Ecological Laundry Stain Treatments

Sayward Rebhal, Networx

Many years ago, I set about giving my home a complete “green makeover,” and homemade laundry detergent was the very first thing I tackled. I devised a recipe that worked like a charm, and I’ve been using it with great success ever since. Back then it was all about basic laundering – preserving my colors and brightening my whites – but in subsequent years we’ve added one small-and-feisty addition to our little family, and said addition has brought with him a whole new level of laundry requirements. Which is to say, I’ve become a bit of an expert at removing stains.

Do you have a kid? We’re talking poop stains on cloth diapers, spit up on my sweaters, homemade green baby food all over everything, and now grassy knees, muddy cuffs, and the occasional absolute disaster. So yes, these days I’ve got an arsenal of eco-friendly solutions for combating soiled textiles.

My best advice is to try and deal with a stain as soon as you see it – ideally, as soon as it happens. Before you even reach for the fancy products (and we’ll get to those in a minute), there are a few simple things you can use to treat the area immediately.

For example: Plain water actually works, but only use it cold. Hot water will set a stain. Vinegar or lemon juice will both act as a whiteners, so feel free to use them on light-colored cloth. For oil-based blemishes, a bit of dish soap will work wonders. Cornstarch (sprinkled on and left for 15 minutes, repeated if necessary) is also great on oils. And finally, for the accident-prone among us, straight undiluted hydrogen peroxide (which is also great for cleaning tile grout) will help to pull out blood stains.

Okay, so that’s the first strike. Next we come with the big cleaning guns. And there’s two approaches here: DIY or store bought. Both will work, but I prefer DIY because, well, that’s just the kind of wild and crazy lady that I am. If you want to go the store bought route that’s fine and dandy too. I recommend the non-toxic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products made by Method, Seventh Generation, Planet, and Biokleen.

The DIY approach will definitely be cheaper, and tends to be easier on the environment as well. Buying in bulk saves packaging, and mixing yourself saves on shipping. Also, it’s fun to play kitchen chemist! Here is my go-to recipe for spot-treating a stain, pre-laundry:

Make a solution of 1 part baking soda, 1 part hydrogen peroxide, and 2 parts very hot water (so that the baking soda will dissolve). Combine all the ingredients in a pot and stir until completely mixed. Store the liquid in a spray bottle for easy application. (See the photo above for my DIY laundry detergent recipe on the side of the pail.)

Once you’ve sprayed the affected area, allow it to sit for a few minutes before laundering as normal. For colored garments, this should be enough and you should be good to go. For whites you may want to finish off with a good old fashioned sun bath. Yes, that’s right, let your clothing get a suntan. Sunlight is an all-natural and incredibly effective bleaching agent (and heading out to the clothesline is a good excuse to spend time outside in the beautiful Portland landscape) just ask any cloth-diapering mama!

Sayward Rebhal writes for Networx. Get home & garden ideas like this on Networx.

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

Handy and thankyou

H M2 years ago

Thanks for the tips, Sayward! I'm going to try that stain remover tomorrow. :)

Ellen G.
Ellen Goodman6 years ago

Many people think that Seventh Generation is cruelty-free, but from what I've read it really is not cruelty-free, so people concerned with animal welfare should never by Seventh Generation Products. Their secret is that they employ a different company to do their testing, and that company tests on animals. If I am wrong, please correct me and cite your source, but i think that the recommendation in this article that people can buy Seventh Generation is incorrect if you are trying to avoid buying products that test on animals. Also, almost all baking soda brands test on animals, including of course Armor and Hammer, the big old stand-by. The main cruelty free baking soda I have found through research is Bob's Red Mill Baking Soda. i'm about to order it on line. I hope those of you responding to this article because you are trying to avoid products that test on animals will also question the accuracy of this article and pursue your own research.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

It sounds simple enought. I'll give it a try. Thanks, Sayward for the tip!!

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago


Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson6 years ago

I luv hanging my clothes on the line to get a suntan.

Lauryn Slotnick
Lauryn S6 years ago

Carol, it's mainly about shipping water weight and the extra packaging for smaller packages of ready-made products vs. large, bulk packages of (multi-use) single ingredients and adding the water at home.

heather g.
heather g6 years ago

Tumeric may be the strongest antioxident, but when tumeric or curry stains one's clothing, that's that. I've looked up info on line, but have not yet found any mixture that works 100%.

I always feel good about using baking soda or vinegar and try and avoid chemicals that go into the soil.

Sharon O'malley
Sharon O'malley6 years ago

nice :)

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W6 years ago