How to Remove Protein-Based Stains

Your Best Options for Getting Rid of Stains

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Different types of stains require different treatments. Common clothing stains fall under three main categories: oil-based, water-based, and protein-based. Protein stains are caused by animal-based products or secretions. 

If you have a garment with a protein-based stain, the treatment is relatively straightforward. You will have the most success if you treat the stain promptly—before it dries—with an enzymatic stain remover or detergent.

Above all else, keep the stained garment away from heat. And, before you remove the stain some good information to know includes not only what caused the stain, but how long the stain has been on the fabric, and what type of fabric you are working with. This last bit is crucial because you can never use an enzyme cleaner on wool or silk, both of which are proteins, as it will damage the garment.

Common Protein Stains

Here are some of the culprits when it comes to protein stains:

  • Blood
  • Dairy products
  • Urine
  • Feces
  • Eggs
  • Baby food
  • Baby formula
  • Vomit
  • Gelatin
  • Cheese
  • Sweat
  • Mud

Products to Fight Protein Stains

Protein-based stains are among the hardest stains to remove but are not impossible. As with all stains, treating it as soon as possible will make it easier to remove.

To remove protein-based stains, use a detergent or stain remover with enzymes. Most liquid laundry detergents already contain enzymes. Oxygen color-safe bleaches can be effective on protein-based stains as well.

Warning

Be sure to avoid heat at every stage of the removal of a protein stain. Hot water, an iron, or a dryer will set the stain and may your chances of saving the stained item. The stain must be completely removed before you dry the garment. If you are not sure if the stain is gone, air-dry the garment and evaluate it.

Pre-Soak

Before you put the stained fabric in the wash or before you try to hand wash it, you should pre-soak the fabric with an enzymatic cleaner in cold to lukewarm water. Protein stains will set over time or when exposed to heat.

Removing the Stain

As soon as you can, deal with the stain in the following way:

  • Remove as much of the stain as you can with white paper towels and, if solids are involved, a blunt knife.
  • Machine wash the garment in cool (not hot) water following the manufacturer's instructions. Use a detergent that contains enzymes. Add color-safe bleach if the stain has a bright or dark color.

Removing Sweat Stains

If you are trying to remove sweat stains, you can also try pre-treating the item using baking soda or vinegar. Make a paste of baking soda and water, rub it directly into the sweat stain. If that does not seem to work, then let the paste dry for a few hours before washing.

Vinegar is another good option. Not only can you remove the stain with vinegar, but it can deodorize the fabric and remove residual odors left on the fabric. Saturate the stain directly with vinegar, rub it into the fabric, then place it into the washing machine.

Removing Blood Stains

If you have blood stains on your fabric, you can try two tried and true methods: a paste of salt and water or toothpaste. Also, for a quick on-the-go solution: saliva. Believe it or not, your saliva has enzymes that are normally used to break down foods that can remove a small offending stain in a pinch (when you really need a stain gone).