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If 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 conventional stain sticks and sprays to save clothes from being ruined. Yes, even friends who make their own deodorant, toothpaste, and laundry soap still use conventional stain removal methods.
And who could blame them, since many natural stain removal methods just don’t seem to work on tough stains.
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 Treatment 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.
Natural Stain Remover Supplies
First, you’ll need the following staples on hand:
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- White vinegar (I get several gallons at Costco)
- Baking soda (a big bag)
- Glass spray bottle
Optional, but nice:
- A laundry brush
- Sal Suds (amazing all-purpose natural cleaner)
- A pre-mixed natural stain remover (I recommend the one from Branch Basics or My Green Fills)
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.
If you’re wishing for an easy way to remember all of these treatments, see the convenient printable guide below!
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
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup Dr. Bronners Sal Suds (regular Dr. Bronners Liquid Castile Soap will not work the same way in this recipe)
- A 16-ounce glass spray bottle
Natural Stain Remover Instructions
- Put the water into the spray bottle.
- Add the Sal Suds.
- Place lid on bottle and swirl gently to combine.
- 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.
Add 1 tablespoon Sal Suds to a load of laundry as a natural stain-removing booster.
Stop Dryer Static Naturally:
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.
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….