Washing Agents

S­imply washing your clothes doesn't always remove stains and can even make them worse. These washing agent definitions will help you understand what's the best treatment for your stain.

Detergents. When stain-removal directions call for mild detergent, choose a white dishwashing liquid detergent; the dyes in nonwhite detergents may worsen your stain. If instructions call for a pretreating paste made of detergent and water, use a powdered detergent that does not contain bleach. If the stain-removal directions specify that you should apply a liquid laundry detergent directly to the spot or stain, be sure to read label directions carefully. Some products cannot safely be used in this manner. Other detergent products (those used in automatic dishwashers or for heavy household cleaning, and certain laundry products) may contain alkalies that could set stains such as ammonia, soap, and oven cleaner.

Enzyme Presoaks. Most effective on protein stains (meat juices, eggs, blood, and the like), enzyme presoaks may harm silk and wool. Make sure you've exhausted every alternative before you use enzyme presoaks on these two fabrics. Use as soon as possible after mixing in solution; enzyme presoak solutions become inactive in storage. Don't mix them with bleach, as this will inactivate the enzymes. Some detergents also contain enzymes and can be used as a presoak; check the label for ingredients and usage instructions.

Powdered Cleansers. Scouring powders and baking soda can be used to remove stains on surfaces that won't be harmed by abrasives. However, you should be aware that prolonged or overly vigorous scrubbing with these products can scratch the most durable surface. Make sure you rinse away all of the powder when the job is completed.

Pretreaters. Pretreaters are used on spots and stains that might not respond to normal laundering procedures. They start the cleaning process before the stained item is put in the washer. Pretreaters must be used in conjunction with the rest of the laundering process; do not try to use them alone as though they were spot removers. After applying a pretreater, do not allow the fabric to dry before washing. Follow label directions. Some good brands are Shout Liquid Laundry Stain Remover (S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.) and Spray 'n Wash (Reckitt Benckiser, Inc.).

Soaps. Do not use bath soaps with added moisturizers, fragrance, dyes, or deodorant to treat spots and stains. Purchase either laundry soap or pure white soap.

Stain and spot removal should be done using the correct stain removers and techniques. This will help you ensure that stains around your home, office, and garage are removed safely and successfully.

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