1. Reality Check
Do you really treat stains? I don’t. I NOTICE stains after they’ve been through the wash. If you aren’t an avid stain treater, you really only need a bar of soap and a faucet. Here’s my REAL stain routine:
- Shoot, there’s a stain on the shirt I just put on!
- Can I get away with it anyway? I mean is it under the boob or something I can hide or people shouldn’t be looking at anyway?
- Wipe it with water. No go.
- Rip off shirt, rub with wet bar of soap from sink (read: stain stick), toss in laundry pile.
- Launder as usual.
- Repeat ENTIRE process, including the surprise that it’s still there, until it’s finally gone or becomes a sleep shirt.
2. Gather (the rest of ) your kit.
If you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you already have these in your cleaning cabinet…
- spray bottle of vinegar
- spray bottle of alcohol
- spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide
- box of baking soda
- bar of soap, like Ivory
You will need three more things…maybe. (UPDATE 7/4/2012: SEE THIS POST)
- If you tend to get a lot of protein stains, like baby formula or blood, then you may want an enzyme cleaner. The simplest solution is a box of BIZ, ZOUT, or other enzyme cleaner. (I am experimenting with home-fermented enzyme cleaners to verify that they actually produce protease, and not just alcohol. Will get back to you. 5/23/12 update: Red Devil Drain Maintainer liquid, and Rid-X Septic System treatment Ultra Liquid are both 100% Subtilis bacteria which is the typical active ingredient in enzyme detergents. A tiny squirt in your soak water should be amazing. )
- If you tend to get really greasy stains, you will need a waterless solvent. BAD STUFF, like a dropper bottle of mineral spirits, dry cleaning fluid, lighter fluid, or my preferred option AEROSOL Shout. I’m just not comfortable with large amounts of flammable chemicals spilling in my laundry room. (Update 5/23/12: ZOUT has an enzyme in it that EATS oil. It’s the only stain killer on the market I found that has lipase it. It is a GREAT alternative to waterless solvents.)
- If you tend to get a lot of coffee, tea, wine, juice, and other TANNIN stains, you will also need a non-soap detergent bar like Cetaphil or Dove or the liquid version, like commercial Ivory dish soap. Tannin SETS PERMANENTLY in “real” soap.
3. Learn the drill.
In general, here’s the combination stain routine. Skip steps if you’re sure you don’t have a certain thing, and be sure to stop when it’s gone. (Here’s the LHITS Simplified Stain Routine PDF) :
1. Grease sets in water. So if you suspect a serious grease component to your stain, start with a nasty waterless solvent. OPEN A WINDOW. Put stain face down on absorbent surface, apply solvent, tamp the back to transfer stain to other cloth, rinse with alcohol and tamp (which will remove ink).
2. Protein sets in heat. If you suspect a protein component, then soak in cold water an hour or two. If you’re sure there’s no protein, you can use warmer water.
3. Tannin sets with soap. After you’ve soaked it, rub wet garment with the bar of soap(read: high-tech stain stick) or non-soap bar or liquid detergent if it’s tea, juice, etc. and let it sit. Rinse.
4. Some stains dissolve in acid. Spray with vinegar, wait, blot, rinse.
5. Some stains dissolve in base. Rub with baking soda, dampen, wait, blot, rinse.
6. Some stains, like ink, dissolve in alcohol. Spray with alcohol, wait, blot, rinse.
7. Some stains need to be eaten. Soak in enzyme cleaner, warm temp water, 30 minutes and launder.
8. If it’s still there, wash in hottest water allowed with 1/2 cup peroxide (if allowed) in bleach compartment.
9. Wear it anyway.
10. Donate it.