How to Remove Protein-Based Stains From Clothing

How to Remove Protein-Based Stains

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 15 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Protein-based stains are most often caused by animal products or secretions, and they can be difficult to remove. Prompt treatment of spills improves your chances of success, and it is critical to keep protein-based stains away from heat sources during the removal process. Hot water, an iron, or a dryer will permanently set the stain.

To remove protein-based stains, use a liquid detergent or stain remover with enzymes. Oxygen color-safe bleaches can be effective on protein-based stains as well. Never use an enzyme cleaner on wool or silk garments because these are protein-based fabrics that can be damaged by the degrading action of the enzymes.

Stain type  Protein-based 
Detergent type  Liquid laundry
Water temperature Cold 
Cycle type  Normal 

Before You Begin

Different types of stains require different treatments. Clothing stains generally fall under three main categories: oil-based, water-based, and protein-based. It's important to identify a stain before you begin cleaning it so that you can target your treatment technique. Common sources of protein-based stains include:

As aforementioned, heat is bad for protein stains. Proteins break apart and coagulate when heated, causing them to become tightly and permanently interwoven and bonded in the fibers of the fabric. Be sure to wash these stains in cold water.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Washing machine


  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Oxygen bleach (optional)
  • Baking soda (sweat stains)
  • White vinegar (sweat stains)
  • Salt (blood stains)
  • White toothpaste (blood stains)


Best Method: Using a Laundry Pre-Treatment

Since protein stains are so common, you should keep a ready stock of proper pre-treatments that will work quickly and easily to remove protein-based stains. Some of our favorites include:

  1. Carbonoa's pre-treat for blood and dairy is great for all protein based stains.
  2. Shout, which is a great all-around stain fighter.
  3. Tide detergent is an excellent pre-treat on protein stains, as there are plenty of enzymes and degreasers in Tide.

General Method to Remove Protein Stains From Clothing

  1. Remove Solid Material

    Remove as much of the spilled material as you can with a dull knife or spoon. Do not press or rub too firmly or the stain may be driven deeper into the fabric.

  2. Soak the Stain

    Soak the fabric with an enzymatic cleaner in cold water for up to four hours. Follow the directions for pre-soaking on the product label to determine the appropriate ratio of cleaner to water.

  3. Wash as Directed

    Machine wash the garment in cool water following the care label instructions. Use a detergent that contains enzymes (most liquid detergents do).

    Include a color-safe oxygen bleach for colorfast garments.

Removing Sweat Stains From Clothing

  1. Apply a Baking Soda Paste

    Mix a paste of two parts baking soda to one part water, and rub it directly into the sweat stain.

    Let the paste dry for a few hours before washing.

  2. Soak Stubborn Stains in Vinegar

    If stubborn smells remain in the stain, then saturate the stain directly with white vinegar. Gently rub the vinegar into the fabric, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

    Wash the garment as usual, but smell the area for odors before drying. If you detect an odor, repeat the steps above before washing again and drying.

Removing Blood Stains From Clothing

  1. Apply a Salt Paste

    Mix a paste of two parts table salt to one part water. Rub it onto the stain and let it sit until dry. Wash as usual, but don't dry unless the stain is gone.

    If the stain remains, try the next step.

  2. Try Toothpaste on the Stain

    Rub white toothpaste (not a colored variety) onto the stain and let it sit until dry. Wash as usual, but don't dry unless the stain is gone.

    If a stubborn stain remains, move to the next step.

  3. Spit on the Stain

    Spit an ample amount of saliva to cover the stained surface, and rub it in. Believe it or not, your saliva has enzymes that naturally break down protein-based foods when you chew. These enzymes can help remove a blood stain.

    Wash as usual, but don't dry unless the stain is gone. If a stain remains at this point and the garment is colorfast, try washing with oxygen bleach.

When to Call a Professional

While most clothing stains are manageable at home, protein-based stains on sensitive, protein-based fabrics like silk or wool require professional assistance.

Remove any solids from the fabric, then take the garment to your local dry cleaner and identify the stain.

Additional Tips for Handling Protein-Based Stains

Depending on the material that spilled on your clothing, you may need more specific advice on removing more complex stains that involve protein as well as other components like oils or pigments.

Search our site for any stain, from avocados to zucchinis, and you'll find detailed instructions on how to get rid of just about any stain you may encounter.