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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:
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.
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….
Discussion (102 Comments)
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.
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…
I never get to stains right away. What’s the best way to clean stains that have already dried or even when they’ve been through the washer and dryer already before you notice them? Also could I use the sale suds as just a one stop stain remover for all stains? Laundry stains seems to be one of the few things I just can not seem to find a way to get rid of no matter how hard I try.
I use Branch Basics to help get rid of them…
I can’t get Branch Basics in Canada ? Also I meant to write this under a new comment not under someone else’s ?????
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.
I’m new to using natural cleaning products.. New like I haven’used but laundry soap and shampoo.
My daughter has sensitive skin like most children with Down syndrome and when she started her monthly 2 years ago she would be on for 16-18 days super heavy off for 2-4 days and then just repeat so naturally she would leak at school becUse they we just not fast enough. I was buying new packs panties every week. I finally figured out that Clorox 2 poured on the spots worked wonders. Then one wekend her dad had her and did no pretreat anything. I tried anyway. Cold water to rinse the panties and poured clorox 2 on them on both sides and let them sit for a half hour. Put them in wash right after and they came out perfectly clean. So as a back up know clorox 2 works.
Im here now researching because she was just diagnosed with asthma and my mother is moving in and has it too. But I have several auto immune diseases and Im on immune suppressants and low dose chemo. My daughter was also diagnosed twith an immune deficiency and has to take daily low dose antibiotics to help keep her healthy. I need to keep us all healthy. This year alone we all have been in the hospital multiple times and each at least once kinger than a month. We are super careful with our diets and also who we go around. My home is always clean but now I need to clean everything without causing ashtma atacks .
Oh and plastic baby dolls and barbie dolls can be cleaned easily with any generic acne cream and sun.
It removes the grungy dirt and even sharpie, markers and ink pens. All you need to do is wipe the dog down with a wet cloth with just plain water dry her off put the acne cream on it wherever it needs to be cleaned up be careful of any makeup on nose lips that were Factory put on because the acne cream can take those off I went to my local CVS and bought the small tube of CVS acne spot cream but any general acne cream will do and it’s just the cream that you put on if you have like one pimple and you just put that cream on there and then what you want to do is put quite a bit on play the dog out on a towel or something in sunlight and make sure it’s hot outside but you want to have her in direct sunlight and after two hours do a spot check in and then just keep checking on her every 2 hours. I bought my daughter and Elsa plastic doll from the Disney Store and she was about $40 my nephew came over two weeks later and TV Guide actual blue black and red Sharpie marker all over her face I searched online found this and I tried it and after four and a half hours all the Sharpie was gone there was a little bit of black m around her peoples but I didn’t put any of that anything there because the pupils and staff were painted on to the doll and I didn’t want to remove that but it came off of all the little crevices in the ear her face even the little crevices in her nose and it was it was just so super easy.
Thank you for reading my novel I always end up having comments that are long because I can’t type anymore so it talk to text and you always seem to talk more than you would actually type out if anybody has any ideas on what I could do for cleaning either if you want to come in here that’s fine I just found this page and I don’t actually own a computer if so I’m trying to access it by my phone if it becomes an issue I will give out my email address because I really do need some help I can’t have my mom and my daughter in the hospital just because I need to mop the floor thank you all
remove lipstick stains from clothes with milk 🙂
remove red ink stains with cold milk also. :0)
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.
I use Lighter fuel on grease and oil stain.
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!
Peroxide, vinegar and baking soda. A complete laundry room stain fighting team!
How much of each? Work on stains from puddles?!
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!
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.)