Which stain remover to use?

  • Match the stain to the remover. Figure out which of the four broad categories the stain falls into: protein, tannin, oil-based or dye. You need to know which type of stain you are dealing with to select an appropriate product.
  • Treat the stain as soon as possible. If you do not have any stain removal products nearby, run cold water through the stain to rinse as much out as possible (don't rub the stain, just let the water run through the fabric).
  • Test the product beforehand. Many products recommend spot-testing on an discrete portion of the garment before using on a stain to ensure the product will not damage or discolor the fabric.
  • Follow the directions. Some products can damage fabric if they are left on for too long. Others must not be used on certain types of fabrics.
  • Be realistic about instant stain remover claims. Instant stain removers are the most controversial of the products we found. If a stain has had even a minute to set, the products may not work at all. Treating and laundering the item promptly, if possible, is a more reliable approach.
  • Dry-clean-only means dry-clean-only. Products bearing this label should be entrusted to the care of a professional dry-cleaner. Trying to remove stains yourself could permanently damage the fabric.

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