Remove Grease, Gravy and Sauce Stains

That splatter of spaghetti sauce, the oily blob of butter, the gooey white mess of mayonnaise on your shirt front…these are probably most people’s ideas of nightmare stains. However, by following a few simple steps, you can often remove grease and sauce stains relatively simply and effectively.

Here is a list of common stains and how to treat them:

  • Butter & Cream – for washable fabrics, just a normal cycle with a good laundry detergent. For non-washable fabrics, sprinkle talcum powder onto the stain and leave for 24 hours to absorb the grease, followed by careful hand-washing. Any remaining stain can be tackled by a little dilute methylated spirit. Alternatively, you can use a grease solvent, such as a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover) or dry cleaning fluid.
  • Cheese and cheese sauces – remove as much as possible of the cheese or cheese sauce with a blunt instrument or paper towel, then wash in warm water with a mild detergent. Make sure you check that that the stain has been completely removed before putting the garment in the dryer as the heat can set the stain permanently. If the stain is still there, treat it with a vinegar solution of 1/3 cup vinegar, 2/3 cup water, before washing again.
  • Chutney – this stain can be treated with glycerine: sponge the area with cold water first and then pour the glycerine solution onto the stain and rub gently between you hands. Leave for at least 30 minutes and then wash as directed. If a stain still persists, you can apply some chlorinated laundry bleach, according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Cooking Oil – a very common accident while in the kitchen, these stains are best treated with some talcum powder first to absorb any excess oil and then rubbed with a little cold water, before washing as usual – the stain will usually disappear with this treatment.
  • Curry sauce – lemon juice sprinkled onto the stain is very effective; leave overnight and then wash as normal the next day. Another method is to apply some white toothpaste to the stain and leave it for a couple of hours, before washing as normal.
  • Gravy – these stains can be removed by sponging with a dry-cleaning solvent or enzymatic pre-laundry soak. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry and then apply undiluted detergent to the stain and gently rub in. Rinse again and then wash as usual.
  • Grease – grease spots can usually be removed by washing with hot water and soap. However, if the stain is persistent, make up a solution of 1 Tbsp. salt to 4 Tbsp. rubbing alcohol and sponge this onto the stain, then wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric. If the stain is still there, make sure you do not put the fabric in the dryer – use a dry-cleaning solvent on the stain and then re-wash. For delicate fabrics, such as silk, it is best to consult professional dry-cleaners.
  • Ice cream – if the fabric is washable, simply sponge with lukewarm water and then wash as usual. If the material is not washable, then use some dry-cleaning solvent mixed with cold water, sponged directly onto the stain. Alternatively, you can try some borax solution on the stain and then wash with cold water. However, some ice-creams or sorbets that are fruit-based can leave very strong stains. In these cases, rinse the fabric in cold water immediately and then leave it to soak in a solution of warm water and biological laundry detergent. You can also treat any stubborn stains with lemon juice before re-washing.
  • Ketchup – if you catch ketchup stains fast enough, just dabbing them with warm water and detergent should be enough. If the fabric is washable, you can soak it in a solution of detergent and water before laundering. If the stain is old, then you will need to rub glycerine into the stain to loosen it and then leave it for a period of time, before soaking and washing as above. Ideally, wash with a biological laundry detergent. For non-washable fabrics and carpets, try a solution of borax and water – or you can buy specially designed commercial cleaning products, such as carpet shampoos.
  • Mayonnaise – this is quite easy to treat by sponging with a small amount of dry-cleaning solvent, followed by liquid detergent rubbed into the stain. Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric.
  • Mustard – a very common stain. For washable fabrics, sponge with a vinegar solution of 2 pints of warm water, 1/2 tsp. liquid hand washing detergent and 1 Tbsp vinegar (before using this solution, make sure you test for colourfastness on an inside seam or hem). Follow with a good rinse with water and then let air dry. If you do not have liquid detergent, make a paste with powdered detergent and water and then apply to the stain before washing as usual. For a very stubborn stain, you may need to use bleach – if the fabric will allow it.
  • Soya sauce – this can be a lethal stain: try not to let the stain dry and blot as much as possible with white paper towels. Remember, soya sauce sets with heat so wash in cool water. If a stain remains, try an enzyme laundry pre-treatment and then wash again. For old stains, first treat with a glycerine solution that is left on the stain for at least 20 minutes, before following the steps above.
  • Tomato sauce (spaghetti sauce) – these are probably the real nightmare stains as they are tough to remove. However, you can usually remove them by wetting the area and then sprinkling with some powdered dishwashing detergent. Scrub the stain gently with a toothbrush and then rinse thoroughly and wash as normal. Do not put it in the dryer however, but hang it out in the sun if possible as this will remove any leftover staining.

As with most stains, the quicker you can act, the better chance you have to treating and removing the stain. Remember also that heat will set stains permanently and so do not put in the dryer or iron, until you are sure all traces of the stain have been removed.

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