A Laundry Expert Reveals How to Clean the Top 7 Stains that Happen During the Summer
Why is it that the best things about warmer weather—backyard grill-outs, picnics at the park, sunscreen-slathered beach days—also come with the toughest-to-remove stains?
Don’t sweat it: We spoke to Laura Goodman, a senior scientist at P&G Fabric Care, about simple methods for removing not-so-simple stains. No matter what you’re up to this summer, here’s how to keep your clothes (or beach towel) in tip-top shape.
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Ketchup or BBQ Sauce Stains
“Tomato-based stains can contain lycopene and beta-carotene, both of which are reddish-orange in color and leave behind a visible stain,” says Goodman. “These stains are especially attracted to synthetic fibers like polyester.” If you spot a splotch on your clothes, first, run cold water through the stain and pretreat using detergent and a toothbrush. If a visible stain remains, hang your garment outside in a sunny area to fade the stain—lycopene and beta-carotene fade in the presence of UV light.
Mustard contains dyes that are sensitive to pH. To treat these yellow stains, Goodman recommends blotting the fresh stain with a paper towel or scraping dried mustard stains with a fork. Next, rinse in cold water to dilute the stain, then pretreat with a paste made of powdered detergent and bleach, and let set for 20 minutes. Without rinsing the mixture off, wash your garment (it’s fine to wash with other items with this mixture in there).
Dirt or Potting Soil Stains
Your first line of defense: Keep the dirt-stained garment in a bag until you’re ready to pretreat so it won’t dry out. When it’s time to clean, brush off what you can and run warm water through the back of the stain. The higher the water pressure, the easier it will be to remove.
First, rinse in warm water, then pretreat by placing enough detergent onto the garment to cover the stain, and let set for 20 minutes. Without rinsing off the detergent, you can place the garment into the washer with other items.
Normally, sweat on its own won’t stain clothes, Goodman says. “It’s the combination of sweat and body oils that will turn clothes yellow over time.” To remove this pesky stain, rinse your garment in warm water to dilute it and pretreat with a mixture of detergent and vinegar. Pour enough of the mixture to fully cover the stain, rub gently, and let set for 20 minutes. Without rinsing off the detergent, place the garment into the washer (along with other items if you need). Leaving the detergent on the stain will give your wash that extra boost of cleaning power. If the stain remains, repeat the steps before drying.
Fresh Berry Stains
Similar to mustard, fresh berry stains are pH sensitive. To treat, follow the same steps: Blot the fresh stain with a paper towel, rinse in cold water to dilute, then pretreat with a paste made of powdered detergent and bleach and let set for 20 minutes. Without rinsing off the paste, you can wash with your other items.
Sunscreen Marks and Stains
“Most formulas contain an oil base that can stain your clothes, similar to the way food grease can,” Goodman says. “Synthetic fabrics like polyester are most prone to sunscreen staining.” To remove the oil, brush off what you can and run warm water through the back of the stain. Pretreat by covering the stain with detergent, then allow it to set for 20 minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to help spread the detergent into the fibers of the garment or rub the fabric together gently. Without rinsing off the detergent, you can place the garment into the washer with other items.
Bonus tip: When pretreating a stain, Goodman says it’s best to put a little detergent on the opposite side of the fabric from the stain and run water over the detergent with the stain facing down.