Natural Stain Removal Guide (No Harsh Chemicals Needed!)

natural-ways-to-remove-laundry-stains

small Wellness Mama Stain Treatment Laundry Guide smallIf your house is anything like mine, laundry stains are a daily fact of life.

For many of us, laundry tops the list of household jobs we’d rather not do. In fact, its often voted the one job we’d gladly hire someone to help with if we could. Especially with small children, stains make laundry even tougher.

Even my most crunchy of friends will turn to Shout spray for laundry stains to save clothes from being ruined. Even friends who make their own deodorant, toothpaste and laundry soap still use conventional stain removal methods.

Why Use Natural Stain Removal Methods?

When you switch to natural cleaning, you can’t just spray it all with “Shout” and call it a day… so what to do?

Conventional laundry stain treatment solutions are some of the most toxic cleaning products available. They contain harsh detergents, solvents, chemicals like sulfates and parabens as well as a host of artificial colors and scents.

Borrowing some wisdom from my grandma’s era and the help of my professional stain creation experts (aka: my children), I compiled a helpful list of effective stain treatments for various types of stains. I keep this list handy for reference when I’m doing laundry. I’ve included a printable version (at the bottom of this post) in case it will be helpful to you too.

Natural Stain Removal Guide

Removing stains naturally takes a little more know-how and work than using a one-size fits all spray. When used correctly, these methods are highly effective (and you won’t have to keep the poison control number on hand!).

TIP: Always treat stains from the back, rather than the front, to avoid rubbing the stain in more.

How to Treat Different Types of Stains

  • Ink or Paint Stains: Soak in rubbing alcohol for 30 minutes or (ink only) spray with hair spray and wash out.
  • Tea or Coffee Stains: Immediately pour boiling water over the stain until it is gone, or if it is already set, scrub with a paste of borax and water and wash immediately.
  • Grass stains: Scrub with liquid dish soap or treat with a 50/50 Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) and water mix
  • Mud stains: Let dry and brush off what you can, then scrub with a borax/water paste and wash immediately
  • Tomato Based Stains: Treat with white vinegar directly on the stain and wash immediately.
  • Dingy Whites or Underarm Deodorant Stains: Soak the stain directly in a mix of 50/50 hydrogen peroxide and water for 30 minutes and then add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the wash water. For really tough yellow stains, make a paste of 3% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and rub into the stain. Leave on for 5 minutes before laundering.
  • Other Food Stains: Treat with a mix of 50/50 Hydrogen Peroxide and water and soak.
  • Grease and Oil Stains: Sprinkle the stain with dry baking soda to remove any loose oil or grease and brush off. Then, soak in undiluted white vinegar for 15 minutes, rinse and scrub with liquid dish soap before washing
  • Vomit, Urine, Poop, Blood, Egg, Gelatin, Glue or other protein based stains: DO NOT WASH IN WARM WATER!!!!! This will set in the smell. Soak in cool water and then wash with an added mixture of 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 cup baking soda in the washing machine.

How to Handle Really Tough Stains

When I encounter stains that don’t respond to the methods above, I’ll use stronger products that still contain natural ingredients. My favorite is Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, which gets an “A” from the Environmental Working Group, and which is an amazing all-purpose natural cleaner.

It can be used directly on really tough stains in a pinch, though I prefer to make a natural stain spray:

How to Make a Natural Stain Spray

The closest non-toxic alternative I’ve found to stain removal sprays is this homemade version. It takes under two minutes to make, and can be kept by the washing machine for easy use.

Natural Stain Remover Ingredients

Natural Stain Remover Instructions

  1. Put the water into the spray bottle.
  2. Add the Sal Suds.
  3. Place lid on bottle and swirl gently to combine.
  4. Spray on stains before laundering to help remove even tough stains.

Other Natural Laundry Tips

On the go stain removal:

My Homemade Baby Wipes can be kept in a small Ziplock bag and make a great pre-treat spot remover on the go.

Laundry Booster:

Add 1 Tablespoon Sal Suds to a load of laundry as a natural stain removing booster.

