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A Bloody Mess: Can You Get It Off?

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Blood Stains Blood Removal Stain Removal

How many times have you heard someone say: "Oh no! There's blood on your clothes! Now you'll never get it off!" Of all the common stains, blood is one of the most dreaded and most misunderstood. In fact, blood stains can be removed quite easily, particularly if you act fast. Due to the process of coagulation, blood is much harder to remove if it is old and dried. It will also be removed more easily from cotton or cotton blends than from 100% synthetic materials.

Blood on fabrics

If the stain is fresh, all that may be required is soaking the fabric in cold, salty water. However, this is not advisable for some fabrics, such as wool. Alternatively, you can sponge liberally with cold water or club soda and then blot with a soft absorbent cloth or paper towel.

If you want to tackle the stain directly, first blot up as much of the blood as possible then place an absorbent pad underneath the stain and cover the top of the stain with another absorbent pad, soaked in an enzymatic detergent (Note: do not use enzymatic cleaners on wools and silks). If the fabric is strong enough, tamp the stain with a spoon or brush by tapping the area vigorously and blotting regularly by pressing hard on the stain with an absorbent material. This enables you to remove the loosened stain particles immediately. Then, flush with cold water - not hot, as this will set a blood stain.

If the stain persists, then you can try flushing it with an ammonia solution made up of 1 Tbsp of household ammonia and ½ cup of water. Again, rinse thoroughly with water afterwards and blot. Alternatively, you could tackle the stain with a vinegar solution, made up of 1/3 cup white vinegar and 2/3 cup water. Flush again with water and blot. Finally, if the stain is still not completely removed, you can bleach it with a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide, applied with a medicine dropper directly onto the stain. (You can add a drop of ammonia to the hydrogen peroxide for even more potent stain removal.) Follow with a water rinse and blot again.

* Remember, hydrogen peroxide can also have a bleaching effect so always test in a small area first.

For clothes that need dry-cleaning, it is best not to do anything yourself and simply take the garment to the dry-cleaners as soon as possible, in case you unwittingly set the stain even deeper. For very old blood stains, try applying a solution of 1 tsp mild detergent (non-alkaline, non-bleaching) mixed with 1 cup of ice water, blot, then follow by a solution of 1 Tbsp household ammonia with half a cup of ice water; blot again and then finally sponge clean with ice cold water and blot dry.

Blood on carpets

Soak up as much of the stain as possible by rinsing with cold water and then blotting with paper towels. Make sure you only use a little water at a time, so as not to spread the stain and only use cold water as hot water can set the stain, making it permanent.

Tackle the remaining stain with a solution of mild dish-washing detergent and cold water, working it into the stain from the outside in. However, do not rub as this can damage the carpet fibres which will then hold stains more easily in future. Just keep soaking the area and then rinsing and blotting dry with paper towels. You may need to repeat the process several times until you see no more transfer of the stain onto the paper towels. Make sure you blot up all excess water when you are done and try to leave the area well ventilated, ideally with a fan blowing.

Remember, different carpet fibres can affect how easily a stain may be removed - for example, wool and other natural fibres may be more difficult. The general rule to remember is not to subject any stain to heat before it has been

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