Tools for Removing Stains

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Stain Removal

Chemicals for Removing Stains

This section contains chemicals that can effectively remove household and laundry stains if used correctly.

Acetic Acid. A solution of 10% acetic acid can be bought at pharmacies. White vinegar, which is 5% acetic acid, can be used as a substitute for the stronger solution. It’s a transparent fluid that can eliminate stains on silk and wool. For cotton and linen, it must be diluted with 2 parts water (a pre-test is advised). It should not be used on acetate. If acetic acid causes a color change, sponge the affected area with ammonia.

Acetone. Acetone can be purchased at pharmacies and hobby shops. It’s a colorless liquid with a peppermint scent that can remove stains caused by products like fingernail polish or household cement. Although it won’t harm natural fibers or most synthetics, it should be pre-tested to ensure that dyed fabrics will not be damaged. It should not be used on fabrics that contain acetate. Use only pure acetone on stains; although most nail polish removers have acetone, the other ingredients in these products can make stains worse. Caution: Acetone is flammable and evaporates rapidly, producing toxic fumes. When using acetone, work outside or in a well-ventilated area. Avoid inhaling fumes. Store in a tightly capped container in a cool place.

Alcohol. Common isopropyl alcohol (70%) can be bought at drugstores and is sufficient for most stain-removal tasks that require alcohol, although the stronger denatured alcohol (90%) can also be used. Make sure you don’t buy alcohol with added color or fragrance. Alcohol will fade some dyes; pre-test before using it. Alcohol will harm acetate, tri-acetate, modacrylic, and acrylic fibers. If you need to use it on fibers in the acetate family, dilute the alcohol with two parts water. Caution: Alcohol is poisonous and flammable. Follow all label precautions.

Ammonia. For stain removal, buy plain household ammonia without added color or fragrance. It is available at grocery stores. Because ammonia affects some dyes, always pre-test on a hidden corner of the stained article. To restore color changed by ammonia, rinse the affected area with water and apply a few drops of white vinegar. Rinse with clear water again. Ammonia harms silk and wool; if you need to use it on these fibers, dilute it with an equal amount of water and use as sparingly as possible. Caution: Ammonia is poisonous. Avoid inhaling its fumes. It will cause burns or irritation if it comes in contact with the skin or eyes. Follow all label precautions. Never mix ammonia with chlorine bleach, as this will release chloramine, a highly toxic substance.

Amyl Acetate. Purchase chemically pure amyl acetate (banana oil) for stain removal. It’s sometimes available at drugstores or can be ordered from them. It’s safe to use on fibers that could be damaged by acetone, but it should not come into contact with plastics or furniture finishes. Caution: Amyl acetate is poisonous and flammable. Avoid contact with the skin and inhaling the vapors.

Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is sold in drug and health food stores. It’s used in the preparation of a dry spotter, which is used to remove many types of stains. If you can’t obtain coconut oil, mineral oil, which is almost as effective, can be used instead.

The article discusses various substances that can be used for stain removal. Glycerine is a generic product sold in pharmacies that can be used in the preparation of a wet spotter to remove various stains. Oxalic acid crystals, which are effective in treating ink and rust stains, can also be found in pharmacies, but must be dissolved in water before use. Sodium thiosulfate, also known as photographic “hypo” or fixer, can be found in drugstores and photo supply houses, but should be tested on an inconspicuous area of fabric before use. Turpentine, which is commonly found in paint and hardware stores and in art supply houses, is effective on paint and grease stains, but must be used with caution due to its flammable and poisonous nature. White vinegar can also be used for stain removal, but should be diluted if used on cotton or linen and tested on an inconspicuous area first. Cider and wine vinegar should be avoided as they may leave a stain.


1. What are some common stain removal tools?

There are several common stain removal tools that can be used to tackle a variety of stains. These include:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Lemon juice
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Ammonia
  • Stain remover sprays

2. How do I use white vinegar to remove stains?

White vinegar is a versatile and effective stain remover. To use it, mix equal parts white vinegar and water and apply the solution to the stain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then blot with a clean cloth. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed. For tougher stains, you can apply undiluted white vinegar directly to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before blotting.

3. Can baking soda remove tough stains?

Yes, baking soda can be an effective tool for removing tough stains. To use it, mix baking soda with a small amount of water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, scrub the stain with a brush or sponge and rinse with water. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed.

4. Is hydrogen peroxide safe to use as a stain remover?

Hydrogen peroxide can be a powerful stain remover, but it should be used with caution. It can bleach fabrics and carpets, so it’s important to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first. To use it, apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes. Blot with a clean cloth and rinse with water. Repeat as necessary until the stain is removed.

5. How can I prevent stains from setting in?

The best way to prevent stains from setting in is to treat them as soon as possible. Blot up as much of the stain as you can with a clean cloth, then apply a stain remover tool to the area. Avoid rubbing the stain, as this can push it deeper into the fabric. Wash the item as soon as possible to remove any leftover residue.

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