Summer Clothing Stains

Stain removal is a common problem in caring for clothing. Summer brings a variety of new stains. The following stain procedures are for washable clothing. Always read and follow the care instructions. When possible, treat stains promptly. Examples of laundry products are at the end of the article.


If the stain is fresh, soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Wash with warm water and a detergent. If stain remains, soak in an enzyme presoak and lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes or apply a few drops of hydrogen peroxide.

Chewing Gum

Apply ice or cold water to harden residue. Scrape off excess with dull knife. Place stain area face down on an absorbent paper towel or cloth. Sponge with a prewash treatment. Rub with heavy-duty liquid detergent. Rinse with hot water. Repeat if needed. Launder.

Dairy Products

Fresh stains should be soaked and agitated in cold water before washing. If stain is dried, scrape or rbush off any crusted matter. Soak for up to several hours in cold water with a detergent or an enzyme presoak. Launder in warm water. If stain remains, soak an additional 30 minutes and rewash. If color stain remains, launder with bleach safe for the fabric.

Fruit and Fruit Juices

Launder with detergent in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Do not use soap (bar, flake, or detergents containing natural soap), since soap could make stain permanent. Soak tough stains for 30 minutes in one quart of warm water and one teaspoon of enzyme presoak product. To remove old or set stains may require washing with bleach that is safe for the fabric. If all the sugars are not removed a brown stain will appear when the fabric is heated in the dryer or is ironed, as the sugar is caramelized.

Grass stains

Soak in a solution of cool water and a laundry product containing enzymes for at least 30 minutes (several hours for aged stains.) Do not use hot water as it will coagulate protein and make stain more difficult to remove. If stains remain, soak an additional 30 minutes, then re-wash. Follow product instructions. Some laundry detergents contain enzymes. After soaking, launder in warm water as usual.


Let mud stains dry. Brush to remove the soil. Soak in a solution of 1-quart warm water, 1-teaspoon liquid dish detergent and 1 tablespoon white vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse with water. Let stand for several minutes. If stain remains, sponge with rubbing alcohol, rinse with clear water, and launder. Also may soak stain for 30 minutes in an enzyme presoak. Add chlorine bleach to laundry if safe for fabric.


Hot water and detergent can set mustard stains, so pretreat before washing. Scrape off excess. Pretreat with prewash products. Launder using bleach safe for fabric.

Tomato based sauces*

Soak in cool water, 1/2-teaspoon liquid hand dishwashing detergent and 1-tablespoon vinegar for 30 minutes. Rinse. If stain remains, pretreat area with a prewash stain remover, liquid laundry detergent, or a paste of powdered detergent, and water. Then wash in warm water. Air dry. If stain remains, soak in an enzyme product for at least an hour or over night. Some detergents contain enzymes. Launder in warm water. *Do not use hot water, hot air drying, or iron until the stain is gone. Heat will set it.

Art supplies

The best way to deal with art supplies is to get advice right from the horse’s mouth. Call 1- 800-CRAYOLA or access the web site See removal tips at their web site.

No endorsement of companies or their products mentioned is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar companies or their products not mentioned.


Examples of Products


Enzyme presoak products Biz Bleach, Axion
Pre-wash stain remover/ petroleum-based pretreatment solvent Aerosol Shout, Spray n’ Wash, K2r Spot Lifter





Heavy-duty liquid detergents All, Cheer, Era, Tide, Wisk
Light-duty liquid detergents Ivory, Lux, Woolite
Powdered detergents Amway, Cheer, Dash, Woolite, Tide, Bleaches






Hydrogen peroxide is the mildest bleach.  
Powdered all-fabric bleach- sodium perborate Biz, Borateem, Clorox 2
Liquid all-fabric bleach Clorox 2, Vivid
Liquid chlorine bleach -sodium hypochlorite Clorox, Purex


For more information, visit the U of I Extension website Stains and More at

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