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Textiles: Stain Removal

The most sustainable action to take with stained clothing, drapery, floor coverings, and other textile products is not to recycle or throw them out and buy new ones, but rather to remove the stain and use them again. Many traditional stain removals contain solvents and chemicals that can be toxic and should be avoided.

Here described are other methods to remove everyday stains like coffee, tea, red wine, blood, pet stains, grease, grass stains, ketchup, or ink.

Try natural stain removers that will include rubbing alcohol, borax, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, baking soda, lemon or lime juice, table salt. An explanation of each of these products can be found here. A quick downloadable chart here describes many common stains and how to remove them, and this website describes in-depth more about the need for natural stain removals.

Here is a homemade stain removal recipe, and remember, you can always test on a small spot first if you are worried about removing the actual colors in your product.

Supplies:

  • Dish soap (ex: Dawn, the blue kind, is often mentioned – or your favorite all-natural dish soap)
  • Baking Soda
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Storage Container
  • Tooth Brush or other scrubbing utensil or paper

Instructions for Deep Set in Stains:

  1. Mix 1 part dish soap to 2 Parts peroxide in a container (ex. ¼ cup  and ½ cup)
  2. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of baking soda, enough to make a paste
  3. Using a toothbrush or other scrubber, rub stain remover into the stain on the front and, if possible, the back
  4. Let the item sit for 30 – 60 minutes, and then wash according to the care label instructions
  5. Ensure the stain is removed before placing it in the dry; dried-on stains are harder to remove
  6. Repeat the above process until the stain is gone
  7. Store the remaining cleaner in an airtight container in a cool place

Instructions for New Surface Stains:

  • Mix 1 part dish soap to 2 parts peroxide in a spray bottle container (ex. 1/2 cup and 1 cup)
  • Mix well
  • Spray on the stain and work it in using your fingers or a clean cloth until the stain disappears
  • Wash according to the care label instructions
  • Ensure the stain is removed before placing it in the dryer; dried-on stains are harder to remove
  • Store remaining cleaner in a cool place

You can always take your stained products to a local cleaner. But first ask what type of cleaning they do, wet or dry, and if dry cleaning what cleaning solvents are used. The most popular is called perc, short for perchloroethylene, a listed chemical by the state of California known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity.

Green dry cleaning, is a term used by cleaners that do not use perc, but use D5,  a silicone based solvent, often termed Green Earth Cleaning.  Click this link to find Green Earth location near you, by inserting your zip code in the search field.

Professional Wet Cleaning has been identified as an environmentally friendly and safe choice that uses mostly soap and water with specialized washers and dryers. These professional cleaners are soon to be appearing in more locations.

Produced in partnership with CPSC.

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