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Reader-to-Reader: Your 20 Greatest Stain-Removing Tips

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Reader-to-Reader: Your 20 Greatest Stain-Removing Tips

As readers, your generosity knew no bounds when it came to sharing your stain removing tips!

I was flooded with e-mail. I’ve included the top 20 stain-removing tips here, and I am certain you will now have more tricks up your sleeve for dealing with this common and expensive problem. (Who wants to buy a new tablecloth when the old one gets stained?)

And these solutions are non-toxic, to boot!

Note that I (Annie) have included your suggestions even when there are product recommendations (I deleted recommendations that I know are problematic for health or the environment). Please use your own sense, read labels, and proceed carefully with any recommendation. Thanks!


I put up an eco-friendly clothesline … and found that the sun will bleach baby poo so the diapers are sparkly white, and the sun will also almost completely lighten tomato-based stains like salsa and marinara

— Amy Abbott


1. The best thing I have found for removing a fat or oil stain—or the oily component of a more complex stain such as salad dressing or gravy (once it is dry)—is to rub cornstarch (or cornstarch powder, or even talcum powder) into the stain , let it sit for at least 20 minutes, and then brush it off with a dry washcloth or soft dry brush. You may need to repeat the treatment several times to fully remove the fat. It works especially well on silk and wool. So well, in fact, that further washing (or dry cleaning) is not needed. You can even speed up the process by placing a paper towel above and below the treated spot, and going over the area with a hot steam iron. This can be repeated several times as well, until the stain is gone. My husband loves this simple method. It has saved shirts, ties and trousers from dinner mishaps while he’s been on business trips! “Have cornstarch powder, will travel.”

2. Another stupendous product for fat, oil, tar, wax and grease removal is the citrus oil (actually, citrus turpine) as compounded into products such as CitraSolve. These are made from natural, steam distilled citrus oils, which are natural solvents. They are not non-toxic, but they have the lowest toxicity of all solvents—and of course, the smell wonderful! I have used the CitraSolve concentrate as a pre-laundry treatment for stubborn grease stains, and it works like a dream. My husband once got a fat stain on his favorite suede vest, which refused to come out with professional dry cleaning. Since he couldn’t wear it anyway, I decided that I had nothing to lose by experimenting. (The cornstarch did not work here!) I dabbed the CitraSolve on with a cotton swab and immediately pulled it out with a paper towel and a hot steam iron. This evaporated the CitraSolve, apparantly with the oil stain! To my utter amazement, there was not even any residual stain or ring from the CitraSolve! I was totally sold. Cornstarch and CitraSolve remain my only two constant fat stain removers.

3. Stains from fruit (including wine and tomato sauce) on washable fabrics disappear instantly when you pour boiling water over them in a bowl or basin.

4. Protein-based stains such as blood, sweat, and other body fluids, and tannin-based stains such as coffee or tea, are set by heat. These need to be initially rinsed out with mild soap, shampoo or dish liquid in cold water. If the stain looks as if it’s come out after this initial treatment, throw it in the wash as usual, to finish it off. For stubborn stains, or tannin stains that re-emerge over time, a truly wonderful new product to soak the items in, is Oxyclean, or other oxygen bleach. It’s also great for un-yellowing old linens. So far, it does not seem to remove color, just stains, but test it first on a colored item to be sure.

5. There are also enzyme products out there that digest stains. The Dutch have used ox-gall soap for decades (Ossengall Zeep), available at some specialty stores. And papaya enzyme is currently available in some health food stores as a laundry additive.

So, there you go! I hope this is helpful to you and your readers. Thanks for a helpful web site.

— Phoebe Alexander

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Read more: Home, Non-Toxic Cleaning

By Annie B. Bond

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.


+ add your own
7:25AM PDT on May 6, 2015

That's interesting that you can get tomato sauce stains out of things by pouring boiling water on them. I wish I'd known that earlier. Just last week I threw away a pair of jeans after I dropped a plate of spaghetti on myself. I had no idea how to get those stains out of the pale fabric. How would you do this if the stain was in the carpet?

11:31PM PST on Feb 21, 2014

To remove blood stains from your home carpet /rugsadd a bit of salt and detergent.This mix it with lukewarm water and apply it on the blood stains.Blood stains will vanish within seconds.

1:23AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

I have tried vanish soap and salt on a woven wool vintage stripe dress. The dry cleaner didn't remove several red marks that I thought were blood. Being vintage, I don't know what they are. Shall I try lemon?

1:22AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

I have tried vanish soap and salt on a woven wool vintage stripe dress. The dry cleaner didn't remove several red marks that I thought were blood. Being vintage, I don't know what they are. Shall I try lemon?

1:22AM PDT on Sep 20, 2013

I have tried vanish soap and salt on a woven wool vintage stripe dress. The dry cleaner didn't remove several red marks that I thought were blood. Being vintage, I don't know what they are. Shall I try lemon?

5:07AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013


11:24PM PDT on Aug 2, 2012

Most of us love to start the day with a cup of hot coffee but unfortunately we do not have the time to use a coaster or saucer so that we can avoid putting stain on our lovely table cloths. While there are those who have their coffee at the office and let the Twin Cities janitorial service do the cleaning for them, those who drink coffee at home need to learn the proper way of removing such stains. Thanks for the info!

3:14AM PDT on May 10, 2012

Thanks for the great tips, our customers at our laundromats are always asking for environmental friendly stain removal tips.

11:16PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Sharing your knowledge with regards to dry cleaning especially on stain removal is of great help to online readers. It is easy to find a reliable dry cleaning Monroe County service provider and it would be very helpful if one learns a thing or two on effectively removing stains. They will know the various kinds of fabrics and how to properly care for each one. Thanks!

9:44AM PST on Jan 22, 2012

Tip number 1 is amazing! I used the method of the cornstarch with the hot steam iron on a pair of my husband's favorite 100% wool, dry-clean only dress pants and it worked first try. The oil stain had been in there for about 1 year and we had given up on getting it out. The pants would have been thrown away except they had gotten hung back up in the closet. I found them while cleaning the closet and decided to give it a try. Yeah! Thank you!

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