So, I admit...I know very little about effective stain removal. I always wonder what to do when a new mystery spot appears. So, I've been researching about stains and common household items I can use for them. Apparently there are five categories of stains. So, first let's figure out what category each stain fits into, then we can talk about what we have around the house for their removal. Well Sherlock, read on...
Protein Based Stains (usually a brownish stain)
These stains include blood, dairy products, body soils, baby formula, mud, eggs,and baby food. Protein based stains will usually have some soiled areas that will need to be cleaned off with a spoon before attempting to treat them. Remember to avoid using hot water on these stains. Heat sets protein stains in fabric. Use cool water for washing and rinsing. Dried and old protein stains may need several rounds of treatment before they will be fully gone. To remove protein based stains, you'll need a detergent or stain remover with enzymes. Most liquid laundry detergents already contain enzymes. Oxygen colorsafe bleaches can be very effective on protein based stains as well. Be sure to avoid heat. Hot water, an iron, or a dryer will set protein stains, ruining any chance of saving the stained item. Make sure a stain has been completely removed before drying it.
Dye Based Stains
Dye based stains include some inks, fruit, grass, Koolaid, and mustard. The trouble with dye based stains is in their strength and how rapidly they stain. To remove them, you'll probably need to soak the stained area repeatedly if the stain has set. If you get to a dye stain quickly enough, it can be removed with water, if not you may need repeated treatments. Unlike protein based stains, dye stains are best removed with hot water.
Tannin Based Stains
Tannin based stains include tea, coffee, soft drinks, fruit juice, and wine. Tannin stains are actually one of the easiest fresh stains to remove. Simply running a stained area under cold water and then washing in a regular cycle with the hottest water safe for your fabric will remove most stains. Set in tannin based stains are not as easy to get rid of. These stains will frequently need more thorough treatment, but be sure to avoid bar soaps. Tannin stains will be enhanced and made permanent if a soap is used.
Oil-Based Stains (usually a grayish/off-white stain)
Oil based stains include margarine, butter, makeup, oil, mayonnaise, deodorant, gasoline, and ring around the collar and cuff stains. The problem with oil stains is that they tend to reappear just when you think you've seen the last of them. Oils grab onto the fibers in your clothing and they don't like to let go. Oil stains also darken over time. To remove oil stains the key is letting a detergent soak into the stained area, and washing in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Double check that the stain has been removed before you place clothing in the dryer, and treat it again if your in doubt.
Combination Based Stains
Combination based stains include, crayons, gum, lipstick, chocolate, gravy, tomato based stains, and bbq sauce. There are tons of combination based stains. These stains take the best of two other groups and mix them together to make it hard for you to treat them. Usually the combination is dye or color and oil. The first step is to treat the oily part of the stain followed by the color portion of the stain. Combination stains may need repeat treatments, and since a dryer will set the stains, be sure to fully remove the stain before drying.
HOME RESOURCES FOR STAINS
Vinegar- add this to cool water and it can act both as a light bleach/stain remover, or as a water softener when added to the rinse cycle. One cup vinegar to a small washload is good.
Lemon- Whitener and stain remover. You can rub some into a stain and set out in the sun, then wash.
Sun- I've been told setting cloth diaper inserts in the sun, after a breif wash (before drying) acts as a natural stain remover.
Liquid Dish Soap- as mentioned above, this is effective for certain stains (tannin stain pre-treatment).
Hydrogen Peroxide- This acts as a bleach. You can put equal parts peroxide in with dish soap and use that instead of bleach. Best for whites though.
LOOK UP YOUR STAIN FOR REMOVAL SUGGESTION http://housekeeping.about.com/od/stainremoval/a/stainsindex.htm
*stain category information from www.about.com