4 Common Clothing Stains and How to Remove Them

bottle of vinegar

The Spruce / Autumn Wood 

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 5 mins
  • Total Time: 2 mins - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5

The method for removing stains with traditional products involves soaking the stain in cool water and then pretreating it with prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or liquid detergent booster. You can also create a paste of a powdered laundry product and water. Then toss the garment in the washing machine with sodium hypochlorite bleach (provided it's safe for the fabric) or oxygen bleach.

However, while commercial cleaners promise to remove all sorts of clothing stains, you might not always have them on hand. That's where common household products come into play. They often can remove stains from clothes just as well as the commercial cleaners and at a fraction of the cost. Here's how to get stains out with vinegar, baking soda, and other household products.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Small bowl
  • Toothbrush
  • Rag/towel
  • Cardboard


  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • White vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol


Materials for removing laundry stains

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Remove Oil and Grease Stains

Oil and grease stains are tricky to remove, but certainly not impossible. In fact, there are several ways to remove oil stains from your clothes. Sometimes simply rubbing laundry detergent and water into the stain before throwing it in the wash will do the trick. However, if your stain is a little more stubborn, try a combination of dish soap and vinegar.

  1. Blot the Stain

    If your stain occurred recently, blot as much as possible with a dry paper towel. When it comes to grease and oil stains, the sooner you can tackle them, the better.

    Blotting an oil stain with a paper towel

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Add Dish Soap

    Next, lay your garment on a flat surface and add a few drops of liquid dish soap to the stain. Rub in the soap with your fingers until the stain is completely coated.

    Rubbing dish soap into the oil stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Scrub in Baking Soda

    Sprinkle a little baking soda over the top of your soaped-up stain and scrub the baking soda into the fabric using an old toothbrush. The combination of dish soap and baking soda should form a paste. Once you’ve scrubbed for a minute or so, let the mix sit for one hour.

    Adding baking soda paste to the oil stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Rinse and Wash

    Finally, rinse out the dish soap and baking soda and toss your item in the washing machine. Make sure the stain is completely gone before you move the garment to the dryer.

    Person rinsing a garment in the sink

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Sweat Stains

It's tempting to pitch a shirt or blouse when you discover sweat stains, but there's no need to be so hasty. Odds are you have a jug or bottle of white vinegar in your kitchen cabinet, and that's all you should need to rid your clothes of these unsightly blemishes.

  1. Mix Vinegar and Water

    To rid your clothes of sweat stains, start by mixing vinegar and water in a small bowl. One quarter cup of vinegar with one cup of water should do.

    Person mixing vinegar and water in a small bowl

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Drench Stain in Vinegar and Water Mixture

    Next, pour your vinegar and water over the stain or submerge it in the mixture. Either way, make sure the stain is fully coated, then allow it to soak for 30 minutes.

    Person submerging garment in vinegar solution

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Rinse and Wash

    Once you've let the mix work its magic, rinse the area with water. If the stain is gone, you can move the article of clothing into the washer. However, make sure it has completely disappeared before you move your garment to the dryer.

    Person rinsing a stained garment under the faucet

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena


If vinegar doesn't do the trick, try a mixture of baking soda and water or hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to test in a discreet area before applying this mixture directly to the stain!

Grass Stains

Soccer moms, this section is for you! Grass stains can be common among active kiddos (and adults), and it can be challenging to rid your clothes of these persistent eyesores. Fortunately, a little extra time and effort can pay off in spades.

Before you bust out the household cleaners, try rubbing the stain with a tough laundry detergent or stain remover. Let the detergent sit for 15 minutes, then rinse and check to see how much of the stain remains. If you're still seeing green, follow the steps below.

  1. Soak the Stain

    Pour a cup or two of white vinegar in a small bowl, then submerge the stain in the vinegar. Allow the stain to sit and soak for 30 minutes.

    Submerging the stained portion of the garment in the vinegar mixture

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Rinse Thoroughly

    Rinse out the vinegar and see how much, if any, of the grass stain remains. At this point, your garment should be spotless. If so, launder as usual. If not, move onto the final step below.

    Placing the stained garment into the washer

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Try Baking Soda and Water (Optional)

    If the grass stains you're working with are older and particularly pesky, try creating a paste with baking soda and water, then scrub it into the stain with a toothbrush. Let the paste sit and work into the garment for 15 minutes or so, then wash as usual.

    Using baking soda and water on the stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Ink Stains

If you've ever swiped the sleeve of your blouse or button-up with a pen, you already know this stain can be a pain to remove. Not to worry—for your average ball-point pen stain, start by scrubbing a little liquid laundry detergent into the area and letting it sit for a few minutes. Rinse out the detergent with warm water and reevaluate.

If your ink stain is a little more stubborn, grab some rubbing alcohol and follow the steps below.


Before you use rubbing alcohol to treat an ink stain, test it in a discreet area of the garment to make sure it doesn't alter the color or damage the fabric.

  1. Grab Some Cardboard

    Before you start, place a piece of cardboard or a rag underneath the stained portion of your garment. The ink will seep through, so the cardboard/rag will catch the ink and rubbing alcohol.

    Person placing cardboard inside of a garment

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Blot the Stain

    Next, use a clean cloth or paper towel to blot rubbing alcohol onto the stain. The goal here is to gradually dilute the ink and pull it from the fabric.

    Blotting the stained area with a paper towel

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Rinse and Wash (or Repeat)

    After you've treated the stain with rubbing alcohol, rinse the garment thoroughly. It may take some time to rid the fabric of alcohol completely, and if notice the ink stain hanging on, repeat the process again.

    Person rinsing a stained garment under the sink

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena