How To Remove Stains From Clothes

Gabby Ianniello

Why should I learn about stain removal?

Sure, learning about how to remove stains may seem kind of, um, boring. But imagine if you could get rid of the giant grease stain on your favorite shirt instead of throwing it out? Game changer.

There's also a misconception that stain removal is hard. Maybe it is, depending on the stain and the type of material your clothing is made of, but it's actually a lot easier than you'd think.

You can easily use a stain removal product like Oxy Clean, or some basic items found around your home like dish soap, rubbing alcohol, and white vinegar. And often it will only take you a few minutes to actually do.

Check out the below overview on how to remove common stains like coffee, makeup, blood, oil, pen ink, and grass. Note that you should test each strategy on a part of the clothing that isn't visible before actually hitting the spot. Some fabrics are stubborn!

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Coffee, Tea & Juice

I don't know about you, but coffee always seems to find its way on my clothes. Sigh.

A fool-proof way to ensure the stain gets out is to use distilled white vinegar. Combine equal parts water and vinegar then spray on the spot. You can use a paper towel or cloth to lightly dab at the spot to see if it will transfer off your clothing. After spot-treating, put it into the wash.

Note, you'll want to check the shirt before putting it into the dryer (this goes for ALL stains). If the stain hasn't lifted, trying spot-treating again. When you put a piece of clothing in the dryer, it essentially 'locks in' the stain.

This doesn't mean it's not treatable after, but it may be more difficult because the stain has been 'cooked' onto the threads.


Have you ever scraped your knee and the blood went through your pants? Or popped a pimple on your back, and now you have a big red dot on your shirt? The worst.

If you wash your clothes without spotting treating, there's a chance the mark may leave a brownish stain behind. To combat this, you'll want to first soak your clothing in cold water for about 2 hours. This will help to lift the stain from the threads.

If there isn't much change, you can spot treat with hydrogen peroxide. Mix equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide and dab at the spot. After, put in the laundry. Check the stain before putting it in the dryer!


More often than not, I'm wearing makeup. And more often than not, it gets all over me.

For lipstick, you'll first want to start by scraping off any excess. You can use your fingernail to lightly scrape the 'waxy' part off. Next, spot-treat with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) before washing.

For foundation, you'll want to pre-treat with liquid dish soap before washing in hot water. I'll usually place a teeny, tiny dot of non-colored dish soap directly on the spot, add a little water, and gently massage into the spot. Since foundation is an oil, the dish soap (which is a grease-fighter), helps lift it easily.

Note, you can also use standard dish soap that has all the funky colors (like Dawn blue dish soap), but use it with caution!

Oils & Dressings

When I was younger, I threw out SO many of my favorite clothing items because of grease splatters or from dropping a bite of food in my lap. I had no idea that I could actually do something about it (you may be in the same boat).

Just like foundation, you can use liquid dish soap as a spot treatment. Place a tiny dot of it directly on the spot and massage in lightly with water before laundering.

For larger or heavier stains, you can use baking soda before attacking with dish soap. Sprinkle baking soda on the affected area to soak up the oil and leave it on for about an hour. Repeat if needed.

Just like other stains, you want to check your clothing before placing it in the dryer. Oil is the most stubborn, so once you 'cook' the stain into the threading, it may be impossible to get out.

Pen Ink

Though pen seems like it's permanent, it's actually one of the easiest stains to get rid of.

You can spot-treat the stain using isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and a q-tip. After, pat your clothing lightly with a paper towel or cloth to transfer the stain off your clothing. Repeat as needed.


As a kid, my jeans were ALWAYS covered in grass stains after a long day of play. Though I'm not wrestling in the mud like I did as a kid, I've gotten a grass stain here and there just from sitting in the park or doing yard work.

The easiest way to tackle grass stains is to soak in a mixture of cold water and laundry detergent. If it's a deep, dark stain, you can pre-treat by placing a dollop of laundry detergent on the stain and scrubbing well (use your hands to scrub or a soft bristle toothbrush, NOT a coarse sponge). After, wash the clothes in cold water.

Before placing in the dryer, check to see if the stain has lifted. If not, repeat the above process. If your clothing item is white, you can also use bleach.

Congrats! You've just learned the basics about stain removal!

Save or print the below infographic for future reference. Reach out if you have any questions!

About the Author

Gabrielle Ianniello is the founder of The Adulting Manual and the host of the Corporate Quitter Podcast. When she's not adulting, she enjoys reading, making art, hiking, and Mario Kart.