Facts about Stain Removers

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Choose the right stain remover

Removing stains is a common laundry chore. The type of stain you need to treat determines which stain remover is necessary. For example, greasy stains require a different stain remover than grass or mustard stains. Choose from spray, liquid, stick or travel stain removers.


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There are four ways of dealing with stains. Solvents dissolve stains. Organic solvents break up stains made up of grease or fat. Surfactants destroy stains by helping the water to more thoroughly wet the cloth, then the water carries away the stain into the solution. Soaps and detergents contain surfactants. Oxidizing products, such as bleach, actually devour the stain. Laundry products that include whiteners absorb ultraviolet light, causing the fabric to shine back, making the stain less visible.



Liquid or powdered detergents are one type of stain remover. Bleaches include chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, all-fabric liquid bleach and powdered all-fabric bleach. Pretreatment products come in aerosol sprays, pump sprays or in stick form. Aerosol sprays are typically petroleum-based solvents, and pump sprays are detergent-based. Stain remover products come in smaller, travel-size bottles, wipes or pencil-type dispensers.



No single stain remover is effective on all stains. Also, it may be impossible to completely clean ink, grease, wax or blood stains. Treat the stain immediately or as soon as possible. Leaving the stain to set only increases the difficulty of removing it.



Before treating any spots, determine the type of stain. “Good Housekeeping” offers a Stain Busters spot treatment list for dozens of the most common stains. Bleach whitens berry and fruit juice stains. Enzyme detergents remove grass stains. Dry cleaning fluid removes chocolate. Solvents work best on oil-based stains. Pet stains need a specialty pet stain product. For red wine stains, wine shops or online stores carry red wine remover.



Before treating any stain, test on the inside of the fabric for color-fastness. Keep all products out of the reach of children. Do not mix stain removal products. This can create deadly fumes. Do not use solvents near an open flame.



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