Homemade Stain Removal Solutions

Eradicate life’s little messes and erase tough stains.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Can’t tell what that stain is? Still want to remove it? Try this sure-fire remover: Mix a teaspoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide with a little cream of tartar or a dab of non-gel toothpaste. Rub the paste on the stain with a soft cloth. Rinse. The stain, whatever it was, should be gone.

See more uses for Hydrogen Peroxide.

Meat Tenderizer

Try a little tenderness to remove protein-based stains like milk, chocolate, and blood from clothes. For fresh wet stains, sprinkle on enough meat tenderizer to cover the area and let it sit for an hour. Then brush off the dried tenderizer and launder as usual. For stains that are already set, mix water and meat tenderizer to make a paste and rub it into the stain. Wait an hour before laundering as usual.

See more uses for Meat Tenderizer.


Let’s face it: Pouring detergent or stain remover onto a soiled garment is often a hit-or-miss proposition — and when you miss, it usually involves grabbing the paper towels to soak up a spill. Make life easier for yourself. Use a small paintbrush to apply liquid stain remover to dirty shirt collars and such. It’s neater and a lot more accurate.

See more uses for Paintbrushes.

Sandwich and Freezer Bags

If you’re planning a trip to a friend’s beach house and think you’ll be doing a few loads of laundry while you’re there, premeasure some detergent in a bag that you can pour out when the time comes. Beats lugging a big box of detergent down to the shore.

See more uses for Sandwich and Freezer Bags.

Spray Bottles

An empty spray bottle can always be put to good use around your laundry room. Use clean, recycled bottles to spray water on your clothes as you’re ironing. Or fill a spray bottle with stain remover solution so that you can apply it to your garments without having to blot up drips.


Removing a stain can be a pain, especially one that has soaked deep down into soft fibers. To remove those deep stains, try using a soft-bristled nylon toothbrush, dabbing it gently to work in the stain-removing agent (bleach or vinegar, for example) until the stain is gone.

See more uses for Toothbrushes.


  • To eliminate a fresh grease spot on a suede jacket or skirt, gently brush it with a soft toothbrush dipped in white vinegar. Let the spot air-dry, then brush with a suede brush. Repeat if necessary. You can also generally tone up suede items by lightly wiping them with a sponge dipped in vinegar.
  • You can lift out many water-soluble stains-including beer, orange and other fruit juices, black coffee or tea, and vomit-from your cotton-blend clothing by patting the spot with a cloth or towel moistened with undiluted white vinegar just before placing it in the wash. For large stains, you may want to soak the garment overnight in a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part cold water before washing.
  • Older, set-in stains will often come out in the wash after being pretreated with a solution of 3 tablespoons white vinegar and 2 tablespoons liquid detergent in 1 quart (1 liter) warm water. Rub the solution into the stain, then blot it dry before washing.
  • Cola, hair dye, ketchup, and wine stains on washable cotton blends should be treated as soon as possible (that is, within 24 hours). Sponge the area with undiluted vinegar and launder immediately afterward. For severe stains, add 1-2 cups vinegar to the wash cycle as well.
  • To remove a rust stain from your cotton work clothes, moisten the spot with some full-strength vinegar and then rub in a bit of salt. If it’s warm outdoors, let it dry in the sunlight (otherwise a sunny window will do), then toss it in the wash.
  • Somehow or other, kids often manage to get crayon marks on their clothing. You can easily get these stains off by rubbing them with a recycled toothbrush soaked in undiluted vinegar before washing them.
  • Are you tired of seeing those old sweat rings around your shirt collars? What about the annoying discoloration along the edges of your cuffs? Give them the boot by scrubbing the material with a paste made from 2 parts white vinegar to 3 parts baking soda. Let the paste set for half an hour before washing. This approach also works to remove light mildew stains from clothing.
  • Want to see those sweat marks disappear from shirts and other garments? Just pour a bit of vinegar directly onto the stain, and rub it into the fabric before placing the item in the wash. You can also remove deodorant stains from your washable shirts and blouses by gently rubbing the spot with undiluted vinegar before laundering.
  • Did someone in your house come home with a leaky pen in his pocket? Treat the stain by first wetting it with some white vinegar, then rub in a paste of 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts cornstarch. Let the paste thoroughly dry before washing the item.
  • Whether you nick yourself while shaving, or receive an unexpected scratch, it’s important to treat the stains on your clothing as soon as possible; bloodstains are relatively easy to remove before they set but can be nearly impossible to wash out after 24 hours. If you can get to the stain before it sets, treat it by pouring full-strength white vinegar on the spot. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes, then blot well with a cloth or towel. Repeat if necessary, then wash immediately.See more uses for Vinegar.

Window Cleaner

If laundering with detergent isn’t enough to get tough stains such as blood, grass, or tomato sauce out of a fabric, try a clear ammonia-based spray-on window cleaner instead. (It’s the ammonia in the window cleaner that does the trick, and you want uncolored cleaner to avoid staining the fabric.) Spray the stain with the window cleaner and let it sit for up to 15 minutes. Blot with a clean rag, rinse with cool water, and launder again. A few tips:

  • Do a test on a seam or other inconspicuous part of the garment to see if the color runs.
  • Use cool water and don’t put the garment in the dryer until the stain is completely gone.
  • Don’t use this on silk, wool, or their blends.
  • If the fabric color seems changed after using window cleaner on it, moisten the fabric with white vinegar and rinse it with water. Acidic vinegar will neutralize alkaline ammonia.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest