Removing Stains: Tools & Techniques
This is your guide to tools and techniques required for removing stains. Stain removal doesn’t require a lot of elaborate tools. Here’s pretty much all you will need.
Brushes - A flat, medium-bristle brush and/or a collection of old toothbrushes, as well as a soft-bristle clothes brush.
Bucket - A clean, light-colored, nonmetallic bucket (2 gallons [7.57 liters] is a good size) with a secure handle and a pouring spout. It’s good for storing all other supplies, and may also be used for transporting water to treatment sites or for soaking washable items.
Cotton swabs - Use cotton swabs when you want to apply a small amount of stain-removal product to an inconspicuous place on a garment to test its reaction with the fabric.
Cloths - White, 100 percent cotton cloths are the most absorbent when blotting stains, but cotton/poly blends will work well too. Save your old T-shirts and worn-out towels for removing stains. They’ll work great.
Cup - A glass measuring cup (2- to 4-cup [470-940ml] capacity) for measuring ingredients in stain-treatment solutions.
Eye dropper - This handy tool lets you put a small amount of stain-removal solution exactly where you need it.
Measuring spoons - For measuring ingredients in stain solutions. These should be dedicated for use in the laundry/cleaning cupboard to avoid contaminating food items with cleaning products.
Paper towels - Use plain white paper towels for blotting – no colors or prints.
Scraping tool - This may be an old, smooth-bladed, dull table knife; a plastic spoon; a spatula; or another item that lets you scrape and lift solid and semi-solid materials up and off of a surface when removing stains.
Spray bottle - Useful for applying cleaning solutions, such as detergent and water, to carpets and upholstery. A spray bottle lets you control the amount of moisture without over-wetting the item when removing stains.
Squeeze bottle - This tool works like an eye dropper but is designed for bigger jobs.
Tub - A clean, light-colored, nonmetallic laundry “tub” for soaking washable items, so they don’t tie up your sink.
In addition to keeping your tools handy, it’s important to keep them clean. Rinse or wash everything you use after a stain removal effort so it’s ready to go the next time you need it.
The Techniques for Removing Stains
These ten stain-removal techniques are designed with three goals in mind: 1) to dislodge the stain from the fabric; 2) to avoid grinding the stain deeper into the fibers; 3) to treat the fabric gently so it retains its original look and feel. Stain Removal A-Z will tell you specifically which technique to use for which stain and which surface. Here are all the techniques you need to know for removing stains:
Blot - To lift out stains, saturate the area with stain remover. Wait one minute and then blot with a clean white cloth or paper towel. To keep the stain from spreading, begin blotting at the stain’s outer edge and work toward the center. Blot in an uneven pattern around the edge of the stain so you won’t leave a ring when the fabric, carpet, or upholstery dries. You can also use this technique to remove the excess stain before applying the stain remover.
Brush - Using a medium-bristle brush, gently flick the particles up and away from the fabric (like brushing crumbs off a table). For small areas, an old toothbrush works fine.
For dry, caked-on substances like mud and mildew, the goal is to remove the excess before treating the actual stain. A handheld vacuum works well to remove excess dry mud or flower-pollen stains without pushing them into the fabric.
If you are using an absorbent – such as cornstarch or talcum powder – to remove a greasy stain, apply the absorbent, let it sit a few minutes to absorb the stain, then gently brush away the residue.
On carpets and upholstery, brush first, before using any other method, to break up and remove as much dry material as possible. Vacuum up the residue before proceeding with the next stain-removal step.
Flush - Remove stains with this technique by transferring them from one surface to another. Start by putting a clean absorbent pad or a layer of paper towels, folded and refolded to at least a 1/8 inch thickness, underneath the spot. Using an eye dropper, a squeeze bottle, or a spray bottle, apply the flushing agent slowly so it is absorbed into the pad, taking some of the stain with it. Change the pad as soon as you see traces of the stain. In some instances, flushing is done by holding the stained fabric under the faucet and letting the tap water rush through it.
Freeze - This is usually the first step in removing stains that are soft, pliable, or gooey substances like chewing gum, rubber cement, and candle wax. Apply either cold water or an ice-cube, wrapped in a small plastic bag, to the stain. If the stained item is small enough, you can even pop it in the freezer for a few minutes. The goal is to harden the substance so most of it can be scraped off before additional treatment.
Presoak - This is an effective way to loosen heavy soils prior to laundering. You can do it in a basin, in the sink, or even in the washing machine. Of course, you need more than water for effective soaking! Choices include detergent, bleach, or a laundry product specifically designed for presoaking. Mix the soaking agent with water first and then add the item(s) to be soaked. Minimal soaking time is 30 minutes; maximum is usually overnight. (Longer and you run the risks of damaging the fabric’s color.) If you are dealing with protein-based stains (such as blood or egg), choose a product with enzymes. But don’t mix a detergent or presoak containing enzymes with chlorine bleach. The chlorine will deactivate the enzymes.
Pretreat - This term refers to applying a stain-removal product directly on individual spots or stains prior to washing. Products specifically formulated for stain removal come in spray, liquid, or stick form. But you can also make your own pretreatment product to remove stains by mixing granular detergent and water to form a paste and rubbing it into the spot. Liquid laundry detergent or a bar of soap can also be used to pretreat stains.
Scrape - For 3-D stains (think baby food, eggs, chocolate, melted crayon), the goal is to get rid of the excess before attacking the stain itself. Use a dull knife or the back of a spoon to gently remove the excess without harming the fabric, carpet, or upholstery.
Sponge - Place the stained item right side up over an absorbent pad. Using a clean white cloth dampened with the stain-removal product, gently dab the area so the stain migrates out of the fabric and onto the pad. To prevent re-staining the area, change the absorbent pad frequently. Sponging with clear water may also be used as a final step to “rinse” other stain-removal products from upholstery and carpeting.
Tamp - Tamping is a particularly effective technique for carpet and upholstery stains. It’s an up-and-down motion using a brush with bristles that are the same length. The goal is to break up the stain. Don’t confuse tamping with scrubbing. Scrubbing is a back-and-forth motion that may grind the stain further into the item.
Vacuum - When you need to get fine particles like pollen off fabric, carpet or upholstery while avoiding the risk of grinding them in further, then it’s time to pull out the vacuum cleaner. For removing stains of mold and mildew, vacuuming is the alternative solution when it isn’t possible to take the item outdoors for a good brushing.
Keeping the right tools on hand and learning these techniques will make removing stains hassle-free!
Stain Removal Tips
How to Remove Stains
Stain Removers A-Z
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