Even Simpler DIY Stain Routine

by Ivory Soap

Yesterday, I did a presentation on DIY cleaning at my local library.  I think I learned as much as they did.  Having to explain the stain routine and answer questions really helped me refine it.  The best contribution, though, was a lady who knew what old-timers used to use for enzyme cleaners before the fancy bacterial versions started going in detergents.  MEAT TENDERIZER!  So here’s the new routine, streamlined from the previous.

Gather your kit.

  1. PETROCHEMICALS:  This is the item most people are missing these days.  “I can get out everything but grease!”  This is why.  Grease SETS in water.  You have to dissolve it in something non-water, which means FUMY.  Lighter fluid, mineral SPIRITS, or an AEROSOL brand name stain cleaner.  The brand name spray bottles are water based and will not work on grease.  So, pick your poison.  The only alternative I’ve found to petrochemicals is ZOUT, which isn’t always easy to find.  It contains lipase, an enzyme that EATS grease.  It’s the only product I’ve found like that. If you have a source of lipase, you can skip the petrochemicals.
  2. ALCOHOL:  If you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you already have a spray bottle of this.  You will use it to get out ink, but more commonly to rinse out your petrochemical above.
  3. ENZYME:  Many stains include protein.  Protein needs to be EATEN by an enzyme.  Zout, Biz, and other stain-fighters have it.  For a DIY version, you can use a shake of meat tenderizer.  It’s almost pure protein enzyme.  There are other alternatives that I will go over in another post, but they’re really work intensive.
  4. NON-SOAP DETERGENT (Dawn and the like):  Plant TANNIN stains set with soap.  Dunno why.  So, coffee, tea, berries, wine, juice, chocolate, mustard, will all have a TANNIN component.  Tannin SETS PERMANENTLY in “real” soap.  I don’t, as of yet, know how to manufacture non-soap detergent at home, so you will have to buy some Dawn or the like.
  5. Oxygen Bleach:  Again, if you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you have peroxide.  Another alternative is dollar store oxiclean.
  6. Acid and Base: If you did our 3 Steps to Simplify Your DIY Cleaning Products, you have a spray bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda already.  you won’t often use these for stain fighting, but sometimes, you will.

Learn the (new) drill.

1.  Is there GREASE (or ink)? (If yes on grease, start here.  If no grease, but there is ink, use the alcohol rinse in this step.  If no grease or ink, skip.) OPEN A WINDOW.  Put stain face down on absorbent surface, apply waterless solvent, tamp the back to transfer stain to other cloth, rinse with alcohol. 

2.  Is there PROTEIN? (If no, you can skip this step.  If YES, be sure to do this step ’cause protein SETS in heat.)  If you suspect a protein component, then soak in tepid water an hour or two with a generous shake of meat tenderizer. Rinse.

3.  Is there TANNIN? (If no, you can do this step with regular soap,but TANNIN sets with “real” soap.) Treat/Soak stain with warm or HOT water and a non-soap detergent, like DAWN.  Some tannin stains respond beautifully without detergent if you pour boiling water through them.  Rinse.

4.  Is it still there? (If no, or you did this already, skip this step.)Apply an oxygen bleach, like peroxide or dollar store oxiclean.  In fact, you can toss some of this in the previous step, if you’re soaking.  There is no reason that this has to come AFTER the Dawn.

5.  Still? (If no, skip this step.)You have some options here.  Just be sure to rinse in between attempts.  Some stains dissolve in acid (vinegar).  Some stains like bases (baking soda).  But, if I get to this point, it’s just not going to happen for me.

6.  Launder as usual in the hottest water allowed.  


Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.
C Smith July 5, 2012 at 7:22 am

Thanks for this info! Stains from food, whether caused by grease or proteins, have been my nemesis, but now I will be armed and ready for the next assault.

Vanessa July 5, 2012 at 7:35 am

Umm…not to be dumb…but ‘protein’ = dairy (egg, milk, yogurt, etc.) and meat-type food stains? Right? Anything else?

Loving these tips!

Ivory Soap July 5, 2012 at 10:22 am

Protein stains are all meat and dairy type stains, plus body fluid stains. EW, I know.

Marian Gall July 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

How do I get out tomato stains like spaghetti sauce or anything with tomato in it.
Since I seem to wear everything I eat and I like spaghetti, I have a lot of tops with light red stains. I have started eating spaghetti with a bath towel wrapped around me.

Edna July 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

I need to move a kitchen stove down the wall to make room for a utility shelving unit; however, the previous owners lived there 13+ years with the stove in the same spot, resulting in rust stains on the linoleum. What can I use to remove the rust?

Ivory Soap July 5, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Tomato sauce has likely protein and tannins. I would start with step #2. Tepid water and meat tenderizer for the proteins, then dawn for the orange color. If it’s still there, I’ve heard that you may have to go so far down the list as to flush with vinegar.

Ivory Soap July 5, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Start with vinegar. Leave it to set for an hour. Then scrub it with a dollar store magic eraser. Call me back in the morning if it’s still there….

April @ A Simple Life July 6, 2012 at 5:03 pm

This is more than I am willing to do at this moment:-) My simple (ha! – 10 – 12 loads of laundry a week) is to:
– Wash all darks as is – 95% chance of no stain showing.
– Go through the lights quickly and rub in (fragrance free / eco-friendly, but store bought) some laundry soap on the stains (whatever they are). Wash.
– Do a bleach load of the whites / lights once a month.
– For the couple of things that are stained – we wear them as play / house cleaning / gardening clothing.

However, if a church dress got a stain, then I consider your list a blessing.

Deb Stoppkotte July 7, 2012 at 3:41 pm

another quick trick – for those oily stains on dark t-shirts: Rub the spot with some baby powder (any cheap dollar-store brand will do) and wash as usual – 9 times out of 10 this will remove that spot. Don’t know the “why” of how it works, but it does!! I am now never without baby powder in the laundry room.

carol September 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

My son wore a white shirt and got dirt stains on it, washed it with colored soap and the color of the soap stayed( dirt is gone) but the color wont come off any tips’?

[email protected] October 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

You can get lipase from cheese making suppliers. I make cheese (from the milk of the goats in my backyard) and get my supplies in the mail from The Dairy Connection. They also sell citric acid powder.

kelly January 30, 2013 at 10:59 pm

As for tannins, I have found Fels-Naptha to be a power house!

Pam July 12, 2013 at 7:53 am

My husband and I have been using hydrogen peroxide and baking soda for years. Its cheap and the most effective stain remover EVER. You may have to repeat the process more than once, but it is simple, cheap and effective. Who knew? Don’t buy anything to clean those carpet stains at the store… not even pet stains.

Rocio December 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

I found peroxide hidrogen at 50% concentration level. Is it safe to use it at home? I was searching and I think the one used on skin is only 10%

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