter). Drip some cool water on it and scrub with a toothbrush, working the detergent into the stain.
• Rinse the area thoroughly with water or vinegar to remove all the detergent.
• Repeat if the stain persists, then launder as usual.

Carpet Grease Stain Removal:
• Blot the area with paper towels to remove fresh grease, or scrape dried grease gently away.
• Sprinkle baking soda, baby powder, or cornmeal, completely covering the stain.
• Allow the powder to sit on the stain for up to 6 hours so it can absorb the grease.
• Vacuum up the powder.
• Wet a clean cloth with isopropyl rubbing alcohol and rub the stain from the outside in.
• Mix water and a grease-cutting dish liquid. Scrub any remaining stain.
• Rinse with a cloth dipped in equal parts warm water and vinegar.
• Blot the area with a clean, dry towel.
• Cover again with baking soda, cornmeal, or baby powder and vacuum it up once the area is completely dry.




How to Remove Gum Stains

Clothing Gum Stain Removal:
• Remove as much excess gum as possible.
• Freeze with ice, or throw garment in the freezer for 15-30 minutes.
• Scrape gum off with a knife.
• Scrub with an old toothbrush to remove any remaining traces of gum.

Alternate options:

• If some gum stubbornly persists:
• Try soaking the garment in kerosene (be careful, it’s flammable!) and then laundering as usual.
• Gas-based products should dissolve the gum.

Carpet Gum Stain Removal:
• Rub an ice cube over the gum to harden and freeze it.
• Pull gently at the gum to remove from carpet.
• If it doesn’t all come off, dab some extra strength Ben-Gay to remove the remaining bits.
• After the gum has been removed, clean any stains with a gentle laundry detergent (mixed with water) or regular carpet cleaner.
• Scrub gently, rinse with cool water, and blot dry.




How to Remove Hair Dye Stains

Clothing Hair Dye Stain Removal:
• Drench the stain immediately using a can of hairspray to loosen the stain.
• Let stand a few minutes.
• Using a small amount of laundry detergent or spot treatment, gently scrub stain with a toothbrush.
• Rinse thoroughly and launder immediately.

Carpet Hair Dye Stain Removal:
• Blot stain gently to remove excess dye.
• Combine 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1 tablespoon dish liquid, and 2 cups warm water.
• Using a white cloth (so you can see the stain being absorbed), blot with mixture until the stain is no longer visible.
• Using a clean cloth, rinse the area thoroughly by blotting.
• If the stain persists, create the same mixture in step 2, but replace the white vinegar with ammonia. Repeat as needed.





How to Remove Ink Stains (Standard Ballpoint)

Clothing Ink Stain Removal:
• Place a paper towel or cloth behind the stain.
• Spray liberally with a can of alcohol-based hairspray
• Blot the stain with a rag to soak up ink.
• Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
• If a slight discoloration remains, pre-treat the area of the garment and launder as usual.

Carpet Ink Stain Removal:
You can try the same approach as outlined above.
• Spray with a can of alcohol-based hairspray.
• Blot with a clean cloth.
• Repeat until the stain is removed.

Alternate option:
• Sponge the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent until it’s absorbed.
• Mix 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent and 1 tablespoon white vinegar with 2 cups warm water.
• Sponge stain with this mixture.
• Blot until liquid is absorbed.
• Repeat these steps until the stain is gone.
• Sponge with cold water and blot dry to remove the detergent/vinegar mixture.




How to Remove Ketchup/Tomato-Based Stains

Clothing Ketchup/Tomato-Based Stain Removal:
• Remove any excess ketchup/sauce from your garment.
• Run cold water through the back of the tomato stain ASAP.
• This will force the stain back out through the fabric.
• Gently rub a liquid detergent into the stain. Use an old, soft bristle toothbrush to work it in.
• Apply a mild bleaching agent, like peroxide or white vinegar, with a sponge, then rinse well.
• Soak in cold water for a while then launder as usual.

Carpet Ketchup/Tomato-Based Stain Removal:
• Use a butter knife to scrape up the excess, and then blot gently to soak up as much as possible.
• Rinse with cold water and blot dry.
• Spray with white vinegar, let sit for 20 minutes, and blot up.
• If the stain persists, apply a mixture of 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 3 tablespoons cold water. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
• Rinse with water and blot dry.
• If this doesn’t completely remove the stain, try using a commercial carpet spot remover.




How to Remove Lipstick/Cosmetics Stains

Clothing Lipstick/Cosmetic Stain Removal:
• Saturate the stain with a can of alcohol-based hairspray.
• Let sit for 10 minutes and then blot with a wet cloth or sponge.
• Launder as usual.

