While the usual reaction is to jump up in horror when something is spilled or smeared, the fact is that most stains are quite easily removed with the right solvent or cleaning agent. However, there are a few stains which can really cause your heart to sink as these are particularly difficult to remove. Here are some of the “tough ones” and ways you can try to tackle them.
If the scorching is severe, then unfortunately there is not much you can do – this is pretty much a permanent stain. However, if it is just light scorching, then you can dab it gently with a half-and-half hydrogen peroxide and water solution, or a solution of water and borax water. If the fabric can handle it, you can even soak it in some bleach solution. In all cases, rinse thoroughly and then wash as normal.
Hopefully, it the glue is formulated for children’s use, it will be washable, although large amounts stuck on clothing will still need pre-treatment. First pick off as much glue as possible with your fingers and then soften the remaining glue with some warm water and detergent. Always dab from the reverse side of the garment and be very gentle. Then wash according to instructions.
If the glue is not washable, it will still be soluble in a particular solvent, usually available from the manufacturer. Check the labels on the bottle – there may be instructions for stain removal, particularly as there are so many types of glues nowadays with individual chemical compositions. If you can’t find information about a specific solvent, try a bit of methylated spirit, amyl acetate or white spirit. As a last resort, you can use paintbrush cleaner or paint stripper but as this is incredibly harsh, you run the risk of damaging the fabric or surface the glue is on.
It is not so much the liquid itself but the food dyes used in the drinks that are lethal. The first thing to do – if the fabric is washable – is to rinse off as much of the stain as possible with lukewarm, water and then dab the stained area with ammonia or soak it in a solution of 20 percent hydrogen peroxide solution for at least fifteen minutes. If the fabric is white cotton, then you can also risk soaking it in bleach, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
For fizzy drinks spilled on carpets, blot up as much as possible using paper towels and then dab the stain with some warm water and white vinegar.
Ink can be a real nightmare:
- For ballpoint pens – start with just ordinary hand soap softened with warm water and then pressed gently through the fabric. This will shift the stain before rinsing, although make sure the water is neither too hot nor cold, as either will set the stain. If the stain is very stubborn, you may have to resort to methylated spirit dabbed onto the stain, which is good at removing the ink but might also remove some of the colour of the fabric, leaving a “reverse stain”. This is especially true of synthetic fabrics, in which case it is best to use a very dilute solution of one part methylated spirit to two parts water.
- For felt-tip pens – many stains can actually be easily removed following a soak in detergent and warm water solution and then a wash with biological powder. Like glues, many felt-tip pens created for the children’s market are washable – If the ink is not washable, however, you can try the methylated spirit treatment mentioned above.
- For fountain pens – again, most modern brands of ink are washable (Indian ink is the exception). If the ink has been spilled onto carpet, pour some salt onto the stain as this will soak up the ink – when dry, brush the salt off gently (taking care not to rub any back into the carpet fibres) and then dab the area with a half-and-half mixture of white vinegar and warm water.
- Permanent marker – unfortunately, this one is practically impossible to remove.
Milk stains are actually quite easy to remove – just by sponging with warm water and detergent or soaking briefly in water and detergent before washing – it’s the lingering odour that is difficult, especially if the spill is on carpet. Your best bet is to try and rinse the area as thoroughly as possible – for carpets; this means repeated applications of small amounts of water and constant blotting up using paper towels.
This is an annoying stain often following a day at the beach. It looks horrible but it is actually easily removed by eucalyptus oil which can be bought from pharmacies. First remove as much excess tar as possible using the blunt side of a knife or a spoon and then dab the eucalyptus oil from the reverse of the fabric to push the tar out. Then wash as normal. This treatment can also be used on dry-clean only garments, before taking it to the professional cleaners – but make sure you let them know what you have done.
A common stain after a vigorous shoe-polishing session – the best thing is to treat it similarly to other grease stains (e.g. cycle oil) and trying to remove the stain first by washing with biological detergent, then follow with soaking in borax solution if the stain still persists. The colour may be harder to remove – you may need to use methylated spirit for this but again, be careful as this can fade the colour of your fabric if the stain is on clothes.
Curry stains can be very stubborn due to the spices used in the powder mixture. Brush or scrape off as much excess powder as possible and then use a half-and-half solution of warm water and glycerine rubbed through the fabric from the reverse side to loosen the stain. Rinse thoroughly in warm water and then wash with a biological detergent. If the stained fabric is white cotton or linen, then you can try soaking the stain in bleach solution.
For non-washable fabrics and carpets, remove the excess as described and then treat with a solution of 2 Tbsp borax in 1L of warm water – or – if the stain is really persistent, you can use diluted methylated spirit again, taking care to spot test first to check fading.