The Ultimate Guide to Removing Household Stains

Mud on your carpet? Wine on your living room furniture? The Home Matters home solutions experts have teamed up to uncover the best in household stain removal.

Stains are one of life's guarantees—they're bound to happen sometimes, no matter how much of a neatnik you are. Luckily, you've got our ultimate guide to common laundry and carpet stain removal to teach you how to knock out common household stains, from muddy paw prints to red wine spills.

Removing Ink Stains

There's nothing worse than a stubborn ink blotch on a crisp white shirt, and for some reason, the good old-fashioned pocket protector seems to have gone out of style. But ink stain removal isn't insurmountable. To remove an ink stain, first create a protective barrier around the stain by spreading some petroleum jelly around the stain's edges. Then saturate one cotton ball with water and another with rubbing alcohol, and lightly blot each over the stain. If the water absorbs more of the stain, mix a little bit of dish soap with water and saturate the stain, then rinse with cold water and launder as usual. If the alcohol worked better, saturate the stain with that and then flush with cold water and launder.

For synthetic carpet fibers, use an oil solvent or even nail polish remover and dab a small amount on the stain. Wait 15 minutes and repeat if necessary, then rinse by dabbing with plain water. For stain removal on natural fiber carpets, follow the same steps as for mud above: detergent solution, then a mixture of one tablespoon ammonia to 1/2 cup of warm water, then the vinegar solution, then the detergent solution again and rinse. Blot dry between steps to remove excess liquid. For permanent ink stains, use the oil solvent followed by the detergent solution, blotting in between, and rinse with a clean cloth.

Remove Coffee Stain

Removing Coffee Stains

For stubborn coffee stain removal, we suggest pouring club soda over the stain and blotting. Alternatively, patting a coffee stain with plain white vinegar or, for deeper stains, soaking a stain in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water may help before washing as usual. As a bonus, this vinegar tip also helps remove fruit juice stains.

Removing Grease Stains

Grease stains can come from a variety of products, and they can be especially frustrating. You can remove grease stains by covering the back of the stain in dish detergent, waiting a few minutes, and then rinsing with hot water for 30 seconds. If your dish soap is colored, dilute it with water before applying so the color doesn't further stain the clothing. Blot with a paper towel and launder as usual. For stubborn stains on washable fabrics only—so excluding silk and other fabrics you'd take to the dry cleaner—you can purchase stain removal products made specifically for grease stains.

Wine Stain on Carpet

Removing Red Wine Stains

This tip works for red wine stains on clothing as well as linens, upholstery and bedding. Immediately following a red wine spill, pour white wine over the spill and blot. It may seem counterintuitive (and sad to waste more wine), but it works. Alternatively, spray a mixture of water and dishwashing soap over the stain and rub with a soft-bristled brush, then use a mixture of white vinegar and water over the stain and continue to rub. For white wine stains, she suggests flushing the stain with cold water and the same mixture of water and dishwashing detergent and then laundering as usual.

Removing Mud Stains

Rainy days get us down—especially if the rain creates mud and that mud makes its way into our carpet fibers. For synthetic fiber rugs, first allow the stain to dry, then vacuum up as much of the dirt as possible. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of dish-washing detergent into 1 cup of warm water, and dab onto the stain with a clean cloth to saturate it. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes, then use a dry cloth to soak up the excess liquid and repeat the process with plain warm water. For natural fiber rugs, follow the same process and then repeat using a mixture of one cup white vinegar to two cups water, then repeat the process with the detergent mixture again.

Pet Stain

Removing Pet Stains

If the stain is still wet, begin by soaking it up as much as possible using paper towels and newspaper. Use thick layers and stand on top of them for about a minute to best soak up the stain and fight odors. Rinse the area with cold water. If the smell persists, purchase a pet stain odor remover and follow the instructions on the bottle. Avoid trying vinegar as a solution to remove the stain, as it may make the urine smell stronger to your pet, and lead them to believe it's an appropriate place to urinate again later. For stains that have already dried, use the pet odor remover and if the stain persists, use a carpet cleaning solution. You can also use a wet vac, which can usually be rented from a local hardware store, but avoid using steam cleaners on upholstery or carpet because the heat may permanently bind the odor to the fibers.

Removing Blood Stains

A quick tip: to remove blood stains from your clothes or other household fabric, never use hot water. Instead, rinse fresh stains with cold water before laundering in cold water, or for dry stains, soak in cold water and then launder cold.

To remove blood stains from carpeting or upholstery, sponge with a mixture of 1 tablespoon liquid dish-washing detergent and 2 cups of cold water. If the stain is dry, brush the stain well with soft bristles and then sponge. Rinse with cold water, blot with a clean cloth and repeat until the stain is removed. For stubborn blood stain removal, blot with a mixture of one tablespoon of ammonia and 1/2 cup of lukewarm water. Then sponge with a clean sponge and cold water, and blot dry with a clean cloth.

Stains happen—that's just life. Keep this guide handy to prevent them from ruining your clothes, carpet and upholstery.

Next > Stain Removal Tips That Are Spot On

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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