Stop Dryer Static Naturally:

Make your own natural dryer sheets or use wool dryer balls to remove static without the need for disposable dryer sheets. (Tutorials for both here)

DIY Laundry Soap:

Making your own laundry soap is a great way to save money and avoid artificial fragrances and harsh chemicals. Try these homemade laundry soap recipes, or use this modified version if you have an HE washer.

wellness mama stain removal guide for laundry

Here is a printable version of the infographic above: Click to download.

What’s your best natural stain treating trick? Please share below! My kids could put it to the test….

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  1. Rust stains on fabric, squeeze lemon or lime juice on stain and sprinkle with salt, lay garment in the sun, and presto! stain gone, works every time. ( In some cases a repeat treatment may be needed.)

  2. I was just talking to a good friend of mine last night about natural stain removers! She had asked what I used, since I use a homemade laundry detergent, and I told her I didn’t use anything (because I don’t!). But I’m weeks away from having my first child and I know stains are going to become a very regular part of my life. So this was 100% timely and you better believe I directed her to your blog! Now we’ll both have a wonderful resource for natural stain removers.

    And what a great gift it would be for a natural mom-to-be to wrap a cute basket containing all the products on the list and including a laminated sheet of the outline! Thank you so much for this!

  3. Peroxide, vinegar and baking soda. A complete laundry room stain fighting team!

  4. Shucks, I really want to download and print your pdf, but for some reason when I click on the link it won’t load, it just shows me a blank screen. 🙁

    • I am having that problem, too.  I am new to the home made cleaning stuff, and so would like very much to have this as a reference.  Thanks!

    • I had the same issue…for me I just had to wait while my computer opened the PDF in Adobe. It opened outside my browser. I don’t know if this is what you are experiencing but thought I would share.

      • Same problem here. I just right-clicked on ‘Copy Image’, minimized the screen, opened Word and Paste(d) it there. Then copied. Super easy!

  5. I use Lighter fuel on grease and oil stain.

  6. anyone know how to treat mold stains on clothing (dont ask how they got there because i have no idea!) just washing in the laundry did nothing.

    • Tea tree oil works wonders on mold. I would add a teaspoon of it to your laundry when the washer is full of water and try that. I use it in my laundry that smells musty or when my son (potty training) has an accident.

      • It kills the mold, but the stains remain. I know. Have tried it MANY times with no good results. mold stains STILL there!

    • Oil of cloves is great for killing mold. I use some on a leather jacket worked great so I also tried it on damp shoes where mold had started to grow worked really well

    • On white fabric use peroxide, vinegar or lemon and hang in the sun.

  7. I find that blood stains should be treated immediately with peroxide if at all possible or as soon as possible. even if its just poured on and left to sit without further scrubbing with laundry soap and possibly more peroxide if needed. I feel this tip is more relevant to women for menstrual reasons….gross I know but SO COMPLETELY RELEVANT. lol the quicker blood is treated the better the result of it ALL coming out instead of all but the outside ring or leaving a brown stain behind.

    Also the statement of not ever using Hot water on urine is EXTREMELY important of cat and dog urine! So remember when carpet shampooing!! The heat will bond the proteins in urine to the carpet fibers or fabric & you’ll NEVER get it out completely. Even if you catch it right away and after cleaning can’t smell it yourself rest assured the dog and cat will. just word to the wise.

    • For blood stains, use soap (bar soap or liquid) and cold water and scrub the stain. Very simple and it works! Then just throw it in the laundry.

    • I find for urine stain and smell, a half cup of white vinegar in the wash works wonders!

    • I worked in the medical field back when everyone wore white. Straight hydrogen peroxide on blood is a true garment saver!

    • Spit works the best on blood stains. Yup, I said it, spit. The enzymes digest the blood.

