Protein-Based Stains

What are protein-based stains and how do you remove them?

A baby sitting in a chair at a mealtime with food on its face.
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Different types of stains require different treatments. 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'll 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.

Common Protein Stains

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

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

Products to Fight Protein Stains

To remove protein-based stains, you'll need 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. 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, ruining any chance of saving the stained item. The stain must be completely removed before you dry the garment. If you aren't sure the stain is gone, air-dry the garment and evaluate it.

Removing the Stain

As soon as you can, deal with the stain as follows:

  • Remove as much of the stain as you can with white paper towels and, if solids are involved, a blunt knife.
  • Soak the garment in cold water. Add an enzymatic pre-soaking agent to the water if the stain has dried.
  • 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 is a bright or dark color.

Caution: Never use an enzyme cleaner on wool or silk, both of which are proteins. It will damage the garment.