Here are DIY stain treatments that really work


There are a multitude of do-it-yourself stain removing tips on the internet. Many of them simply don’t work. So, I tried them to find out which DIY stain removers you can use to save your clothes from the rag drawer. 

For some of these, I consulted with Dan Miller, founder and CEO of Mulberrys Garment Care in Minneapolis and San Francisco for the best DIY stain remedies. “All you need to know is the type of stain that you have and you’ll be on your way to clean clothes,” Miller said.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Stain prep

Before you try any tip that requires dabbing or ironing, put a few layers of newspaper or paper napkins underneath the stain so it doesn’t go all the way through to the other side of the garment.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Combat plant stains with acid

“Any stain that comes from a fruit or plant, whether it is coffee, tomato sauce or wine can be removed with something in your home that is acidic,” Miller said. Vinegar or lemon juice, for example, are great at breaking down plant stains. 

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Lemon juice on coffee

Miller says to get rid of these pesky stains, just rinse with water, pour lemon juice or vinegar on the stain, let it sit for 5 minutes and then throw in the laundry machine. 

I tried lemon juice on coffee and the stain was gone. I didn’t even need to wash it. A rinse with cold water did the trick.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Get rid of egg stains with salt

Out to brunch and end up with egg on your shirt? All you need is salt and water to fix the mess at your table. Ask for a glass of water, add table salt and mix. 

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No more egg

Dab your shirt with a napkin to get off the excess egg. Then, dip another napkin in the saltwater solution and dab your shirt. When you get home, rinse the shirt with cold water. No more egg!

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Nail polish remover nixes ink and dye stains

“Ink or dye stains can be broken down with acetone, which is in most nail polish removers,” Miller said. First, make sure to test the nail polish remover on a small piece of the fabric to make sure the acetone won’t damage it. Then, use a small piece of sponge to dab the nail polish remover on the stain. 

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Stain, bye!

Once the stain begins breaking down, rinse the garment. I have to admit, this one made me wary. The acetone didn’t destroy the cotton tee I tried it on, and it really did get rid of the stain.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Steam water stains

I can’t tell you how upset I was when I took my kid’s baby clothes out of storage and found that they had yellow water stains. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. 

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Steam did the trick

Heat up some water in a tea pot and hold the stain over the steam. (You may want to wear oven mitts to keep your hands cool.) Then, rub the stain with a cloth. It will disappear like magic.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Use baking soda on animal stains

“Stains that come from animals or humans, such as blood, can be removed with alkaline substances,” Miller said. Baking soda or ammonia are alkaline, so if you have either one, you’re in luck. Rinse the stain with water and put a little baking soda or ammonia on the stain. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, throw the item in the laundry machine or wipe it down with a wet rag.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Baking soda worked

Luckily, my cat was in a hateful mood. I tried this tip on the mess she left on my mattress and it worked great. It also took away the urine smell. This is my favorite stain removing trick!

Don’t use this tip on silks or wool as these stain removers could break down the fibers, advises Miller.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Corn starch absorbs oil

A splatter of cooking oil on your favorite outfit is no problem. Grab some corn starch. The powder will absorb the grease.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET


Sprinkle the powder on the grease and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then, brush the powder away and wash the garment like normal. 

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Candle wax, an iron and alcohol

Candle wax can be one of the hardest stains to remove because you’ve got to remove the wax and then the dye along with the fragrance the wax leaves behind. First, cover the stain with a paper towel. 

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET


Then, rub a warm iron over the paper towel. Keep doing this with a new piece of paper towel until the wax is totally absorbed. Next, dab the spot with a little rubbing alcohol while the fabric is still warm. Finish up by hand washing it with a few drops of dish soap. Amazingly enough, this trick works great!

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

Use rubbing alcohol on marker

My kids loved coloring on themselves with markers. One good way to get marker out of clothing is to scrub it with rubbing alcohol. 

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Alcohol for the win

You may have to use a little elbow grease, but the stain will come right out. Afterward, you can wash the garment like you normally would.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET

It works with lipstick, too

Rubbing alcohol works with lipstick, too, you just need to do some prep-work first.

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Bye-bye lipstick stain

Sprinkle cornstarch on the stain and rub it in to absorb the oils in the lipstick. Then, scrub the stain with rubbing alcohol. Wash the garment like you normally would when you’re done.

Photo by: Alina Bradford/CNET


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