How to Get Stains Out of Clothes (6 Cleaners to Try)

Step-by-Step Instructions With Common Household Ingredients

Tough Laundry Stains Removed by Vinegar

The Spruce / Michela Buttignol

While commercial cleaners promise to get out 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 just as well as the commercial cleaners but at a fraction of the cost. Here's how to get stains out of clothes with vinegar, baking soda, and other household products.

  • 01 of 06

    Vinegar

    vinegar bottle next to towels

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Distilled white vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner. You can use it mixed with other products or by itself to remove many types of stains.

    For example, to remove a tomato stain, simply saturate it with vinegar. Allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes. Then, wash as usual. Check to make sure the stain is out ​before you run the clothing through the dryer. If not, repeat the vinegar and washing process.

    To banish coffee or tea stains, soak the stained fabric in 1/3 cup vinegar mixed with 2/3 cup water. Hang the garment outside in the sun to dry, and then launder as usual.

  • 02 of 06

    Vinegar and Salt

    sweat stain on a shirt

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

    Mixing vinegar with salt can up its stain-fighting power. To remove sweat stains, pour vinegar over the discolored area and rub coarse salt into it. Table salt will work too if it's all you have. Place the garment out in the sun to dry before washing it.

    Furthermore, if clothing smells mildewy or has visible mildew stains, mix equal parts vinegar and water with a pinch of salt, and soak the clothing in the solution. This should lift mildew stains from most fabrics. If you still see signs of staining after soaking, make a solution of undiluted vinegar and salt, and soak the clothing again.

  • 03 of 06

    Vinegar and Baking Soda

    vinegar next to grass and stains
    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Vinegar and baking soda also make a powerful team, including for set-in stains. Saturate the stain with vinegar, and then rub the spot with a paste made from equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, and then launder.

    To remove grass stains in particular, soak the garment in undiluted vinegar for 30 minutes, and then launder it. If you still see signs of the stain after washing, try making a paste of vinegar and baking soda. Use an old toothbrush to coat the stain, and then launder it again.

  • 04 of 06

    Hairspray and Vinegar

    ink stain on fabric

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    You might not have ever thought about combining hairspray and vinegar. But the duo can be helpful in defeating stubborn ink stains on fabric.

    First, blot the stain as much as possible with a clean white cloth, but be careful not to rub in the ink. Then, spray the stain thoroughly with hairspray. A hairspray that has a high alcohol content is best, as this will help to dissolve the ink. Blot the stain with a clean cloth dipped in vinegar until it's gone. Finally, launder as usual.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Hydrogen Peroxide

    Blood stain scrubbed with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide solution with brush

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    Hydrogen peroxide acts similarly to laundry bleach, though it's more mild. But it can be just as useful for many stains. Just make sure to test it on an inconspicuous part of the fabric first to make sure it doesn't remove the colors.

    For bloodstains, you can try saturating the stain with hydrogen peroxide by itself or mixed with equal parts baking soda, scrubbing it with a soft-bristle brush. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and then launder. 

    It also can be effective to mix 2 parts peroxide with 1 part dish soap for difficult-to-remove stains, such as chocolate, wine, grass, and sweat. Rub the stained area with the mixture, let it sit for a few hours, rinse it with cool water, and repeat as necessary.

  • 06 of 06

    Cornstarch

    Cornstarch poured over grease stain to remove from brown leather couch

    The Spruce / Olivia Inman

    Cornstarch doesn’t just help to thicken your recipes. It also can be used on grease stains. The key is to treat the stain as fast as possible, so the cornstarch can absorb the oil before it seeps into the fabric fibers.

    Liberally sprinkle cornstarch over the stained area, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Then, brush it off. If the stain is still present, apply a laundry stain remover before washing with a heavy-duty detergent. Otherwise, simply launder after the cornstarch application.