Stain removal tips – the A-Z guide

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  • From ballpoint pen marks to shoe polish stains, check out our A-Z of stain removal

    Need cleaning tips? Battling with a red wine stain that just won’t go away? Fear not, our essential guide has everything you need to know – from cleaning products to expert spring cleaning advice.

    Plus, if you’re planning a good old spring clean, check out our essential guide to spring cleaning and our grottiest ever cleaning jobs – solved!

    For now read on, for everything from getting rid of ballpoint pen marks to shoe polish stains…

    Stain Ballpoint ink

    Removal agent Methylated spirits

    How to do it Dab with absorbent white cloth and methlyated spirits

    Stain Beetroot juice

    Removal agent Borax and biological detergent

    How to do it First rinse with cold water. Soak coloureds in a solution of borax for 15 minutes. For white linen, sprinkle borax on the fabric and flush with hot water. Wash with biological detergent.

    Stain Bird droppings

    Removal agent Borax, biological detergent and chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide

    How to do it Scrape off excess droppings and sponge with a solution of borax or soak in biological detergent. If stains still remain, try soaking in dilute chlorine bleach (white cotton) or hydrogen peroxide (coloureds and synthetics, but not nylon).

    Stain Blood

    Removal agent Salt or biological detergent

    How to do it Presoak fresh stains in heavily salted cold water or detergent.

    Stain Candle wax

    Removal agent Absorbent paper, a warm iron and methlyated spirits

    How to do it Scrape away the excess. Place a kitchen towel over the residue and press with a warm iron until the paper absorbs the softened wax. Dab any colour residue with methlyated spirits before washing.

    Stain Chewing gum

    Removal agent Ice cubes

    How to do it Freeze the gum with a bag of ice cubes. Once it becomes hard and brittle, break away the gum with a knife.

    Stain Coffee and tea

    Removal agent Detergent, vinegar and borax

    How to do it Flush with cold water and spot clean with a solution of washing detergent but not soap. If staining remains, soak in a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water or a solution of borax.

    Stain Colour run in washing machine

    Removal agent Washing soda and colour dye remover

    How to do it If you dye an entire washload, soak in cold water with washing soda to avoid setting the colour. As soon as possible, machine wash again with a colour run dye reversal product.

    Stain Contact adhesive and glue

    Removal agent Acetate (nail polish remover)

    How to do it Dab with acetate.

    Stain Cooking fat

    Removal agent Bicarbonate of soda and biological detergent

    How to do it Add a few drops of water to bicarbonate to make a paste and spread over the stain. Leave for 30 minutes and then wash in biological detergent.

    Stain Crayon

    Removal agent Methlyated spirits

    How to do it Scrape away excess before dabbing with methlyated spirits.

    Stain Curry

    Removal agent Biological detergent and hydrogen peroxide

    How to do it Some curry stains contain strong natural dyes that are almost impossible to shift. Dab with a strong solution of detergent before laundering. Soak stubborn stains in a solution of hydrogen peroxide bleach.

    Stain Dried fruit

    Removal agent Lemon juice

    How to do it Place the garment stain side down on absorbent kitchen towel and dampen with lemon juice. Dab with hot water and wash.

    Stain Fresh fruit

    Removal agent Borax or salt

    How to do it Soak in a solution of borax for 15 minutes to neutralize the acid and then wash. Alternatively cover the stain with salt and then wash.

    Stain Grass stain

    Removal agent Biological detergent or methylated spirits

    How to do it Grass is a combination of protein and dye. Detergent should remove most stains. Dab any remaining dye with methlyated spirits.

    Stain Ink on coloured fabric

    Removal agent Milk

    How to do it Soak immediately in slightly warm milk then wash.

    Stain Ink and felt tip pen

    Removal agent Methlyated spirits

    How to do it Dab with an absorbent pad dipped in methlyated spirits.

    Stain Lipstick

    Removal agent Soap or methlyated spirits

    How to do it Rub fabric against fabric with soap or a little washing-up liquid and then wash. Dab with methlyated spirits if the fabric isn’t washable.

    Stain Mildew – dried

    Removal agent Salt or lemon juice

    How to do it Rub with damp salt or a lemon and leave in the sun for at least 12 hours.

    Stain Mildew on shower curtains

    Removal agent Chlorine bleach

    How to do it Sponge or soak in dilute bleach and machine wash with detergent.

    Stain Mildew on white cotton and linen

    Removal agent Household chlorine bleach

    How to do it Mildew is almost impossible to remove and is caused by damp. Soak in diluted bleach then thoroughly rinse and wash.

    Stain Mildew on white synthetics

    Removal agent Hydrogen peroxide

    How to do it Soak in one part hydrogen peroxide to nine parts water. Rinse and wash.

    Stain Paint- emulsion and water based

    Removal agent Water

    How to do it Sponge immediately with plenty of warm water. Dried paint can be scraped or picked off, but is difficult to wash off.

    Stain Paint – solvent based

    Removal agent White spirit

    How to do it Dab with white spirit.

    Stain Perspiration

    Removal agent Clear vinegar or lemon juice

    How to do it Soak or sponge with vinegar, but use lemon juice on wool. Rinse and wash.

    Stain Plasticine

    Removal agent White spirit

    How to do it Scrape off as much mud as possible and dab dye stains with white spirit.

    Stain Pollen

    Removal agent Sticky tape

    How to do it Lift away the pollen with sticky tape or a vacuum cleaner, but don’t rub or you’ll fix the dye.

    Stain Red wine

    Removal agent Carbonated or soda water

    How to do it Dab or flush with carbonated or soda water and wash.

    Stain Rust

    Removal agent Lemon juice

    How to do it Flush with lemon juice, leave for 15 minutes and launder.

    Stain: Scorch marks

    Removal agent: None

    How to do it: Scorch marks are permanent damage, but their appearance can be disguised by carefully shaving away the damaged fibres.

    Stain: Shoe polish

    Removal agent: White spirit

    How to do it: Dab with white spirit and wash

    Stain: Urine

    Removal agent: Detergent, vinegar or shaving foam

    How to do it: Soak in detergent and wash. For non-washable fabric, dab with mild vinegar solution. On mattresses, sponge with a dab of shaving foam.

    …there is no Z – sorry, we failed! If you can think of one get in touch!


    For more decorating, craft ideas and cleaning hacks don’t miss our dedicated DIY guide.

    Head to your local hardware store or supermarket for all the removal agents mentioned.

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