10 Green Tips for Removing Stains

Clean the stains out of your fabric naturally.
Clean the stains out of your fabric naturally.
­iStockphoto.com/michael tupy

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The toxins found in everyday cleaning products not only have an effect on our health -- children, especially, are vulnerable -- but also the well-being of our planet. We as re­sponsible consumers need to know what's in the products we use, and how they affect those around us. 

It is possible to achieve a sanitary and pleasant cleanliness in the home without owning an arsenal of c­hemically laced cleaning products. Even though stains can be tough to remove in general, check out these green cleaning fabric stain tips to learn an alternate way to remove them.

First up, the ever-frustrating ink stain.­

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Ink

Ink stains are some of the most common types of stains we get on our clothing -- and are among the most stubborn to remove. Like a lot of the stains mentioned here, ink can be tackled with three of our Fantastic Four items: salt, baking soda, and lemon juice.

Back in the day, we used to spray aerosol hair spray on our clothes to make ink stains dissolve. It was certainly a smelly option and probably not the best for our clothes (or, considering the fumes coming from the aerosol cans, ourselves). But there certainly are other home remedies to try. For one, sprinkle a fresh stain with salt and then soak the entire garment in milk; afterward, launder as usual.

Another method involves making a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar. You should first test the fabric for colorfastness: Paint the mixture onto a hidden area of the fabric and let it sit for 20 minutes. If the color is fine, then it's full steam ahead! Cover the stain with the paste and again let it sit for 20 minutes. Then check that the stain is removed before laundering the item as usual. An alternative method would be to cover the stain with cream of tartar and drizzle a little lemon juice onto it. Rub the mixture in and let it sit for a minute or two, then brush off any excess cream of tartar. Launder the item as usual.

Here's a tip for removing ink from white fabric: Apply the cream of tartar and lemon juice paste and then lay the fabric flat outside in a sunny spot. The paste will remove the stain, and the sun will brighten the white fabric. Then, of course, wash as usual.

Say you're at a party, and you've managed to swipe your pen on your shirt. Since most people don't carry cream of tartar and lemon juice everywhere they go, here's a trick to use in a pinch: Plain club soda helps keep stains from setting. Dip the stained area into the club soda and then dab with a hand-kerchief or other lint-free cloth. If the stain is serious, follow the methods mentioned already, or just launder as normal.

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Red Wine

Red wine can be removed from fabrics in some of the same ways as ink stains. Or, try this: Soak the stained area in water, then make a pouch in the cloth where the wine stain is. Next, pour cream of tartar into the pouched area. Tie the ends of the pouch and then let the garment soak. After soaking, dip it in and out of hot water, then launder as usual.

Say it's a dinner party, and somebody got a little exuberant in conversation. If the red wine stain is fresh, soak up the spill by immediately sprinkling it with baking soda. Next, as soon as possible, stretch the stained fabric over a large bowl or kettle, secure the fabric, and pour boiling water through the stain. Similarly, you can use salt for this purpose by sprinkling it on a spill immediately and letting it soak up the stain. Afterward, soak the stained area in cold water and then launder the garment as usual.

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8

Blood

Bloodstains on cotton, linen, or other natural fiber fabrics should be soaked in cold salt water for one hour, then washed using warm water and your usual laundry soap. If you have a fresh bloodstain, cover it with salt and blot it with cold water. Add fresh water and blot until the stain is gone.

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7

Candle Wax

Handle with cold, then heat. First, place an ice cube on the wax. When the wax is hardened, remove it with a dull knife. Next, get rid of any remaining wax by putting a piece of thick paper (such as a paper bag) flat over the stain. Then press the area with a warm iron; the wax will melt into the paper.

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6

Rust

Rust stains give us another laundry situation where cream of tartar is a great green hero -- it has an acidic quality that enables it to break down rust. First, cover the rust stain with cream of tartar. Next, tie up the area surrounding the stain, making the fabric into a pouch. Soak the entire pouch in very hot water for about five to ten minutes, then untie it and launder as usual.

Salt and vinegar also work well as rust removers on fabric. Combine salt and vinegar into a thin paste and then spread the paste onto the stained area of the fabric. Next, lay the item out in the sun to bleach it. If sun is not an option, stretch the fabric over a large bowl or pan, secure the fabric, and pour boiling water through the stained area. Whether you use sun bleaching or the hot water method, allow the item to dry on its own. Run the item through a rinse cycle in your washing machine, or give it a good hand rinsing, and then check the stain again. If any of the stain remains, repeat the treatments. Never put the fabric through the dryer until you're certain the stain is gone.

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5

Mildew

Make a thin paste of lemon juice and salt; spread the paste on mildew stains. Lay out the fabric in the sun to bleach it. Afterward, rinse and dry. Mildew stains on fabric can also be tackled with a paste of salt, vinegar, and water. If the stain is extensive, you can use up to full-strength vinegar.

Some garments may still retain a musty, mildewy smell even after washing. Get rid of the smell by soaking the garments in lemon juice and water and then letting them dry in the sun.

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4

Gravy & Grease

Dropping a bit of greasy gravy on your clothes can be a disaster, but not if you act quickly. Immediately after it happens, cover the fresh gravy stain with salt, letting it absorb as much of the grease as possible. Gently brush off the salt. If the stain is still visible, dab it with a cloth dipped in straight vinegar. This method can work for any fresh greasy spot.

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3

Coffee, Tea & Juice

If you have an article of clothing with set-in coffee or tea stains, don't despair. Just soak it in a solution of 1 unit vinegar to 2 units water and then hang the item to dry in the sun. Still, the best treatment for coffee or tea stains is to get them when they're fresh. When you tackle the problem right away, the stains usually rinse out eas­ily with some cold water (depending upon the fabric).

Reddish fruit juices of any kind -- cherry, cranberry, blueberry -- can be removed from bleach-safe garments by soaking them in a solution of 1 unit vinegar and 2 units water. Afterward, launder as usual.­

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Grass

As anyone who likes to spend time outdoors or has rambunctious children can tell you, trying to remove grass stains from white clothing with the usual laundering techniques can be a challenge. Try soaking the stained item in full-strength vinegar for a half hour or more before washing, then wash as usual.

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1

Urine

First, soak the clothing in a solution of hot water and distilled white vinegar. If the fabric is delicate, change the water temperature to cold instead. Let it sit for a half hour, then rinse and wash as usual.

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