11 Common Household Products That Are Great Stain Removers

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

Stains on your laundry? Try using some products you have on hand in your pantry or laundry room to remove the stains from washable fabrics. The key to success is matching the right product to the right type of stain. Some work better on oily stains while others can help prevent dye-based stains from becoming permanent.

Do your best to identify the stain-maker before you begin, start with the least aggressive cleaner to prevent damage to the fabric, and give the products time to work.

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    using water as a stain remover

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    With all of the cleaning products on the market, it's easy to overlook the simplest choice: cold water. Hold the washable fabric with the wrong side directly under a cold water faucet running at full force. This will help flush the stain out of the fibers.

    If you can identify the stain as oil-based (butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing), then move on to hot water with another cleaning agent. Do not use hot water for blood stains or protein-based stains like egg and dairy.

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    Liquid Laundry Detergent

    liquid laundry detergent

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    Even if you prefer the convenience of single-dose laundry pods, keep a bottle of a heavy-duty laundry detergent on hand to treat stains. A heavy-duty detergent contains most of the same enzymes as a commercial laundry stain remover.

    Apply a dab of the detergent to the stained area and work into the fabric with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Allow the detergent to work for 10 to 15 minutes to begin breaking apart the stain molecules. Then wash the item as usual with the rest of your laundry and your usual detergent.

    For convenience, transfer a few ounces of the detergent to a squeeze bottle so you don't have to lift a heavy bottle each time you find a stain. Be sure to label the bottle!

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    Dishwashing Liquid

    liquid dish soap

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    The same dishwashing liquid that you use to remove grease and food from dishes works well to remove oily stains from fabrics. Apply a small amount to the stained area and work it into the fabrics. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes before washing as usual.

    To presoak stained laundry, add one tablespoon of the dishwashing liquid to one gallon of water. Mix well and submerge the dirty laundry and allow it to soak for at least one hour.


    For the best results, select a dishwashing liquid that contains a degreasing agent.

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    Baking Soda

    baking soda

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Baking soda is an excellent deodorizer for smelly laundry. Add one cup of baking soda to a gallon of water as a presoak for stinky workout clothes, cloth diapers, or clothing with cooking odors. After soaking for a couple of hours or overnight, drain the presoak and wash the items as usual.

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    Distilled White Vinegar

    bottle of white vinegar

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    While it has many uses in the laundry room, distilled white vinegar is key to removing yellow underarm perspiration stains and strong odors from some fabrics.

    For sweat stains, mix a one-to-one solution of white distilled vinegar and water and use a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the armpits. Mix a pre-soak of one cup of vinegar per gallon of water and allow the clothes to soak for at least thirty minutes before washing as usual.

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    Hydrogen Peroxide

    hydrogen peroxide

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    Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a good alternative to the much harsher chlorine bleach when you need to whiten clothes. It is a mild oxidizing bleach so do not pour it directly onto dark fabrics. It is also a good stain remover for removing dye-based stains like nail polishcurry, and red wine stains from washable white fabrics.

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  • 07 of 11



    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    In a pinch, toothpaste can be used as a stain remover on fabrics. Always use a white paste formula that does not contain dyes like most gel-based brands. Skip the formulas that contain hydrogen peroxide as a whitener unless you are attempting to remove a stain from white fabric.

    Wet the stained area and place a pea-sized dab of toothpaste on the stain. Work it in with your fingers or an old toothbrush. Let it sit for five minutes and then rinse the area. Wash the garment as usual.

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    Isopropyl (Rubbing) Alcohol

    rubbing alcohol as a stain remover

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol works wonders as a solvent to remove ink stains from fabrics. Pour a small amount of alcohol into a bowl and wet a cotton swab. Start at the outside of the ink stain and work toward the center to prevent it from spreading. Work slowly and as the ink is transferred from the fabric, change to a fresh cotton swab. When the ink is gone, wash the garment as usual.

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  • 09 of 11


    bottle of shampoo

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Shampoo is designed to cut through oil and soils in our hair and can also break apart stains on fabrics. Wet the fabric and apply a dab of the shampoo to the stain, then work it into the fabric with your fingers. Wait about five minutes and then wash the garment as recommended on the care tag.

    Check the shampoo bottle label to make sure that it does not contain conditioners that could leave residue in the fibers. Best to stick with plain shampoo.

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    Cornstarch or Chalk


    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    Cornstarch from your kitchen or a stick of plain white chalk work wonders to help absorb oily stains. Sprinkle the oily stain liberally with cornstarch or rub the area with white chalk. Allow it to sit on the stain for at least ten minutes to absorb the oil; then simply brush away. Repeat until all of the oil is absorbed. Then wash the garment following care label directions.

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    Table Salt

    table salt

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

    Table salt works as a mild abrasive for stain removal of rust and red wine stains and helps absorb liquid stains before they are set. Sprinkle a red wine spill liberally with table salt as soon as it happens. Let the salt absorb the liquid and then brush it away before you wash the item. Remember, if you don't wash it out, salt can leave white stains on your fabric.

Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler

Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home.

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