The Best Stain-Removal Kit And Chemicals

You will find the following items useful to keep in your kit.

Clean white absorbent cloths ; or use white tissues.

Spoon or blunt knife for scraping off excess matter, or wooden spatula.

Glycerine to lubricate old stains. Dilute with I part glycerine to 2 parts water. Apply and leave for about one hour, then soak in cool suds before washing according to fibre.

Laundry borax, which is safe for most fibres. Make up a solution of I tablespoon borax to 500 ml warm water for sponging or soaking washables, methods 2 and 3, below. You can also use the boiling water method, method 5 below, for white fabrics.

Methylated spirit Use solvent method 1, below. Do not use on acetates. Flammable and poisonous.

White vinegar from a grocer. Use for soaking or sponging. Use 1 teaspoon vinegar to 250 ml water. Do not use on acetates and keep away from skin.


Dilute 1 part ammonia to 3 parts water. Use for sponging or soaking, methods 2 and 3 below. Keep away from eyes and skin. Do not breathe fumes.

Acetone or amyl acetate. Use solvent method 1, below.

Highly flammable: buy only in very small quantities and if possible store outside the house. Nail-varnish remover makes a reasonable substitute, but most types now sold contain oil which may itself stain. Do not use acetone, amyl acetate or nail varnish remover on acetates: substitute white spirit for these fabrics.

Branded stain-removal solvent.

Always read carefully directions on pack. A bottle of liquid is useful: use solvent method 1, sec below. In addition, buy an aerosol type which is particularly handy for delicate fabrics which may ring mark if you use liquids. Spray on, allow to dry and then brush off. In general, do not use branded solvents on rubberised or waterproofed fabrics, or on plastics, leather or silks. Take care: solvents are flammable.

White spirit, turpentine and lighter fuel are other useful solvents, apply by solvent method 1, below. Poisonous and highly flammable: store outside the house.

Petrol can also be used for very heavy grease stains but this is highly flammable and volatile, and must be stored outside the home. Use solvent method 1. A safer alternativc can nearly always be found.


Heavy duty washing powders contain sodium perborate bleach which is most active at high washing temperatures, above 8o°C. Thus washing white cottons and linens at a high temperature in a heavy-duty washing product will shift many stains but first always soak protein stains such as blood, gravy and perspiration in cool, biological washing powder suds as immediate hot water will set the stain, making it impossible to remove.

Household bleach is inexpensive and easy to obtain but should only be used on white cotton and linens Always dilute according to the instructions on the bottle but in general use 1 teaspoon to 300 ml of water. Use method 6, rinsing well. Poisonous. Store upright away from children.

Hydrogen peroxide bleach is more expensive. Buy it from the chemist, and ask for ‘20 vol’ which denotes the strength. Use 1 part 20 vol to 6 parts cold water. You can use it on all fibres, but take care with coloureds as it may fade them a little. Rinse well. Sec method 6. Poisonous. Store in dark place, away from children.


Numbers are used in the chart which follows.

N.B. Always try any stain removal method on an unseen part of the article first. Only proceed to the stain when you are sure method itself will not harm the fabric.

In all cases, first scrape off any solids with blunt knife, spoon or wooden spatula; gently blot up excess liquids with clean tissues or white cloth. Always treat stains quickly: they may ‘set’ ij left.

Method I: Solvents

For washable fabrics and, with caution, for non-washables. Place an absorbent pad of clean white fabric against the stain on the right side of the fabric. Take another pad of the same fabric, moisten as sparingly as you can with solvent and apply to the stain on the wrong side of the fabric, so that you are pushing the stain out the way that it went in. Work from the outside of the stain inwards to avoid making a ‘ring’. Keep turning the pads around to present clean surfaces, and continue until no further staining matter is being transferred to the clean dry pad. Then take a clean pad just moistened with solvent and lightly ‘feather-out’ from the centre of the stain outwards. Then wash in usual fashion according to the fabric.

Method 2: Sponging

For washable and non-washable fabrics. Sometimes, if you act quickly, you may be able to avert a permanent stain simply by sponging. Use cold water to which you have added just a drop of washing-up liquid. Place a pad of clean cloth under the stain and with a clean barely-moistened white cloth or sponge lightly stroke the right side of the fabric. Do not use coloured paper napkins which will stain.

Method 3: Soaking

For washable fabrics only. Do not soak wool, silk, non-fast colours, flame-resistant or rubberised fabrics, or articles with metal fasteners. Many stains respond to soaking, but never use hot water which will simply set the stain. Sometimes it helps first to ‘lubricate’ the stain by rubbing in a little glycerine solution or neat washing-up liquid. A soak in detergent solution is frequently beneficial; or you can use an enzyme ‘biological’ washing powder designed especially for soaking. These are particularly effective for protein and water-based stains which include gravy, blood, egg, tea and coftee. The colder the water the longer you must leave the fabric to soak. Soak overnight in cold water or for 3 to 4 hours in warm water. Then wash in usual fashion according to the fabric: look for the label.

Method 4: Washing

For washable fabrics only, of course. Look for the label. Many stains will simply wash out in good rich suds, providing you treat them quickly. Use as hot water as the fabric can stand, but some stains must be soaked first in cold water, see chart. If possible soak the stain until you can wash the article. A pre-wash aerosol stain-removal spray can be helpful. Stains that will usually wash out, if you act quickly, are: beetroot, fruit juices, blood, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, cream, egg, gravy, iced lollies, jam, meat juice, milk, mud, pickles, sauces, soft drinks, soups, stews, syrup, tea, tomato ketchup, washable ink, and wines and spirits. But see additional notes for some of these stains on chart, which recommends any special treatments necessary.

Method 5: Boiling water

This method is only for white linens and cottons. Sprinkle stain with laundry borax and stretch article over a basin, then pour boiling water through from about 30 cm above. Wear rubber gloves and take care not to scald yourself.

Method 6: Bleaching

For washable, colourfast and white fabrics only. See notes on different bleaches under Stain-removal kit and chemicals. Soak only the stained part of article in the bleach solution, and first twist the fabric around the stain to prevent the solution from spreading to the rest of the fabric. Always use bleaches with great caution and rinse thoroughly.

Method 7: Absorbent powders

Mainly used for greasy stains on non-washable fabrics. Dampen stain slightly and sprinkle with an absorbent powder such as French chalk or talcum powder. If the fabric is likely to mark with water simply hold it in front of a kettle spout. When the powder is dry, brush off. Alternatively use an aerosol stain-removal solvent.

Method 8: Sponging for carpets and upholstery

Obviously here you cannot work from the back. Act as quickly as you can. Scrape off any solids and blot up excess liquids with white tissues or clean white cloth. Do not rub. Sponge with solutions as recommended in the chart; but test first on unseen part. Work from the edge of stain inwards and use solutions as sparingly as possible. Always finish by repeatedly sponging with cold water to ‘rinse’ and blotting to dry. Do not overwet. Leave carpet piles to dry with the pile sloping in correct direction. For bad old stains, call in a professional cleaner.

Dilute solutions as follows. Carpet and upholstery shampoos as directed on packs; never use stronger solutions. Laundry detergent: I teaspoon to 300 ml of warm water, dissolve thoroughly. If colours do not appear fast when testing, add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to the detergent solution. Ammonia : 1 tablespoon of household ammonia to one cup of warm water. NOTE: Branded solvents for stain removal may harm some carpets with foam backs. 7

The Best Stain-Removal Kit And Chemicals

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