Getting muddy clothes is part of the norm when you work outdoors or have kids and pets—but that doesn't mean your wardrobe is doomed. Mud spots and stains can be removed from just about any machine-washable fabric. The most crucial part of mud stain removal is ensuring not to wash your clothes and toss them in the dryer because the heat will set the stain.
Let's face it, sometimes mud smells bad (think swampy muck), and sometimes mud isn't just mud (think barnyard and beyond). Regardless of the stain's source, the smell left on your garment must fade as much as the pigment of the stain if you're to continue wearing it. So, we've included a section on removing muddy odors, too.
Follow these simple steps to help restore any muddy garment to its formerly clean condition.
Click Play to Learn How to Easily Remove Mud Stains From Clothing
|Detergent type||Standard laundry detergent, vinegar, baking soda|
|Water temperature||Per care label instructions|
Equipment / Tools
- Hand vacuum
- Washing machine
- Butter knife or spoon
- Liquid laundry detergent
- Stain remover
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
Before You Begin
This procedure for removing mud stains applies to machine-washable fabrics only. Other items require different approaches, such as:
- If you have mud on clothes that require dry cleaning, take them to a dry cleaner or use a home dry cleaning kit, following the manufacturer's directions.
- Leather is another special case in which you should follow specific guidelines for cleaning a leather garment,
- Fur coats must be handled gently, requiring their own set of cleaning instructions.
For all other washable fabrics, natural or synthetic, this process should work wonders.
When it comes to mud, ignore the usual advice about washing stains as soon as possible. It's best to let a mud spot dry out completely before attempting to clean it.
How to Remove Mud Stains
Let the Mud Dry
Let the mud dry thoroughly before starting the cleaning process. This step is important because it keeps the stain more localized and superficial. If you blot—or, worse yet, rub—fresh mud, it will cause the stain to smear and spread; plus, it will drive the mud deeper into fabric fibers, making the stain more difficult to remove.
Scrape or Vacuum the Stain
Scrape the dried mud with a butter knife (or the edge of a spoon), or scrub gently with a hand vacuum to remove clumps and dust. Try to remove as much of the dirt as you can with this step.
Apply Detergent and Rub
Rub liquid detergent into the stain and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Lightly rub the stained area between your fingers every three to five minutes to help loosen the stain.
Use a Stain Remover
Apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray if traces of the mud stain remain. Let it sit for five minutes.
Wash and Dry
Wash the garment as usual—via washing machine or hand washing—following the care label instructions (it's fine to use warm water if permitted by the label). Consider adding an oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean, to the wash. It is generally safe for colors and may help lighten the stain. Dry the garment only after all traces of the stain are gone.
How to Remove Mud Stain Odors
Perform a Sniff Test
Complete the above procedure for removing the visible stain, then smell the area to make sure no foul odors are lingering—especially if you noticed an unpleasant smell in the mud to begin with. Make sure to do the sniff test before drying the clothing because, like the stain pigment, a bad odor can get "baked" in and become much harder to eliminate.
Apply a Vinegar Solution
Mix equal portions of distilled white vinegar and water, and either pour or spray the solution onto the previously stained area of the garment. (While vinegar isn't likely to bleach or discolor fabric, you can certainly perform a spot test in an inconspicuous area if desired.) Allow the clothing to air-dry.
You may notice a strong vinegar smell even after drying, but don't worry, it will quickly fade after laundering.
Bring in the Baking Soda
Sprinkle baking soda over the offensive area if you still notice a faint smell (other than vinegar). Rub the soda in a bit with your fingers, and let it sit overnight.
Launder as Usual
Follow the care label instructions on your garment and launder (wash and dry) as directed. Your clothing should come out of the wash clean and odor-free.
Additional Tips for Handling Mud Stains
If a mud stain is still visible after washing, repeat the above steps before the garment dries. This will increase the chances that more pigment will be removed.
To tackle super stubborn mud stains—including red clay, which tends to persist—try scrubbing the stain with an old toothbrush after applying liquid laundry detergent (or powdered detergent and a little water).
Another trick is rinsing the stain with rubbing alcohol before washing. Bleach can also be used, but use caution because it can ruin colored garments and leave a yellow hue on some whites.