    • I’m an RVT. One of the best things I ever accidentally learned at work – Cold salt water or plain saline is the best thing to remove blood stains. It has to do with biology. The salt breaks the cell membranes and releases the hemoglobin, which is what makes the blood red. Works 100% better than peroxide, which only bleaches the stain. Because blood isn’t a homogenous sustance like paint, it’s a suspension of solids cells in plasma. This works best on fresh stains, but I have had some success working with old stains as well. The type of salt doesn’t really matter, I just throw a handful into 2 qts cold water and swish to dissolve, then throw my laundry in. The salt water acts like a lysing agent, so it breaks the cell membranes and then a little light rub, rinse, launder, done. Even better, if you are a medical professional like me, something that you always have nearby is saline, ringers or lrs for fluids. All of which work as well.

  8. Help!! I spilled some of my morning lemon water (that I put coconut oil in) on my car seat. 🙁 I read above that you soak oil stains in white vinegar then scrub with dishsoap before washing. Obviously I can’t throw the car seat in the washer… should I still follow the same process? Rinsing as well as possible?

    • Yes, but I’d dilute the vinegar and use a microfiber cloth to clean/dry if you have one…

  9. I had a bar of lye soap that I picked up at a state park that was demonstrations on soap making, etc. You rubbed a little on the stain and it worked wonders! Wish I had bought more! Making my own soap is on my to-do list.

  10. Hi, I wanted to ask if the hydrogen peroxide you’re referring to is the 3% one you get everywhere, or is it something else? (maybe more concentrated)
    Thanks

  11. Any recommendations on treating wood floors with cat urine stains/odor? I’m concerned the hydrogen peroxide, recommended for laundry, might lighten the wood in the treated area.

  12. For any fruit stains pour super hot water on it. My niece spilled a lot of Welches Grape juice on my mothers very light carpet. My mom boiled a kettle of water and poured it on the stain. We watched in amazement as the stain disappeared before our eyes!

    • Would that work for avocado? Especially if had a chance to sit in the laundry basket a few days. I didn’t treat it immediately and I’ve rubbed it with stain remover a few times, washed once in cold water, but have not put it in the dryer. My youngest, who is now 6, is quite a messy eater and player. i don’t always catch her stained clothes.

  13. i have a spaghetti meatball stain on my beige carpet double whammy grease and tomato stain how would you recommend getting it out

  14. What about stains that have already been washed as I have tried unsuccessfully to remove them! They look kind of like greasy type stains.

  15. I am new to natural laundering, and I seem to have acquired several blotchy commercial fabric softener stains on my (particularly light-colored) clothes… Any advice?

  16. I know this sounds kinda gross, but saliva naturally breaks down blood particles/stains. I work in theatre, and actors & crew members often get hurt leaving blood stains on their garments. A fast, free and effective solution without hurting the garment is to use saliva and a soft tooth brush. Works best when stain is fresh, but with a little extra scrubbing, more set in stains can be removed too.

  17. If it is your own blood and you immediate put your own spit on it and rub it will come out. Also, just running it through cold water for a bit helps too. Both of these methods are effect if the blood isn’t dried on yet.

  18. Anyway to get the link to the infographic put back? It isn’t linked to the “click here” statement.
    Thanks! LOVE your blog!

  19. My husband gets a dirty line around the collar of his work clothes, where it rubs at his neck. His uniform is a medium/light blue color. What would you suggest to get this out?

    • Try shampoo-squirt it on the stain and rub the fabric together to work it in, let it sit a while, then launder. It’s typically “runoff” from our hair that makes that ring around the collar.

  20. I bought the magnesium flakes to be able to make my own magnesium oil, can it be applied to the face to remove dead skin & improve the skin ?

  21. Do you use this on your cloth diapers or do you use something else?

  22. Hi there,

    can you please clarify what percentage peroxide you need to use? just the liquid type- hydrogen peroxide 3% from the chemist?

    thanks!

    • Thanks and you say to soak….. In what exactly??

      How old can the food stain be for it to work?

