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Super Stain Solutions
[Family Circle Archive]

Super Stain Solutions:
Household Guide to Stain Removers
By Al Ubell and Label Shulman

Published May 12, 1998
Family Circle Magazine

Image: Spill Not Want Not

What if you could snap your fingers and make stubborn stains of any kind magically disappear? These great stain chaser-and-erasers just might make you believe in magic.

Stain Removal: Do's and Don'ts!


  • Clean the stain immediately if possible.
  • Try to identify the kind of stain and the material or fabric type. Scrape or blot off as much of the stain as possible.
  • Pretest all stain removers. Check for color fastness or fabric deterioration on a hidden part of the garment. Work the stain from the outside in toward the center to prevent it from leaving a ring.
  • Read garment-care label carefully for special instructions.
  • Use only those cleaning agents that contain clearly marked instructions, and follow them carefully.
  • Wear rubber or plastic gloves when working with chemicals.
  • Place the fabric being treated on a glass or glazed surface, like a bowl or plate. Cleaning agents can ruin wood and other surfaces.


  • Don't rub the stain.
  • Don't fold, bend or wring the fabric. This can cause the stain to penetrate more deeply.
  • Don't use heat or hot water on stained fabric. This will set the stain permanently.
  • Don't use cleaning agents in closed, unventilated rooms.
  • Don't sniff cleaning agents or use them near an open flame.
  • Don't keep cleaning agents within reach of children.
  • Don't work on raw metal, wood, plastic or stone surfaces. Cleaning agents ruin these surfaces.
  • Don't use cleaning agents as laundry additives unless deemed safe by the manufacturer.

Guide to Removing Common Household Stains

NOTE: While there is no reason to believe that the methods and instructions set forth in this article are not safe and effective, Accurate Building Inspectors does not make any warranties or representations with respect to such methods and instructions, and shall not be liable for any loss or damage to persons or property arising from the use thereof.

