How To Remove Even The Trickiest Stains

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Stains_1Designed by Ly Ngo.
Stains are real mood killers. There you are happily scarfing down an eggs Benedict at brunch or brushing your teeth last minute to race out for a meeting, and bam! A dribble or splatter strikes — right onto that pristine peplum. But, even if you're the type to have a stain-fighting pen in every pocket, sometimes a situation is so dire you simply have to change clothes and deal with the spot later. What then?

We went straight to the experts at The Laundress, founders Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, for the bottom-line rule on how to remove any extra-tricky splotch. It turns out, you don't have to immediately strip in a restaurant bathroom to save that favorite silk shirt. (Wish we knew that a week ago. Awkward.) And, even better news, an item's rarely unsalvageable. Of course, the longer you wait, the more elbow grease you're going to need to put into the fix. We asked them to address six sticky situations we often find ourselves in: smears of chocolate, mustard, grease, blood, and toothpaste. (It's not just us,right?) And, they told us it's as easy as knowing what temperatures to use for what fabrics — and a few other hard-and-fast rules. Read on; their guide gives us all full license to eat (and live) with gusto.
Stains_5Designed by Ly Ngo.
Chocolate
Water: Hot (cold for wool and silk)
Process: Apply a highly concentrated pretreat solution directly to the stain and allow the item to soak in hot water in a wash basin or sink, the longer the better (even overnight).

With any stain, it's important to consider how long it's been there and what the clothing item is made of. No two stains should be treated exactly the same. Maybe you've gotten a piece back from the dry cleaner and the mark is still there — that's because they have a one-process-fits-all strategy. And, some spots require multiple treatments.

Mustard
Water: Hot (cold for wool and silk)
Process: Apply a highly concentrated pretreat solution directly to the stain and allow the item to soak in hot water in a wash basin or sink, the longer the better (even overnight).

The treatment here is the same as chocolate. Since mustard comes from a seed, the stain comes from a natural dye. Really anything that naturally has color (blueberries especially) is going to be a pain to get out. According to Lindsay and Gwen, it's all about repeating the process as many times as it takes. The hotter the water, the faster it works. They recommend even turning the kettle on and pouring boiled water directly onto the fabric.
Stains_2Designed by Ly Ngo.
Blood
Water: Cold
Process: Apply the stain remover to the spot and sprinkle with an oxygenated bleach. Gently work the “paste” into the fabric (this can even be done with a toothbrush). Allow item to soak overnight and then launder as normal.

Since blood has protein in its chemical makeup, cold water is the best way to be sure the stain doesn't set. You'll probably need to repeat the process for this kind of mark.
Stains_3Designed by Ly Ngo.
Grease
Water: Hot
Process: Use a highly concentrated pretreat solution and allow the item to soak in hot water in a wash basin or sink, the longer the better — even overnight.

If Gwen and Lindsey were giving out dirt awards, bike grease and rust would take home the title of trickiest stains. Grease gets into fibers and acts like tar: all sticky and dirty at the same time. It needs a lot of agitation.

Sweat
Water: Hot (cold for wool and silk)
Process: For stubborn, set-in stains, like those yellow underarm marks, apply the stain remover and sprinkle with an oxygenated bleach gently working the “paste” into the fabric (this can even be done with a toothbrush).

The method of pouring hot water directly from a kettle works great with sweat stains. The reason underarm discoloration is so tricky is that your sweat mixes with the chemicals in deodorant to create a new stain. Basically, it's double trouble. For particularly old spots, add a capful of bleach alternative to the soaking basin.
Stains_4Designed by Ly Ngo.
Toothpaste
Water: Tepid to cool
Process: Pretreat with a stain solution or bar directly onto the stain and let soak overnight. For wool and silk, soak for no more than 30 minutes.

If any of these tricks of the trade don't work, do what the Laundresses say: Rinse and repeat!