If you are a parent, you are probably very familiar with stained clothes. It seems like everything my Little One, who is now 2, wears gets stained. I usually don’t worry about it too much, but sometimes it’s nice to have one unstained article of clothing to wear. So today, I have compiled some helpful, non-toxic stain removal tips. I’m not claiming to have some miracle cure for kid stains, but these are the things that have worked for me.
Just like the food that I put into my body, I prefer that the cleaning products that we use are non-toxic. It’s better for us, and it’s better for the environment. There are a lot of “natural” laundry and stain removal products out there, but I have found that having a few common household items around has helped reduce the amount of stains on my kids’ (and mine as well) clothes. And what I am talking about here is regular every day clothing, preferably cottons. I am no expert on fancy fabrics like silks and leather.
All Natural Stain Removal Tips
#1 Act quickly:
The best plan of action when it comes to treating stains is to treat them as quickly as you can. The 2 things that help a stain take hold into your precious fabrics are TIME and HEAT. If possible, treat and wash your clothing as soon as you can. Letting it sit around will give the stain time to really set in. Being a busy mom, this isn’t always realistic. My tip here is to at least wash out the stain quickly and leave it to soak in a little bit of salt water until you can get to the stain. The salt will naturally begin to break down the stain. This also keeps the fabric from drying out, which further sets the stain. Make sure a stain has been completely removed before drying it.
#2 Protein stains require extra care:
All forms of bodily fluid — both animal and human –are sources of protein stains. Some examples are blood, dairy products, eggs and meat juices. The first thing that you want to do is add cold water, and lots of it. Really rinse the stain out. Often, if you get to it fast enough, you can rinse a protein stain right out with cold water. If it looks like the stain is going to be stubborn, soak the fabric in a little bit of COLD, salt water. DO NOT USE HOT WATER. Heating proteins change their chemical structure and will set the stain. Similarly, using acids like lemon or vinegar on a protein will have the same effect.
After soaking the fabric, rub the stain with mild soap to remove the stain and rinse with cold water. Once the stain has been lifted, launder as usual. Remember to keep the stain moist until it has been completely removed.
If the protein stain is on white fabric, I recommend using a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and dish soap (yes, the natural stuff will work.) After rinsing well with cold water, if the stain is still there, pour the peroxide/soap mixture onto the stain. Let it sit there for a minute. You may notice a little “bubbling” as the peroxide “eats” away at the stain. Gently rub the soapy mixture on the stain and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary. For really stubborn protein stains on white fabric, you can soak the stain in cold water with a little bit of 3% hydrogen peroxide then repeat the step above.
#3 I love vinegar:
Like I said before, do not use vinegar on protein stains. But if you have other stains, especially tomato or berry stains, vinegar is your best friend. Just rinse the stain then soak the article of clothing in vinegar and water. The stain will magically disappear. My little one eternally has strawberry and blackberry stains on her shirt this summer but I just toss her shirt in a small bowl with vinegar and water overnight and POOF!!! gone……
What about those yucky yellow sweat stains? Try soaking it in a bit of vinegar. If that doesn’t do it. Make a paste with vinegar and baking soda, rub it on the stain, and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before washing. Baking soda rocks. Here’s 36 Uses for Baking Soda.
Vinegar can also be helpful in removing old stains. Simply soak the stain in a vinegar and water overnight, then scrub with an old toothbrush and some dish soap. Doesn’t work on some set-in stains, but worth a shot.
#4 Oil stains are the worst:
Because I spend a lot of time cooking in the kitchen, my clothes inevitably get oil stains. UUUUGGGHHHH! I need to start wearing my apron more. What has worked for me the best is treating the stain immediately. Wash the oil stain in VERY hot water with a little bit of dish soap. This usually gets the oil out. If the stain is still there, try placing the article of clothing in a large bowl, Pour boiling water over it and a bit of vinegar or baking soda. Let it soak. The hot water should start to break down the stain. Then scrub the stain with an old toothbrush and a bit of dish soap.
I have also made a mixture of sea salt and arrowroot powder and sprinkled it on a larger oil stain to absorb some of the oil. Then scrape off the mixture and scrub the stain with an old toothbrush and some dish soap. Hot water is your friend here.
For stubborn oil stain, try soaking it in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes then was as usual.
#5 Make your own DIY Stain Remover:
One of my favorite non-toxic stain removers in Lemon Essential Oil. I make an easy stain remover that has been effective in removing many of the stubborn stains I get on my clothes from cooking for a living. Be sue to store these mixtures in a glass spray bottle as Lemon Essential Oil will corrode plastic. I haven’t had any issues with discoloration, but be sure to test spot on delicate fabrics. Here are a few recipes to try:
Lemon Stain Remover Recipe #1
- 1 cup vinegar
- 10 drop Lemon Essential Oil
Directions: Combine vinegar and essential oil in a small glass spray bottle. Spray remover onto stain, allow to soak, then wash as usual.
Lemon Stain Remover Recipe #2.
- 1 cups water
- 1/4 cup castile soap
- 10 drops Lemon Essential Oil
Directions: Combine water, soap, and essential oil in a glass spray bottle. Spray remover onto stain, allow to soak, then wash as usual.
Lemon Stain Remover Recipe #3
- Lemon Essential Oil
Directions: Apply Lemon Oil directly to stain. Immediately wash in the washing machine. Allowing the oil to sit on clothes to pre-treat may cause discoloration. I have had AMAZING results with this method.
A word about quality:
Please note that I am only talking about 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Only about 2% of essential oils sold are considered therapeutic grade. There is no standard for EOs and so many of the oils you find may be adulterated or synthetically manipulated and can actually contain harmful ingredients.
My essential oil of choice is Young Living Essential Oils. They own their farms and they run a very tight supply chain. I trust their essential oils above all others because they are pure and unadulterated and are manufactured for therapeutic use not just for smell. Read more here about why I choose Young Living.
For ink stain: Try soaking the stain in rubbing alcohol for an hour.
For gum: Place article of clothing in freezer and the gum should scrape off once frozen.
For musty towel: Because we NEVER leave wet towels bunched up in the hamper OR forget to flip the wash into the dryer…. Combine 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup vinegar let stand for 15 minutes then wash as normal. Gets rid of the smell.
Poop: Even though it is a protein stain, it is recommended to use warm water to remove poop stains.
Oh, and you don’t have to use toxic dryer sheets : check out these 7 natural non-toxic alternatives.
Good old-fashioned sunshine does wonders for stained clothes: If all none of the above tips have been helpful in removing your stubborn stain, there is another option. The power of the sun is an often forgotten way to remove stains from your clothes. Once an article of stained clothing has been properly treated (as per tips above) and washed, you can set it in the direct sun to dry. Often, if there is a residue of stain left on the fabric, the sunshine will significantly fade the stain. I recommend this mostly for lighter colored fabric, as the sun can fade darker colors. You can also soak the prewashed article of clothing in a little bit of vinegar before placing into the sun to help speed the process.
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photo credit : depositphotos @ monkeybusiness