The Bane of the Stain

There are many ways to go about removing stains. Some options work wonderfully, and some can make a simple stain worse.


James in his blessing outfit after dealing with a blowout stain

My four-month-old son hadn’t experienced a blowout for a while, so I thought I wasn’t taking much of a risk putting him down for a nap in his white outfit four hours before he was going to be blessed. Silly me. Of course when he woke up two hours later, I became fully aware of my mistake. After taking a few deep breaths and getting him cleaned up and the outfit off him, I realized I had been preparing for this moment for the last 3 months. I had been reading a lot on stain removal and now was my moment to test my knowledge. I got to work.

Step 1: Turn the garment inside out and use a solvent to rinse through the stain, taking care not to transfer the stain onto non-soiled parts. In this case, cold water was my solvent.

Step 2: Wet a small brush, like an old toothbrush, and work up a lather on a laundry bar, like Fels Naptha. Gently scrub and work it into the area of the stain on the fabric.

Step 3: Rinse again.

I was prepared to use an enzyme detergent if needed, but the laundry bar did the trick. I also had some sodium percarbonate on hand if the enzyme detergent didn’t do the trick either. I’ve learned to start simple, then move up the ladder for the more aggressive stain removal options. After looking at his outfit up close, and far away, I deemed the stain gone and threw it in the dryer. On a normal day, I would have run it through a regular load of laundry, but we were short on time. In the end, his little outfit was only the tiniest bit damp when we left. He looked very handsome in it and eventually I recovered from that unnecessary added stress.

Thankfully, this stain wasn’t too difficult to get rid of, but that isn’t always the case. In Cleaning and Stain removal for Dummies, Gill Chilton says, “Stain problems start when liquids aren’t readily water soluble or there’s a color transfer between a spill and your clothes or carpet. The staining substance visibly coats individual fibers on the stained material. Some substances – ink for example- stain instantly and you have to use some sort of solvent-rubbing alcohol -to shift them. Some substances such as egg on clothing you merely have to rinse thoroughly in cold water and toss in the washing machine.”

Patric Richardson in his book Laundry Love, introduced me to Amodex which seems to be a miracle solvent. You can use it on and against practically anything. He recommends keeping a small bottle of it with your laundry stain-fighting arsenal. This stuff can remedy oil, dye, and ink stains. Even sharpies don’t stand up to this stuff. It had only been around for a year when The Cat in the Hat Comes Back was published, but perhaps Dr. Seuss didn’t know he could try to get rid of his pink cat ring with it.

Amodex completely removed a red ink stain from this jacket.

When using a solvent like Amodex or rubbing alcohol, put the stained side face down on a paper towel, disposable cotton pad, or a white terry cloth. Drip the solution from the back so that the dissolved stain gets absorbed into the pad. This helps to make sure the stain doesn’t transfer from one part of the garment to another.

This is exactly what I did to get rid of a recent red ink stain on a light blue jean jacket. I tried using rubbing alcohol to remove it first, but it had no effect. It did however remove some black ink that happened to be on the inside pocket of the jacket. I wasn’t concerned about getting rid of that stain, but it was interesting to watch it disappear as I dripped the alcohol onto it. Then I got out the Amodex to treat the red ink and now the stain is completely gone! I have no idea how it works, but it turned the red ink yellow and slowly disappeared as I continued to work it into the jacket fibers. Eventually I got all the ink to transfer onto a paper towel.

If you have a unique stain you are wanting to tackle, or if you find yourself struggling with the same types of stains over and over, I recommend looking up those particular stains in Laundry Love or the appendix of Cleaning and Stain removal for Dummies. There are so many types of stains so here are just a few of the common ones with their remedy:

Grease and oil: Lift up the excess using a high-absorbency powder or substance such as salt, bicarbonate of soda, or cat litter granules. Then dissolve the stain using biological laundry detergent. I always thought using dishwashing soap was an obvious choice for treating grease stains, but Patric in his book warns against it. It can be very hard on textiles depending on the type of fabric. He has seen it ruin clothing when someone was attempting to remove a grease stain.

Protein: ( blood or perspiration): Treat with hydrogen peroxide then soak in cold water before washing with a biological or enzyme based detergent. Keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide is a type of bleach, so test it on a hidden part of your garment before applying it to the stain. We don’t want to trade a blood stain for a bleach stain!

Fruit and acid: Hold stained fabric inside out under the cold tap. Sponge with solution of bicarbonate of soda to neutralize the acid. Machine wash. Use rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining color residue especially on carpet and non washables.


  • If you are going to pretreat stains, do so and immediately run them through your washing machine. Stain-fighters are more effective when you treat then wash promptly.
  • ALWAYS check to make sure the stain is gone before putting it in the drier. Heat sets in stains.
  • Spraying the armpits of shirts with 50/50 vinegar and water before washing will prevent pit stains from ever appearing according to Laundry Love by Patric Richardson.
  • Blot, don’t rub. Rubbing can spread stains and make a bad thing worse.

Hailey’s Stain Fighting Arsenal

  • Fels Naptha Laundry Bar
  • Amodex
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Washing soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Sodium Percarbonate (the active ingredient in Oxyclean)
  • A spray bottle of 50/50 water and vinegar mixture


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