Sticky Little Fingers and Clothes

Mealtimes with children invariably mean that stains will result especially if your kids are at the baby and toddler stage. They smear food, spill drinks and generally make mess in every way imaginable – even if all you provided them with was a “little snack”. Therefore, knowing a few tips on how to remove stains and marks can come in very handy and make clean-ups less stressful all around.

Here are some common “children’s stains” and how to tackle them:

Fizzy Drinks – These can leave horrific stains due to the food dyes used in the manufacture of many soft drinks. The key is to act quickly and flush out as much as possible with lukewarm water (if the fabric is washable). Follow this by soaking the garment in a solution of 20 percent volume hydrogen peroxide diluted with an equal quantity of water, for at least 15 minutes. If the fabric is white cotton, then you can also use bleach, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For fizzy drinks spilled on carpets, again act quickly and blot up as much as possible using kitchen towel, then make up a solution of white vinegar and water which can be dabbed onto the stain. This should “bleach” any remaining colour out. Rinse with water, by dabbing and blotting and allow to air dry.

Ice-cream – If the ice-cream is a simple, dairy type, it will usually just wash out of clothes with a good laundry detergent. On carpets, sponging with warm water and detergent will usually do the trick, as long as the stain has not dried in. However, if the ice-cream is of the fruit-based variety (eg. blackcurrant sorbet), this can mean a more serious stain. Tackle the stain immediately and rinse it with cold water, then leave it to soak in a solution of warm water and biological detergent. Check again and treat any remaining stains with lemon juice, before putting it in the wash. You may need to repeat this after one cycle, if the stains are still persistent. Make sure you do not put any garments in the dryer until all stains have been removed as the heat will set any marks permanently.

Jam – Again, scrape off as much excess as possible and then sponge with warm water and liquid detergent, before washing as normal. If the fabric needs to be dry-cleaned, you can probably still sponge any small marks gently with just warm water. Otherwise, it may be best to take it to the professionals. Jam on carpets can be treated the same way as washable fabrics: excess material removed and then sponged with warm water and detergent. Make sure you do not over-wet the area and also that you rinse away any traces of detergent thoroughly as they affect the carpet fibres and make it more likely to stain in future. Rinse by dabbing with a cloth soaked in water, then blot immediately with paper towels – and repeat.

Ketchup – If these stains are caught fresh, you can treat them just by dabbing with warm water and detergent, or even soaked in a solution of warm water and detergent, before washing as normal. If the stain is not fresh, you will need to rub some glycerine into the stain to loosen it and then leave it for a while, before soaking and washing as directed above, ideally using a biological detergent. If the fabric is non-washable or the stain is on carpet, you might need to use a specialist cleaning product, such as dry-cleaning fluid and carpet shampoo respectively; you can also try sponging the stain with a solution of water and borax powder.

Milk – This will not usually leave any noticeable visual stain, unless it is very creamy, full-fat milk, in which case you can use a bit of dilute methylated spirit dabbed onto the stain. For most milk stains, just sponge with warm water and detergent, before washing. Although you cannot see this stain easily, it is still a good idea to treat it as soon as possible as it can leave a lingering, unpleasant smell.

As with most stains, the general rule is to act quickly and treat the stain immediately, for best chance of removal. If you child is particularly messy, then protective clothing at mealtimes – in the form of a large bib, smock or even just some old pyjamas – might be a good idea!

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