How to Remove Mud Stains From Clothing

Boy with dirty hands and dirty white shirt

Jamie Grill / Getty Images

If you have kids or rowdy pets, then you surely have had to deal with more than one stubborn mud stain. While dirt can make quite a mess, it is not as hard to clean up as it looks. As long as you do not set a mud stain by putting the stained clothes in the dryer, you shouldn't have much trouble restoring your muddy garment to its former condition. With a few simple steps, you will have the muddy mess cleaned up in less than 30 minutes.

The best tip for removing mud stains is to ignore the usual advice you hear about stains—that is, to attack them as soon as possible, preferably while they are still wet. In the case of mud, it's best to let it dry out completely before attempting to clean it.

Stain type Soil, clay
Detergent type Standard laundry detergent
Water temperature Warm
Cycle type Normal

Project Metrics

  • Working time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes plus washing and drying

Before You Begin

The standard procedure for removing mud stains applies to washable fabrics only. If you have mud on dry-clean-only clothes, take them to a dry cleaner, or use a home dry cleaning kit, following the manufacturer's directions.

If the mud stain is on a leather garment, washing isn't an option. Instead, gently wipe off as much of the mud as possible with a damp towel, if the mud is still wet. Then, buff the leather with a dry cloth. If the mud has dried on the leather, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to rub off as much of the soil as you can, then rub the leather with a damp towel. Make sure to dry off your leather with a towel after you have cleaned it; you do not want to replace your mud stain with a water stain.

What You'll Need

Supplies:

Tools:

  • Hand vacuum
  • Butter knife or spoon

Instructions

  1. Let the Mud Dry

    Let the clay, sand, or dirt dry thoroughly to prevent smearing. Do not attempt to wipe off the mud while it is still wet. It will only smear the stain more on the clothing.

  2. Scrape or Vacuum the Stain 

    Once the mud stain has dried, use a butter knife (or the edge of a spoon) or a hand vacuum to remove the dried clumps. Try to get off as much of the dirt as you can with this step, but be careful not to mash it deeper into the fabric.

  3. Apply Detergent and Rub

    Rub liquid detergent into the stain and allow it to sit for 15 minutes or until the stain no longer remains. Lightly rub the stained area between your fingers every three to five minutes to help loosen the stain.

  4. Use a Stain Remover

    If traces of the mud stain remain, apply a stain remover stick, gel, or spray and let it stand for five minutes.

  5. Wash and Dry 

Wash the garment as usual, following the care label instructions. You can hand wash the fabric or use a washing machine. It's fine to use warm water if permitted by the care instructions. Dry the garment only after all traces of the stain are gone.

illustration of removing mud stains
The Spruce / Melissa Ling

Tip

When you need to remove mud stains from white clothing, bleach is your secret weapon. Chlorine bleach is a strong stain remover, but it can also damage some fabrics. Make sure you read the garment tag before using bleach. If your clothing is not white or color-fast, use the same steps you would for other fabrics. Alternatively, use an oxygen bleach, such as OxiClean, which is generally safe for colors.

To tackle stubborn mud stains—or red mud, which tends to persist—there are a few ways to up your game. Try scrubbing the stain with an old toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush after applying liquid laundry detergent or powdered detergent and a little water. Repeat as needed. You can also flush the stain with rubbing alcohol before washing.