Common Stain Cotton, Linen, Nylon, Ramie, Acrylic, Polyester Wool, Acetate, Silk, Suede, Leather, Triacetate, Fiberglass, Rayon Wood Furniture, Furniture Fabrics, Floors (indoor/outdoor), Wallpaper, Carpet
Antiperspirants / Deodorants Soak for 30 minutes in solution of 1 qt cool water, 1 Tbs ammonia, 1/2 tsp dishwashing Liquid. Rinse. Soak again for 1 hour in warm water and 1 Tbs white vinegar. Rinse dry. Same. Furniture fabrics: Clean with solution of 1 part dishwashing liquid and 8 parts water; add ammonia. Absorb, using cloth. Rinse with cool water.
Baby Food Scrape or blot excess. Presoak in commercial spot remover for 40 minutes. Launder. Scrape or blot excess. Flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Let dry. Wallpaper: Blot excess. Wipe with damp cloth. Tough stain: Use dry-cleaning solvent.
Blood Sponge stain with cold water. Apply paste of cornstarch and cold water. Rub Lightly. Let dry; Brush off. Tough stain: Soak in solution of 1 Tbs enzyme Laundry detergent and 1 qt warm water; Launder. Sponge stain with cold water. Add ammonia to remove final traces of stain. Wood furniture: Sponge with cool water and dishwashing liquid. Dry with cloth. Leather, suede: Sponge with cool water. Apply warm water and dishwashing liquid. Work gently. Rinse blot.
Chewing Gum Freeze gum; scrape off. Sponge with dry-cleaning solvent. Repeat if necessary. Same. Wood surfaces: Wipe with hot, soapy water. Rinse dry. Polish.
Chocolate Flush with club soda. Tough stain: Sponge with Liquid hand soap and ammonia; Launder. Blot or scrape excess; flush with club soda. Apply dry-cleaning solvent. Launder. Apply solution of dishwashing liquid and hot water. Wipe stain with suds. Rinse polish.
Coffee/Tea Flush with club soda. Tough stain: Sponge with Liquid hand soap and ammonia; Launder. Sponge stain with cool water. Soak in solution of 1 qt Lukewarm water, 1/2 tsp dish washing Liquid, 1 tsp white vinegar. Rinse. For stubborn stain: Use an enzyme Laundry detergent; Launder. Blot excess. Use dry-cleaning solvent on moist cloth. (Coffee/tea with milk: Use an enzyme laundry detergent. but not on silk or wool.) Leather, suede: Mix water and dishwashing liquid. Wipe stain with suds; rinse. Pat dry. If oily film remains, work dry cornmeal into stain. Let sit for 6 hours; brush.
Cosmetics Use a dry-cleaning solvent. Repeat if needed. launder. Same. Painted surfaces: Wipe stain with warm water and dish-washing liquid. Rinse with damp paper towel wipe. Finished furniture: Use shaving cream. Wipe polish.
Crayon Place between paper towels, press with warm iron. Repeat with new paper towels. Clean with dry-cleaning solvent. Same. Wallpaper: Use commercial spot remover. Let dry; brush. Furniture: Use shaving cream; wipe with paper towel.
Glue / Adhesive Tape Do fabric test with nail polish remover. Soak in 1 qt warm water, 1/2 tsp Liquid laundry detergent, 1 Tbs white vinegar. Soak 20 minutes; flush. Wipe excess. Soak stain in cool water. Use commercial spot remover. Launder. Wood furniture, floors: Use shaving cream, then wipe with cloth soaked in cool water. Dry. Wipe with rubbing alcohol. Polish.
Grass Sponge with solution of 2 parts cold water and 1 part rubbing alcohol. Rinse & launder. Soak area with dry-cleaning solvent. Launder. Leather, suede: Wipe area with shaving cream. Does not apply.
Grease/oil/Butter Blot, then work petroleum jelly into stain. Remove jelly. Place stain between paper towels and press with warm iron. Flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Launder. Same. Leather, suede, carpet: Work cornmeal into stain; let sit overnight. Vacuum. Furniture: Use shaving cream. Wipe; dry immediately. Polish.
Ink Loosen stain with hair spray. Moisten with 1 tsp dishwashing Liquid, 1 qt warm water, 1 Tbs white vinegar (don't use vinegar on cotton/linen). Blot. Repeat. Let sit 35 minutes. Rinse & Launder. Sponge stain with cool water. Apply hair spray. Tough stain: Use rubbing alcohol; launder. Wallpaper: Remove with gum eraser. Tough stain: Wash with solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 rubbing alcohol; blot.
Ketchup Scrape excess. Use commercial spot remover. Rinse; launder. Tough stain: Presoak with a paste of water and enzyme Laundry detergent; rinse; dry, then Launder. Scrape excess. Use dry-cleaning solvent. Wallpaper, painted surfaces: Wipe excess, then dab with cloth. Blot with paper towel.
Liquor Sponge stain with cool water. Soak in solution of cool water and dishwashing Liquid: 30 minutes for Light stain, overnight for heavy. Rinse & Launder. Wipe, then flush with cool water. Use dry-cleaning solvent, then dry-clean. Wood floor, furniture: Wipe, then rub with water and some ammonia on cloth. Apply boiled linseed oil. Polish. Furniture fabric: Apply commercial spot remover.
Mud Let stain dry. Brush off; Launder. Tough stain: Soak in cool water for 30 minutes; work liquid Laundry detergent into stain; rinse. Same. Remove excess. Wash with liquid laundry detergent. Let dry.
Mustard Remove excess. Flush with commercial spot remover. Repeat if needed. Launder. Same. Wood, wallpaper, painted surfaces: Rub shaving cream into stain. Rinse with cool water. Concrete, brick: Scrub with mix of hot water and liquid laundry detergent.
Nail Polish Scrape excess. Sponge stain with acetone-based nail polish remover (test fabric first). Let dry. Flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Same. Wood furniture: Remove excess. Wipe stain with shaving cream; add ammonia to cloth. Tough stain: Dab with acetone (test surface first).
Paint (Latex) Rush with warm water; Launder. For hardened paint: Moisten with rubbing alcohol; rub fabric to Loosen paint, then brush off; Rinse & launder. Rinse with cool water, then flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Rub fabric to loosen paint. Rinse & launder. Carpet: Same as for non-washable fabrics. Finished furniture: Wipe with water and cloth. If hardened, soak stain with peanut oil. Wipe; polish.
Paint (Oil Base, Varnish) Flush with turpentine. Rinse with cool water. Repeat if needed, but first rub stain with non-detergent white soap. Launder. Remove excess. Sponge with turpentine, then flush with dry-cleaning solvent. Rinse & launder. Wood surfaces: Wipe with damp cloth. Rub with boiled linseed oil. Wipe. Finished wood: Scrape paint with razor blade. Clean as usual.
Wine Red: Soak with white wine; rinse with cool water; use enzyme Laundry detergent. White: Rinse with cool water. Red: Rinse with warm water; blot clean with alcohol. Tough stain: Use commercial spot remover; rinse; launder. Same as for wool, silk, etc.

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Copyright © Alvin Ubell, Label Shulman & Family Circle Magazine - 1998