Alternate options:
• Apply a dab of extra-whitening toothpaste (not the gel kind) to the stain and rub it gently between your fingers.
• Rinse with cool water.
• Repeat if the stain persists.


You can also usually get lipstick and other cosmetics stains out with a typical laundry pre-soak and laundering it as usual.

Carpet Lipstick/Cosmetics Stain Removal:
• Try spraying the lipstick stain with WD-40 then blotting gently (don’t rub!).
• Clean the area with a mild laundry detergent and a bit of warm water and blot again.
• Rinse with warm water and blot dry.




How to Remove Marker Stains

Clothing Clothing Marker Stain Removal:

Most kids’ markers are water-based and will clean up easily with a typical pre-treatment and washing cycle.

For more permanent markers, try one of the following:
• Spray with alcohol-based hairspray, let sit for a few minutes, and then blot away.
• You can also try rubbing alcohol. Place the stain face down on a paper towel; dip a cloth in rubbing alcohol and dab gently to transfer the marker to the paper towel. Replace with a new paper towel until stain is removed.
• Fill a bowl with milk and soak the stained area in the milk. The milk will change color as the marker bleeds out. Change milk until the stain is removed.

Carpet Marker Stain Removal:
You may not be able to remove the stain completely, but you can lighten it significantly using the following method:
• Blot with rubbing alcohol or alcohol-based hairspray, then blot with a paper towel.
• Once the stain is gone, moisten the area with water, and blot with a clean towel until the spot is dry.




How to Remove Paint Stains

Clothing Paint Stain Removal:
Most children’s painting products are made for easy stain removal using a laundry pre-treatment and regular laundering.

For regular paint:
• Drench the stain immediately using a can of hairspray to loosen the stain.
• Let stand a few minutes.
• Using a small amount of laundry detergent or spot treatment, gently scrub stain with a toothbrush.
• Rinse thoroughly and launder immediately.


Alternate options:
Use a commercial paint remover like OOPs and follow directions carefully.

Carpet Paint Stain Removal:
• Wet the stain with cool water and soak it up with towels.
• Continue to douse until the stain is mostly gone.
• Use a commercial carpet cleaner to remove remnants – following the product’s instructions.
• If the paint is dried already, try and remove as much as possible with water and an old toothbrush.
• Commercial cleanser, like Goof Off, can also work well, but make sure you read the instructions to determine if it will work on your carpet type.




How to Remove Vomit Stains

Clothing Vomit Stain Removal:

• Quickly scrape/remove any excess vomit. Baby vomit (especially from formula-fed babies) needs to be treated right away as it can discolor clothing.
• Soak the stain for 10-20 minutes in a solution of 1 quart warm water, ½ teaspoon liquid laundry detergent, and 1 table spoon ammonia.
• Gently scrub with a toothbrush or scrub brush to loosen stain, then rub cloth together gently.
• Rinse well with water and then launder as usual.

Carpet Vomit Stain Removal:
• Scrape off excess vomit.
• Sprinkle with baking soda, cornstarch, or other absorbent and let stand 15 minutes before vacuuming.
• Mix 1 tablespoon liquid hand soap or dishwashing detergent, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 2 cups warm water, then sponge onto stain.
• Blot until liquid is absorbed.
• Sponge with cold water to remove solution and then blot dry again.





How to Remove Wine Stains

Clothing Wine Stain Removal:
• Blot up excess liquid.
• Combine equal parts hydrogen peroxide and liquid dish soap in a bowl and sponge the mixture over the stain.
• Let stand for a minute or two to pre-soak.
• Blot the stained area with a towel until the stain is gone.
• Launder as usual.

Alternate option:
• Follow the same steps above, but use a mixture of 1 tablespoon dish soap, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 2 cups warm water.
• You can also use white wine as a stain remover for red wine!
• Pour a small amount over the stain and blot as much as possible.
• Then treat with a normal pre-treat wash and launder as usual.

Carpet Wine Stain Removal:
• Blot with a clean cloth and remove as much wine as possible.
• Pour a small amount of water and blot again.
• Make a baking soda paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water and apply directly to stain.
• Allow it to dry and then vacuum it up.
• You can then treat with a regular carpet stain remover, following the product’s instructions.

Alternate options:
• Pour a small amount of white wine over the stain to bring the color out.
• Blot with a clean cloth.
• Use a mixture of warm water and mild detergent and blot with a sponge.
• Once the stain is gone, rinse by sponging with cool water and blotting dry.




Let’s be honest: Getting out stains isn’t a particularly fun way to spend your weekend, but the faster you tackle them, the better chance you have of them coming out. And if you really need a break from deep cleaning, give The Maids a call at 1-800-THE-MAIDS. We’re ready to make your home spic and span, so you can enjoy more of your free time.

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