6 Stain-Removing Tricks Costumers Swear By

published Dec 25, 2021
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Cleaning chocolate stains from white t-shirt.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Imagine it: You just bought a brand new white blouse, you put it on, and then — within just a few minutes — your coffee splatters all over it. Panic sets in. Will the stain ever come out?

Good news: Costumers — people whose job it is to make sure apparel looks good enough to take center stage — say “just about everything is fixable, short of it catching fire.” You just have to know what you’re doing.

To help you become a star stain buster, we asked seasoned costumers and stylists for their best tips and trips. Here’s what they had to say:

For ink stains, use hairspray

Pen burst? Before you toss your duds, spray the garment with hairspray, let it dry, then wash it in cold water with detergent, says Rachel E. Pollock, a wardrobe supervisor and lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “If the ink stain is on a leather garment, spray it with the hairspray and use a clean towel or cotton ball to buff off the stain.”

For blood stains, use saliva

It may sound strange, but another bodily fluid — saliva — is the best treatment for blood stains. Here’s how it works, says Pollock. Spit on it, let it soak in, then hand wash with soap. “This works best if the saliva comes from the person whose blood it is, but any saliva is better than a commercial stain remover.”

For makeup, use dish soap

For costumers, stage makeup on garment is a constant battle, but there’s an easy fix, says stylist Yolandie Hamilton. Squirt a bit of heavy-duty degreasing dish soap (like Dawn) on the makeup spot, and smear it over the entire stain area inside and outside of the garment, she explains. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub using your fingernails and rinse.

For sweat stains, use white vinegar

When shirts become stained yellow thanks to underarm sweat, this pantry staple is an easy fix for the discoloration. Simply spray the stain with white vinegar. Let it soak in for 30 minutes if there’s time, then launder with detergent and hydrogen peroxide, says Pollock.

For grease, use white vinegar

White vinegar not only works wonders on sweat stains, it also tackles grease with ease, says Marijke van Breda, a former stylist for Oliver Wicks. “To remove grease, make sure you use 50 percent vinegar and 50 percent water to remove the stain and then wash it after,” she explains. “Do not put the fabric in a dryer until you are sure the stain is completely gone.”

For dye stains, use bleach

If dye migrates in the laundry — think: a red sock accidentally turns whites to pinks — soak the items the dye migrated onto in cold water for as long as possible (up to overnight), says Pollock. Then wash with detergent and the appropriate bleach for the items — color safe or oxygenated.