How to Make a DIY Laundry Stain Remover That Really Works

Overhead view of using a DIY stain remover spray on a garment

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

The most effective way to remove laundry stains is to treat them with a stain remover before you toss them in the washer. Stain remover ingredients jumpstart the process of breaking the bond between the fabric and the stain so the laundry detergent and water in the washer can remove it. But what if you don't have a stain remover on hand? Make a DIY laundry stain remover that works.

Key Ingredients and How They Work to Remove Stains

Commercial stain removers have ingredients like enzymes to break apart stains, surfactants to lift stain molecules from the fabric and suspend them in water, and mild bleaching agents to remove discoloration.

You can create a similar DIY combination with ingredients you probably have on hand: a good dishwashing liquid that contains a degreasing agent and hydrogen peroxide.

  • Dishwashing liquid contains agents that break apart grease and oil molecules and lift them from surfaces. Use a good quality liquid (Dawn Ultra, Palmolive Extra Strength, Seventh Generation Free Clear) that has a significant level of cleaning ingredients.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing agent and a mild form of bleach that helps remove the staining tannins in food or dyes that are added to products. Use a three percent solution commonly sold in drug stores.

Common Stain Removing Ingredients

In addition to dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide, there are other products in your pantry that will also remove stains. Some are more effective than others depending on the type of laundry stain.

  • Baking Soda: An effective odor remover, baking soda can be added to water — 1 cup per gallon of water — as a presoak before washing smelly clothes and linens. 
  • Lemon Juice: The citric acid in fresh or bottled 100% lemon juice has a natural bleaching action to remove stains on light-colored fabrics. Lemon juice is an effective stain remover to help remove yellow underarm stains or rust stains.
  • Citric Acid Powder: The same citric acid powder you use for food preservation or crafting soaps and bath bombs, can be mixed with water to remove discoloration and stains on light-colored clothes.
  • Distilled White Vinegar: The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar helps to whiten discolored fabrics and remove tannin stains. It is key to removing yellow underarm perspiration stains and odor, and mildew stains.
  • Talc, Cornstarch, or Chalk: Talcum powder, baby powder, kitchen cornstarch, or plain white chalk will help absorb oily stains from fabrics. If you catch the oil or grease drip promptly, they can even remove it.
  • Table Salt: Salt works as a mild abrasive on rust stains and an absorbing agent on red wine stains before they set.

Before You Begin

Dishwashing liquid is shelf-stable for several years. However, hydrogen peroxide is not. It is highly light-sensitive, which is why it is sold in dark containers and will lose its cleaning ability if transferred to a clear container. It is most effective when freshly opened but will still provide cleaning qualities for about six months. Eventually, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules will revert into a solution of plain water.


Mix small batches of the DIY Laundry Stain Remover so it will work more effectively.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Dark-colored (brown or dark blue) spray bottle
  • Kitchen funnel


  • Dishwashing liquid with a degreaser
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution)
  • Labels


Materials needed to make a DIY laundry stain remover spray

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

How to Make a Dishwashing Liquid and Hydrogen Peroxide DIY Laundry Stain Remover

  1. Measure and Mix Ingredients

    • Place a funnel in the neck of a clean dark-colored glass or plastic spray bottle.
    • Add 2 parts hydrogen peroxide (1 cup suggested).
    • Add 1 part dishwashing liquid (1/2 cup suggested).
    • Seal and shake the bottle to mix.
    Measuring and mixing ingredients for a DIY laundry stain remover

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  2. Label the Bottle

    • Add a label.
    • Add instructions on how to use the stain remover if others help with laundry.
    Placing a stain removal label on a glass spray bottle

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  3. How to Use the DIY Laundry Stain Remover

    • Spray the solution directly onto the stained area of the clothes.
    • Work it into the fabric with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush — an old toothbrush works great.
    • Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Wash the garment as you usually would.
    Using the DIY stain remover on a garment

    The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

  • What is the best homemade laundry stain remover?

    A mixture of dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide is an effective homemade laundry stain remover. The dishwashing liquid contains ingredients to tackle greasy stains and the hydrogen peroxide helps remove discoloration.

  • What can I use if I don't have a stain remover on hand?

    If you don't have a stain remover on hand and no time to mix a solution, just use a dab of liquid laundry detergent to treat the stain. Work the detergent into the fabric with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before washing the garment. If you don't have any liquid detergent, break open a pod or make a paste of powdered detergent and water.

  • Does vinegar remove laundry stains?

    The acetic acid in vinegar provides a mild bleaching action to help remove discoloration left by food or mud stains on light-colored clothes. However, it does not work well on oily stains. It can brighten colored clothes if added to the rinse cycle to help remove detergent residue that is clinging to fabrics.