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Handy Hints – Eco-Friendly Stain Removal

We’ve been looking around for information on dealing with stains, and found this information from ‘Stain Expert’. We hope you find it useful.

Environmentally Friendly Stain Removers:

While many of the commercial stain removers and household chemicals can be very effective on stains, they are very damaging to the environment. Therefore if you are keen to “go green”, then it may be worth considering some more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Lemon Juice

This is a great stain remover that’s not really used enough around the home. Lemon juice is mildly acidic, has a bleaching and deodorising effect and also dissolves grease. It can be used on a huge range of stains and is one of the first things you should try. For example, it can bleach ink spots on clothing, remove berry stains from your skin, eliminate odours from a cutting board, clean stains from brass, copper and stainless steel cutlery and kitchen sinks, and – especially combined with salt – help shift a whole host of different stains from fabrics. Make sure you choose a lemon which is firm and heavy, with a fine-grained skin as these tend to be juicier.

White Vinegar

Another fantastic stain remover, white vinegar is easily available, cheap and harmless to use. Because it is a mild acid, it is very effective on certain solid stains, such as limescale and calcium deposits (“soap scum”) from hard water – for example, in the shower, bath and even unclog the washing machine (Once a month pour one cup of white vinegar into the washing machine and run the machine through a normal cycle, without clothes). Other stains it works on include stubborn stains on furniture and upholstery, mildew and mould from bathroom tiles and shower curtains, food stains from pots and pans, stains in toilet bowls, perspiration from clothes, scorch marks and animal urine stains in the carpet. Vinegar is also a great natural air freshener – placing a small bowl of vinegar in the room or spraying some into the air will deodorise a room filled with smoke or paint fumes.

Baking Soda

This is a wonder product that is again, woefully underused in the modern household. Like lemon juice, it is great for cleaning stainless steel items; it is also remarkably effective on tannin stains from tea and coffee in crockery and crayon marks from walls and wallpaper, just by gently scrubbing with a damp sponge sprinkled with baking soda. Baking soda mixed with lemon juice, vinegar or even just some water and made into a paste is a great all-purpose cleaner and stain remover. However, probably baking soda’s most famous property is its deodorising action – not only does it have the ability to absorb odours but it can neutralise them as well. Thus, it makes a great cleaner for the refrigerator and deodoriser for the dishwasher (sprinkle one-half cup baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher between loads), as well as masking any odours from pet stains and general odours in carpets.


Yes, you heard right! For many fresh food or blood stains, saliva actually works incredibly well as it contains enzymes that dissolve the organic molecules in the stain. Spit on the stain and then use your tongue or finger to loosen the mark. You can then rinse the area with cold water and blot dry. Remember to use cold water and not hot, as heat can set the stain. You can follow this treatment with soap or detergent and water.


This is a great stain remover for fresh blood and also for freshly spilt red wine – be generous with the amount poured on the stain as quite a lot may be required to absorb and lift the stain.


All commercial bleaches are very harmful to the environment as they contain powerful chemicals. One natural alternative is to use sunlight, which also has a strong bleaching effect. Wet the stained area and leave it outside in direct sunlight, when it dries – wet it again and keep repeating this, until the stain has disappeared. Note – a stain that might show faintly on a wet fabric will probably be invisible when it is dry.

Last points…

Remember when soaking items to fully immerse them, otherwise they can develop watermark stains. Squeeze as much air out of them as possible and if they are still floating, place a couple of bottles filled with water, to weigh them down. Remember also that sometimes, stains can be cleverly disguised with appliqué, embroidery or fabric paints – without resorting to the need for harsh chemical treatments.

The one treatment that is definitely very bad for the environment is dry-cleaning so this should be avoided whenever possible if you’re trying to “think green”. Many items which are labelled as “dry-clean only” can actually be washed if handled very gently and carefully.

Stain Removal ‘Do’s & Don’ts’:

Stains are an unavoidable fact of life and dealing with them – especially in a busy household with children and pets – can be almost a daily occurrence. It helps, therefore, to have a good grasp of the general way to treat stains – any stain – so as not to make things worse.


  • Act quickly – many stains can be easily removed when they are fresh but become very stubborn and occasionally, even permanent if allowed to dry or soak into the fabric (a good example is paint stains). You might feel it’s a nuisance to stop in the middle of a dinner party and leave your guests to deal with the spilt red wine but you will be glad you did.
  • Confirm exactly what kind of stain it is, so that you use the most effective solvent to remove it and also don’t inadvertently use a stain remover that might actually make the stain worse (eg. chlorine bleach on perspiration stains)
  • Try to guess the general category of the stain, if you can’t exactly identify the stain itself and examine the stain thoroughly before tackling it. For example, is it greasy? Does it smell of oil, paint or chemicals? Or does it smell like some sort of food or drink? Is it dry or wet? Has it penetrated the fabric or is it still lying on the surface?
  • Check what kind of fabric the stain is on – this can be very important to deciding the appropriate method of stain removal. A lot of stains can be removed in several ways but the some treatments can harm certain fabrics and thus will decide which option will be chosen. Certain synthetic fabrics – such as acetate – can be very vulnerable to a lot of chemical solvents.
  • Be prepared – always keep certain items handy which make good general stain removers. These include things like lemon juice, white vinegar, baking soda and bleach. It is also a good idea to have a good stock of kitchen towels handy. There are many commercial stain removers available, some very specific on the type of stains they can treat. It can be expensive to stock up on these, when many basic household items can be just as effective. However, a general dry-cleaning agent is a good investment, as is a ‘spot remover’ for carpets and upholstery.
  • Always use the mildest stain remover first – no need to go in with the big guns when a little bit of water might suffice! Only use stronger methods when the milder has failed and don’t forget that it may take some repetition and a lot of patience! Remember, the stronger the cleaning agent, the greater the chance of it damaging or fading your fabric.


  • Don’t panic! Stains will invariably happen at the most inconvenient times, often on the most important garments – but you will do better to calmly decide a removal plan and work through it systematically, than to just frantically attack the stain with anything that comes to hand – some of which might worsen the stain.
  • Don’t just rush in and start scrubbing madly – just because you should deal with a stain immediately does not mean you have to deal with it violently! There are very few instances where hard scrubbing is required. In many cases, slow gentle removal is far more effective and less damaging to the surface.
  • Don’t rush to treat mud stains – it is the one exception to the “act immediately” rule; with mud, it is best to leave it until it has dried whereupon it can usually be easily brushed off before normal cleaning.
  • Don’t immediately assume a fabric is washable – always check the care labels very thoroughly.
  • Don’t forget to spot-test! This is a very common mistake many people make in their rush to tackle a stain. Many stain removers and solvents can be just as damaging to a fabric as the stain itself and may leave a worse stain if used on the wrong fabric, so it is always worth your while to spot-test an inconspicuous corner (eg. under the hemline) first for colour-fastness before moving onto a larger area. This is especially important if you are considering using bleaches of any sort. For carpets and curtains, try to keep a few scraps so you can test them before tackling the stain in situ.

Finally, remember to take extreme care with the chemicals you are using – many can be very dangerous if misused. Solvents such as turpentine and white spirit are highly flammable and also toxic. Ammonia and bleach should never be mixed as this can cause a chemical reaction which produces lethal fumes. Make sure the area is always well-ventilated, try to avoid inhaling any fumes and wear protective clothing and eye gear if necessary. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep any chemicals carefully locked away, well out of the reach of children and pets.

Please Note: All of the above information was taken from ‘Stain Expert’ – for more information go to their website

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