While many of the commercial stain removers and household chemicals can be very effective on stains, they are very damaging to the environment. Therefore if you are keen to “go green”, then it may be worth considering some more environmentally-friendly alternatives.
This is a great stain remover that’s not really used enough around the home. Lemon juice is mildly acidic, has a bleaching and deodorising effect and also dissolves grease. It can be used on a huge range of stains and is one of the first things you should try. For example, it can bleach ink spots on clothing, remove berry stains from your skin, eliminate odours from a cutting board, clean stains from brass, copper and stainless steel cutlery and kitchen sinks, and – especially combined with salt – help shift a whole host of different stains from fabrics. Make sure you choose a lemon which is firm and heavy, with a fine-grained skin as these tend to be juicier.
Another fantastic stain remover, white vinegar is easily available, cheap and harmless to use. Because it is a mild acid, it is very effective on certain solid stains, such as limescale and calcium deposits (“soap scum”) from hard water – for example, in the shower, bath and even unclog the washing machine (Once a month pour one cup of white vinegar into the washing machine and run the machine through a normal cycle, without clothes). Other stains it works on include stubborn stains on furniture and upholstery, mildew and mould from bathroom tiles and shower curtains, food stains from pots and pans, stains in toilet bowls, perspiration from clothes, scorch marks and animal urine stains in the carpet. Vinegar is also a great natural air freshener – placing a small bowl of vinegar in the room or spraying some into the air will deodorise a room filled with smoke or paint fumes.
This is a wonder product that is again, woefully underused in the modern household. Like lemon juice, it is great for cleaning stainless steel items; it is also remarkably effective on tannin stains from tea and coffee in crockery and crayon marks from walls and wallpaper, just by gently scrubbing with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda. Baking soda mixed with lemon juice, vinegar or even just some water and made into a paste is a great all-purpose cleaner and stain remover. However, probably baking soda’s most famous property is its deodorising action – not only does it have the ability to absorb odours but it can neutralise them as well. Thus, it makes a great cleaner for the refrigerator and deodoriser for the dishwasher (sprinkle one-half cup baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher between loads), as well as masking any odours from pet stains and general odours in carpets.
Yes, you heard right! For many fresh food or blood stains, saliva actually works incredibly well as it contains enzymes that dissolve the organic molecules in the stain. Spit on the stain and then use your tongue or finger to loosen the mark. You can then rinse the area with cold water and blot dry. Remember to use cold water and not hot, as heat can set the stain. You can follow this treatment with soap or detergent and water.
This is a great stain remover for fresh blood and also for freshly spilt red wine – be generous with the amount poured on the stain as quite a lot may be required to absorb and lift the stain.
All commercial bleaches are very harmful to the environment as they contain powerful chemicals. One natural alternative is to use sunlight, which also has a strong bleaching effect. Wet the stained area and leave it outside in direct sunlight, when it dries – wet it again and keep repeating this, until the stain has disappeared. Note – a stain that might show faintly on a wet fabric will probably be invisible when it is dry.
Remember when soaking items to fully immerse them, otherwise they can develop watermark stains. Squeeze as much air out of them as possible and if they are still floating, place a couple of bottles filled with water, to weigh them down. Remember also that sometimes, stains can be cleverly disguised with appliqué, embroidery or fabric paints – without resorting to the need for harsh chemical treatments.
The one treatment that is definitely very bad for the environment is dry-cleaning so this should be avoided whenever possible if you’re trying to “think green”. Many items which are labelled as “dry-clean only” can actually be washed if handled very gently and carefully.