University of Missouri Extension

MP663, Reviewed June 2009

Stain Removal From Washable Fabrics

Stain removal products

Products used for stain removal can usually be found in grocery, drug, hardware, general merchandise or paint stores. Check labels to be sure the chemical content is the one recommended for your stain removal problem.


Do not use dishwasher detergents, which may set some stains.


Use a 3 percent solution sold as a milk antiseptic. Test fabric for colorfastness. Hydrogen peroxide loses strength when stored for a long time. Rinse fabric thoroughly after using.

Liquid chlorine bleach has a limited shelf life. After six months, it may need replacing. It also may damage some fibers, dyes and finishes. Check care label for restrictions. To test for colorfastness, mix one tablespoon of bleach with 1/4 cup of water. With an eyedropper, put a drop on a hidden seam. Let stand two minutes. If there is color change, do not use bleach. Do not pour into bowl. Do not breathe fumes.
Do not use chlorine bleach on wool, silk or spandex fabrics. Do not use on flame-retardant fabric unless the care label states that it is safe. Do not use in metal containers or with metal objects.

Pretreatment products

Odor-reducing agents

Other useful chemicals

Many of these chemicals are poisonous and/or flammable. Observe all warnings on the label. Use in well-ventilated area. Do not breathe the vapors. Avoid getting on the skin.

Alcohol fades some dyes, so check colorfastness. For use on acetate, dilute with two parts water to one part alcohol.

Ammonia changes the color of some dyes. To restore color, rinse with water and apply a few drops of vinegar. Rinse with water again. For use on wool and silk, dilute ammonia with an equal amount of water.

Fades or removes many dyes. If a distinct color change occurs (not just fading), the original color may be restored by rinsing the areas with water immediately. Hang the garment to dry. If color fades, original color cannot be restored. Do not use metal objects or store in metal containers.

Extremely toxic. If spilled on skin, wipe off with paper towel and wash skin. If spilled on clothes, change at once and hang clothes outdoors until all solvent odor is gone. Do not use in room with open flame or gas pilot light or where there is a chance of electrical sparks from refrigerators, fans, vacuum cleaners or static. Do not smoke. Non-flammable solvents give off very poisonous vapors and are especially toxic to persons who have drunk even small amounts of alcohol. Never use in washing machine or dryer.

These products are bleaches with enzymes in them. They must be used at body temperature for enzyme action to occur. Chlorine bleach and hot water deactivate enzymes. These products lose strength when mixed with water and stored.

Do not use on acetate, triacetate, or modacrylic fabrics. Will dissolve plastic. Most nail polish removers are the oily type: use dry cleaning solvent following use.

Do not use these products with chlorine or oxygen bleaches.

If color change occurs, rinse well with water and add a few drips of ammonia to the area. Rinse well with water. Do not use colored vinegar, as it will leave a stain.

No endorsement of companies or their products mentioned is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar companies or their products not mentioned.
In spite of claims made by some commercial products, there is no such thing as an all-purpose stain remover. The proper stain removal product to use is determined by the type of stain being treated.

MP663 Stain Removal From Washable Fabrics | University of Missouri Extension

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