      Thank you

  23. Do you have anything that would remove a mould on clothing?

  24. Hairspray??? How is that natural?? Yes, it is fantastic for removing ink stains. But…?

    One of the best things for blood stains is the saliva of the person whose blood it is. That’s right – spit on it. Really well. Then rub the stain, and wash as soon as possible in cold water with a mild soap. Other people’s saliva works too, but not nearly as well. It’s an enzyme thing, apparently. Even works on old blood stains, but not as well as on fresh.

  25. Any advice for mustard stains? That’s my worst laundry problem.

  26. Love your page, so many interesting information. Congratulations

  27. Hello there. I have one question: does the hydrogen peroxide need to be food grade?
    Many thanks in advance for your reply.

    • No… I haven’t seen that distinction before. I don’t think it would hurt, though.

  28. My mother always poured boiling water through red or blue fruit stains, and it works, even when the stain has dried. Suspend the stain over a bowl and depress the center of the stain slightly, then pour it away.
    I am still looking for the answer to banana stains.

  29. Hello,

    I would like to reference you in my ebook on different stain removers that I have tried (and worked at that). Could you let me know if that is okay? Thank you!

    • I don’t allow my posts to copied or repurposed, but you can quote something I’ve said and link back to the original post.

  30. Sunlight removes most food stains, & stains from dirty diapers, spit up & formula. Set the clothing out in the sun & watch the stain disappear completely in a very short time.

  31. Any advice on removing breastmilk throw up stains or breastmilk poop stains – primarily from clothes? Thanks for all of your help/advice.

    • I use some Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds diluted in water 1:9 ratio sal suds and water.

    • Wash clothes with breast milk spit up and poop stains and hang or lay to dry in the sun. The sun will bleach out most of those stains.

  32. Homemade bar soap works great. I just make it wet and rub it on the stain like a stain stick.

  33. Any ideas for turmeric stains? My children love curry but without fail they always spill everywhere and the stains are horrible.

    • I would try treating it with the recipe under “other food stains” or even the one for coffee.

  34. I use the boiling water trick with fresh berry stains. I pull the stain tight over another container, like a glass or metal bowl, depending on the size of the stain I either hold it with my hand or tie it with a rubber band or bread tie, then set it in the sink and pour boiling water through it. The water cooks the stain and it falls right out.

  35. Just cleaned out the oven with a mix of white vinegar & bicarb. Worked a treat, in fact, it was quicker than the chemicals in the cans. Will never use that horrid oven cleaner from the store again.

  36. How bout stain from other garment? I find it very difficult to remove the stain

  37. I am in the process of writing a homeschool high school Home Ec curriculum and wondered if you would give me permission to use your pdf in the book. I will give you credit for it and not alter the pdf at all. Thanks so much for your consideration! Love your blog!

  38. I found what looks like some kind of grease stain on a pair of cotton shorts when I got them out of the dryer. ? Have no idea what I apparently sat in. Is there anything that would work or is it a lost cause?

  39. Does the hydrogen peroxide not discolor the colored clothes?

  40. Can you help me in removing stains of turmeric?

  41. Stupid question.. will treating the stains with hydrogen peroxide bleach my clothes? Like can I use that method on a good red or black shirt?? Same for all other treatments above, all safe regardless of clothing color? Borax, lemon juice?

  42. Any ideas for mildew stains?

  43. At a sleepover one of my boys’ friends went to sleep with pink gum in their mouth. It ended up on our white t-shirt sheets & the comforter cover. I didn’t know what to do with it, so it sat (& sat…) Finally I read to heat a cup of vinegar to nearly boiling, then pour over the gum area or use a toothbrush to dip in the vinegar & gently scrub. (stinky, but effective) I poured it over the sheet in a plugged sink, then gently scrubbed. It disappeared with no lingering stain. It was like magic. Keep this one in your arsenal!

  44. Any tips for a beeswax stain? I scraped off the chunks, then used the ironing through paper method to get as much out as possible, but there’s still a dark stain. It looks oily, so I thought I’d try soaking in vinegar and washing (warm? Hot? It’s an organic bamboo jersey fabric I’d hoped to sew with…). Ideas welcome!!

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