How to Remove Stubborn Stains - dummies

By Gill Chilton

There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to remove all traces of a stain if you react with the right cleaning materials in time. Whether it’s red wine, coffee, ink (or worse!) the trick is to have a toolkit at the ready and follow a step-by-step process.

Principles of stain removal

  • For dry powder stains, reach for a soft brush before the wet cloth. Never add water to stains formed solely from dry powder.

  • Use only white cloths to blot up spills. A colourful cloth or napkin could create another stain.

  • Use cold water to wash stains under the tap.

Step by step method for removing stains

  1. First focus on limiting the damage. Use a plain white cloth or paper towel to blot the spill from the centre outwards to minimise spreading.

  2. Move any solids using a spoon and blunt knife to avoid damaging the surface.

  3. Identify the stain type – water-based, grease-based, and so on. Ready any care labels so that you know what the fabric can withstand.

  4. Unlock the stain by turning it into a liquid. Unless dealing with a powder stain, you should use a solvent. Water works more often than you might think. Don’t use water that’s too hot – you could make the stain permanent.

  5. Work from the inside out. It’s simpler to push the liquid out the way it came, and this will stop the stain going right through the fabric on its return.

  6. Be prepared to repeat this process several times.

Tips for removing tough stains

  • Take the item to a dry-cleaner, who’s likely to have encountered the problem before.

  • Take a risk if you can’t bear to use the item as it is. Ignore the care label and wash at a higher temperature than is recommended. Or wash a non-washable item.

  • Cut the stain out. On a carpet, hold small scissors as horizontal as you can and cut away the damaged fabric. For laminate flooring, refit a new panel.

  • Mask the damage. If clothes, try wearing shirts only under jumpers, or turn up hems/cuffs where possible. For carpets, you could add rugs. For cushions and tableware, try adding trimmings, bows or badges. Alternatively, dye the fabric or paint over hard surfaces.