7 Surprising Laundry Stain Removers

Unexpected Laundry Stain Removers

The Spruce / Ellen Lindner

You're running late, something spills on your clothing, and you don't have any stain remover on hand. Fortunately, not every stain requires a specialty product. In fact, there are items you probably have on hand to help remove the stain and get you through the moment. So before you panic, look around. You might just be able to solve your problem with some shaving cream, a slice of bread, or a bit of vodka.

Here are seven common household items you can use to remove laundry stains.

  • 01 of 08

    Shaving Cream

    shaving cream

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    Shaving cream is essentially a can of ready-to-use whipped soap. The basic varieties—no gels or added moisturizers and colors—are best for use on stains.

    For a spill on clothing or other fabric, dampen the stain with water and work in just a dab of shaving cream with your fingers. Then, flush the area with cold water, or wipe it with a white cloth dipped in cold water. Always use a white cloth or paper towel to prevent color transfer from one fabric to the other. Finally, blot with a dry white cloth or paper towel, or use a blow dryer on low heat.

  • 02 of 08


    using bread as a stain remover

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

    The sooner you can treat a stain and keep it from spreading, the better. When a spill occurs—especially a greasy one—grab a slice of bread. Blot the stain with the bread, which will act like a sponge to absorb the stain. This will prevent it from getting bigger and moving deeper into the fabric fibers.

    Even old grease stains on suede or leather can be lifted by placing a slice of bread on the stain for an hour or so to absorb the oil. Any type of plain bread, such as white or whole wheat, will work. Just make sure it hasn't been buttered.

  • 03 of 08

    White Chalk

    white chalk as a stain remover

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    When an oily stain happens on white or colored fabric, rub the stained area with a piece of white chalk. Allow the chalk to absorb the oil for at least five minutes, and then brush it off. Repeat this process until the oil is gone or at least less visible. You can also use baby powder or cornstarch in the same way.

    Furthermore, you can use chalk to cover stains on white clothes. If you don't have time to remove a stain, simply mask it with a layer of chalk until you get a chance to wash the fabric. A piece of chalk is a must-have for emergency stains on a white wedding dress.

  • 04 of 08


    small decanter of vodka

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    When ink stains your favorite jeans, grab a bottle of vodka. Simply saturate a clean white cloth or a cotton swab with vodka. Then, working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center, blot away the ink. Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth or a clean swab until all of the ink is gone. Finish by blotting the area with a cloth dipped in plain water.

    Vodka also makes a great fabric refresher. In fact, many commercial fabric refreshers contain high alcohol content. For your DIY version, simply mix 1/2 cup vodka with 1 cup cool water in a spray bottle, and spritz your stale-smelling clothes.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08


    using WD-40 on a stain

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

    WD-40 is a petroleum-based lubricant that can cause stains on clothes. But it also can help to remove stains. The solvents in WD-40 help to break down oil—especially old oily stains—loosening the oil molecules from fabric fibers. Simply spray the stain with a bit of WD-40 from the front and back of the fabric. Allow it to work for about five minutes. Then, treat the stain with a commercial stain remover or a heavy-duty detergent, and wash in the hottest water recommended for the fabric.

    WD-40 can also be used to lift melted crayons, candle wax, or chewing gum from fabrics. Just remember to wash immediately once the waxy stain is lifted from the fabric.


    Surprising Uses For WD-40

  • 06 of 08

    Permanent Markers

    black permanent marker

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

    Permanent markers are another product that can both cause stains and help to solve staining issues. If you splashed chlorine bleach on fabric by accident, you might be able to save it by filling in the bleached areas with a permanent marker. Permanent markers also can cover scuffs on shoes and handbags. 

    Black marker works best to get a close match that isn't noticeable unless you know exactly where to look. But if you find other colors of permanent markers that closely match your fabric, you can use them as well. Water-based markers will also work in a pinch, but the color won't last through the next washing.

  • 07 of 08

    Cream of Tartar

    bowl of cream of tartar

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

    Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) is used in baking to help food maintain its texture and stability. It's a mild acid that also works well to remove stains, such as berries and red wine, from white fabrics. However, don't use it on colored fabrics without first testing it on an inside seam to make sure the fabric is colorfast.

    To use, make a paste of hot water and cream of tartar. Apply the paste to the stain, and let it work for at least 15 minutes. Rinse and repeat if necessary. For rust stains, boost the cleaning power by mixing cream of tartar with a bit of lemon juice. The added acid from the lemons will help to remove the stains.

  • 08 of 08

    Paper Grocery Bag and an Iron

    If you're dealing with wax candle drips on a table cloth or some oily residue, you can follow this surprising method to remove the stain.

    1. Set your iron on low and tear up a grocery bag into a few pieces.
    2. Put a piece of the paper bag over the stain and simply iron the paper. The heat will draw the melted wax and oil into the paper, which will absorb it out of the fabric.
    3. Keep moving the paper to a clean spot as you see the paper saturate with oil until all the wax and oil has been absorbed.
    4. Keep the iron moving so you don't scorch the fabric underneath, especially if it is synthetic.