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How to Remove Mystery Stains in the Laundry

What is this stain and how do I get it out?


Sometimes mystery stains appear on clothing that you don't remember how they got there. Or, others in your household offer no clues as to how that brown spot or sticky spot ended up on their shirt. Where do you start?


Food stains are often on the front of the garment or on the seat of trousers. Perspiration stains are under the arms and around the collar. Black grease is often on pants or skirts at car door levels.


Old oil or grease stains may smell rancid, but appear dry. Gasoline and fuel odors linger to offer a clue.


Typically, if a stain is brown, it is protein-based. If a stain is gray, it is in the oil or grease family. Stain colors can be misleading. Rust-colored stains may be tea, coffee, caramelized sugar, felt marker, rust oxide or many other culprits. Cosmetics containing benzoyl peroxide can bleach many colors to look rusty.

Stain Removal Treatments

Use the least destructive stain removal method first. If the garment can be washed, soak it in cold water for at least 30 minutes to see if the stain lightens. Next, use liquid detergent and warm water to wash garment. Rinse and allow it to air dry.

If the stain persists, wash again with an all-fabric oxygen bleach in warm water and air dry. Finally, if the stain remains and the garment is colorfast or white, try a dilute solution of chlorine bleach.

If you suspect the stain is iron rust, treat with rust remover before bleaching.

If the garment cannot be washed, try spot treating techniques. If the spot is waxy or gummy, the stain will probably respond best to treatment with a dry-cleaning solvent.

Read reviews of top rated stain removers at ConsumerSearch .

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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