Now that the holidays are over, it is time to tackle those items in the laundry room that were set aside until you figure out how to get the stains out.
It is best to treat stains promptly. Fresh stains are easier to remove than those that have aged. Even 24 hours can make a difference in how easily the stain is removed. Be sure to blot up any excess liquid or scrape off any solids as soon as the stain happens. However, it may be best to wait until mud has dried before removing it from the garment. Remove all excess solids or liquids before you submerge the clothing in water. It can be tempting to scrub the stain with a bar of hand soap, but soap will set many stains so resist the urge.
Always check clothing for stains before placing in the washing machine. Many stains must be pretreated before laundering. Remember to check the wet clothing before you put it in the dryer to be sure that the stain is gone. If the stain is still there, or if you are unsure that the stain is completely gone, air dry the garment as the heat of the dryer often sets stains permanently. The heat of ironing can also set a stain so make sure the stain is completely gone.
Wash heavily stained items separately. Soil and stains can redeposit on cleaner clothing during laundering. This can happen if too little detergent is used, water temperature is too low, washing time is too long, or if the washer is loaded with too many clothes.
Avoid using hot water on stains of unknown origin. Hot water can set protein stains like milk, egg, or blood. Use the water temperature recommended on stain removal products and detergents. Hot water should be between 120° and 140°F, warm water between 85°and 105°F, and cold water between 65° and 75°F. Water below 60° F is too cold for detergents to be helpful.
Before starting on the stain, test your stain removal agents on a seam or hidden area of the garment to be sure they do not affect the color or finish of the fabric. Avoid excessive rubbing unless the fabric is really tough and durable. Rubbing can spread the stain and damage the fiber, finish, or color of the fabric. However, gentle to vigorous rubbing and agitation under running water helps remove dried food, protein, or oil stains from shirts or jean-weight fabrics made of cotton or cotton/polyester blends.
If you used candles at your holiday celebrations, you may have had a wax stain on a tablecloth or on some clothing. To remove the wax stain, remove the waxy portion of the stain first, followed by the dye portion of the stain. Spray or sponge* with a dry-cleaning solvent like Goof Off or Goo Gone, or treat with a stain stick. “Sponging” confines the stain to a small area and keeps it from spreading. To do this, use absorbent material, such as clean rags or white paper towels, and a dry-cleaning solvent, spot remover, or aerosol pretreatment spray. Follow these steps: Pad the working surface with clean rags or paper towels that can absorb stains. Place the stained area or spot on the fabric face down over the padded surface. Dampen a small white cloth with solvent. Use the dampened cloth to pat the stain from the wrong side of the fabric. Feather the edges of the stain working from the outside toward the center to keep the stained area from getting larger.
As the stain transfers to the absorbent material beneath the fabric, move the stain to a clean place on the absorbent material so the stain has a clean place on which to transfer. Repeat this procedure until all traces of stain are gone. Launder to remove any ring left by the solvent. Then rub with a heavy-duty liquid detergent and scrub in hot water. To remove the dye portion of the stain, soak in an all fabric bleach (examples: Biz, Clorox 2, Snowy Bleach) diluted according to package directions. If the fabric is colorfast to bleach, liquid chlorine bleach may be used. Wash the tablecloth in as hot of water allowable for the fabric using detergent.
You may be familiar with the technique of ironing a wax stain away. Ironing candle wax between blotting paper drives the stain deeper into the fabric. This process is widely used, but not recommended. It more permanently sets the dye from the candle and makes it difficult for the detergent or solvent to reach the wax portion of the stain.
Now that you know the tips, it is time to get those stains out!