Thank you to our incredible friends at Lunapads, a women-owned business bringing reusable, washable menstrual products to people of all ages, for sharing these great tips. Lunapads is on a mission to create a more positive and informed period experience, in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.
Is there any better feeling than a crisp, fresh sheet? Or a freshly ironed shirt? Or even the stretchy comfort of a favourite pair of yoga pants or the cosy comfort of a wool sweater? Nothing better, right? Until you notice a telltale stain where you spilled some coffee, or your period got the better of you, or you have a set-in grease spot or sweatstain. Stains are frustrating. They are also totally solvable problems. Whatever you’re dealing with, here’s some strategies to get that stain out, and save your gorgeous fabrics.
A Few General Guidelines
What exactly are you dealing with, by the way? The most important thing to ascertain is what fabric is stained, and what substance is doing the staining. Look for the garment tags and read their recommendations. Many products are now blends of several different kinds of fabric. Heat sets stains, so be sure to tumble dry low or line dry until you’re confident the problem is gone.
As a general rule of thumb, natural fabrics, like cotton or linen, are best treated with moderate heat in both the washer and dryer. A synthetic, like polyester or rayon, is more sensitive to heat, so ideally you’d use a cool setting on your machine. If you’ve got silk on your hands, check for colorfastness and use cold water..
One last tip - before you use any of the solutions recommended, test them on a small, discreet area of the garment. I know it seems like an unnecessary step, but it will prevent damage to your overall piece.
Dealing with period overflow? Blood can be a shocking stain to deal with, but luckily, there are lots of options. With a fresh blood stain, start by rinsing the fabric under a lot of cold water - you’d be surprised how well it works! If you have residual staining, shake on some salt or a paste of baking powder. After about 30 minutes, launder away.
If you’ve got an old bloodstain, apply some unseasoned meat tenderizer (wait, hear me out). The chemicals in meat tenderizer are designed to break down animal proteins, including blood, and this can make it easier for a detergent to lift them away.
Ah, summer. Long days, fun in the sun - and a whole lot of sweat. If sweat stains are a continual problem, consider ditching your antiperspirant or deodorant. The stain is likely caused by your sweat reacting with chemicals in the product to generate that tell-tale yellowish flush. Even just switching brands can make a big difference.
To get rid of the actual stain, try soaking the stain in a 1:1 blend of cold water and white vinegar (if the fabric in question is white, feel free to swap in hydrogen peroxide). Then launder as usual.
Food stains fall into two major categories - grease stains or acid stains. Acid stains are typically things like wine, tomato sauce or coffee, where the acidic nature of the food combines with pigments in the food to create a stain. For grease stains, the gameplan is breaking down the oily particles clinging to the fibers of your fabric.
If you have an acidic stain, act fast. Blot (don’t rub) the stain and flush with cold water. Then apply a commercial stain remover (or good old fashioned club soda) and wash according to garment instructions. If your stain is set in, soak the fabric for several hours in cold water. Apply a commercial stain remover and let set. Launder again.
A grease stain can be treated with a little dab of liquid dish soap. It’s designed to break down oil, and will be very effective in removing a greasy stain. Launder as usual. If you’re dealing with a stubborn grease stain, soak it in a solution of water and several tablespoons of baking soda. You can also apply the baking soda directly, and scrub gently with a soft toothbrush. (Note: scrubbing can be tough on linen and silk - try soaking instead.)
A broken or leaking pen can disgorge a surprising amount of ink, which can be very hard to remove. A first step is to soak the stain overnight in a bath of milk, which should lift the pigment. If that doesn’t work, make a paste of cream of tartar and lemon juice. Rub gently into the stain and launder.
Makeup stains are often caused by the same mechanism as grease stains from food, so if you get some ultra-moisturizing foundation or face oil on your shirt, start by dabbing on some liquid dish soap. Rinse this away with the hottest water that your fabric will allow, and then use a commercial stain remover. Launder, again using the hottest water your fabric can stand. Air dry. Note that linen can cause an oily stain to spread, so treat approximately half an inch around the stain to make sure you get everything out.
If the product is powdery, like a blush or eyeshadow, use a vacuum or lint roller to collect all the material without pressing it into the fabric. Launder as usual.
Stains are annoying, but totally treatable. By knowing your fabric and your stain, you can troubleshoot your problem and win the laundry game. Whatever you do - don’t panic. Take a deep breath, and then take action. You’ll be back in your crisp sheets in no time.