Simple Spot Removal

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My daughter came to me during my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party with a huge spill on her new, lime green jeans. “Mom,” she cried with a pouty face,” I’ve ruined another pair of pants.”  I asked her if she knew what she spilled and when she told me it was Italian dressing, I gave her my favorite answer when it comes to spots and stains — “Don’t worry, I can get that out.”

Spots on clothing are easy to remove as long as you remember two simple rules: Start with very gentle treatments and don’t put the item in the dryer. Knowing what was spilled on the piece of clothing makes the stain or spot easy to remove. It’s basic chemistry. Trying to remove the spot becomes a game — like solving a crossword puzzle.

Here are some things to remember when trying to remove a stain:

  • Don’t automatically reach for the stain removal “stick.” You might be setting the stain instead of removing it.
  • Start by blotting the area with a dry, white towel if the stain is still wet. If the spot has dried, try dabbing it with a damp, white cloth. Continue to dab until you no longer see any sign of the stain on the cloth.
  • Sprinkle corn starch on an oily spot and let it sit for a few minutes before brushing it off with a toothbrush. Next, dab the oil-based stain with rubbing alcohol or vodka. The alcohol will break down the oil. Water won’t penetrate the spot.
  • Club soda can also remove spots from clothing. You can keep a spray bottle and club soda in your car so if you spill something while driving, you can give the stain a light spritz.
  • Never put your clothing in the dryer until you are sure the spot on your clothing is gone.  Putting a stain in a hot dryer will set the stain permanently. Instead, let the clothing air dry so you can see if the stain shows up when the item has dried.
  • For stubborn stains, hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to chlorine bleach. Put some right on a stain and use a toothbrush to work it into the fibers.

Old-fashion bar soap works wonders for removing stains. You want to use a simple, vegetable-based bar of soap that does not contain any color dye.

With a stiff brush, work up a lather and rub the soap into the spot.

Use a circular motion to get the soap deep into the fibers.

Rinse with water and let it air dry.

If the spot is still visible, repeat the entire process until the spot is removed.

Photo credits: Leslie Reichert

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