USU Extension: Stain Removal 101

USU Extension Family and Comsumer Science Educator Teresa Hunsaker talks about ways to help your stain removal predicaments.


The stain removal products of any major store are loaded with all kinds of different formulas designed to remove stains from your dirty laundry. But what works and what doesn’t for getting the majority of those stains out??

One frustration is there are some specific categories of stains that need different types of treatment. Depending on what category your stains fall into, you may need to use different water temperatures, stain removers, and removal methods to make sure that every trace of the stain is removed.

The main categories are:

1. Protein based stains—dairy products, blood, body soils, baby formula, mud, eggs, and baby food. Avoid using hot water on these stains. Heat sets protein stains in fabric. Use cool water for washing and rinsing. Dried and old protein stains may need several rounds of treatment before they will be fully gone.

2. Dye based—berries, Koolaid, inks, mustard, fruit juice, jam. The trouble with dye based stains is in their strength and how rapidly they stain. To remove them, you’ll probably need to soak the stained area repeatedly if the stain has set. If you get to a dye stain quickly enough, it can be removed with water, if not you may need repeated treatments. Unlike protein based stains, dye stains are best removed with hot water.

3. Tannin—tea, coffee, colas, beers, wine. Tannin stains are actually one of the easiest fresh stains to remove. Simply running a stained area under cold water and then washing in a regular cycle with the hottest water safe for your fabric will remove most stains. Set in tannin based stains are not as easy to get rid of. These stains will frequently need more thorough treatment, but be sure to avoid bar soaps. Tannin stains will be enhanced and made permanent if a soap is used.

4. Grease/oil– include margarine, butter, makeup, oil, mayonnaise, deodorant, gasoline, and ring around the collar and cuff stains. The problem with oil stains is that they tend to reappear just when you think you’ve seen the last of them. Oils grab onto the fibers in your clothing and they don’t like to let go. Oil stains also darken over time. To remove oil stains the key is letting a detergent soak into the stained area, and washing in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Double check that the stain has been removed before you place clothing in the dryer, and treat it again if you are in doubt.

5. Combination– crayons, gum, lipstick, chocolate, gravy, tomato based stains, and bbq sauce. There are tons of combination based stains. These stains take the best of two other groups and mix them together to make it hard for you to treat them. Usually the combination is dye or color and oil. Start by removing the oily part of the stain first and then remove the dye or color portion.

The very best way to get stains out is to treat as soon as possible!! If a pre-treatment is not available, then at least pre-treat with water by rinsing and patting dry. Very rarely do stains just come out by throwing your laundry into the washing machine and ignoring the stain!!

Commercial pre-treatment products that rate well for a variety of stains are:

OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover and OxiClean Wipes

Shout Gel and Shout Wipes Plus

Spray and Wash Dual Power Stain Remover

Spray and Wash Stain Stick

Noteworthy home remedies include:

Hydrogen peroxide—great on blood.

This stain removal recipe can be made in bulk and stored in a plastic spray bottle.

Create a mixture of 1/3 cup water, 1/3 cup liquid detergent, 1/3 cup ammonia. Pour into a clean plastic spray bottle. To use, spray directly on stain, and let soak before washing in the washing machine as normal.

Greasy stains

Full strength Dawn

This is the best treatment, then wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric.

Grape Juice

Rub with glycerine and rinse with water


Add detergent and 1 to 2 cups of baking soda to the washing machine

Wash in the hottest water safe for fabric.


Use glycerine and rinse with water.

Quick and cautious stain removal keeps clothes in wearable condition for a longer time and thus helps reduce clothing costs


To learn more go to or call (801) 399-8200

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