How to tackle each of the most stubborn household stains

Here's how to remove common household stains including coffee, blood, grass, wine, oil and fake tan

Stain removal tools

We’ve all been there before. You’ve just settled down for the evening, poured yourself a glass of red wine and before you’ve even had a sip, you’ve kicked it all over the brand new carpet. If it’s not wine, it’s something else – how many times have you eaten a bar of chocolate, and stood up to find the tiny chocolate shards have somehow melted into the seat of your new sofa?

Advertisement

You don’t have to be particularly clumsy to get yourself into a tricky situation with a stubborn stain.  Knowing how to treat the stain quickly – and effectively – however, can be the difference between saving your favourite top, sofa or newly laid carpet, and spending money on an expensive cleaning service.

If you’re battling with a stain, here’s our ultimate stain removal guide. Read on to learn how to get rid of mud, blood, chocolate, oil, toothpaste, and everything in between.

Stain type: coffee and wine

Coffee cups
Coffee cups ©Getty

Use a fluffy towel and carpet/ baby shampoo

How to If you spill a dark coloured liquid like coffee or wine,  you firstly need to soak up as much liquid as possible using absorbent towels. Apply pressure to the spill and turn or replace the towels regularly – it sometimes helps to apply more water using a small plant sprayer before repeating the blotting process.

Once you’ve done this, use a dilution of carpet shampoo and water (baby shampoo works if you don’t have any), again in the hand sprayer. Blot, then repeat the process as required. Leave six to eight sheets of kitchen towel on top of the wet carpet and leave overnight to dry. Finally, remove the towels and vacuum the carpet.

Top tip If you don’t have any carpet shampoo to hand, try flushing the area with soda water. The bubbles help to agitate the stain away from the fabric.

Stain type: blood

Use cold water and shampoo

How to For small amounts of blood, dab with cold water on a towel to remove as much as possible.

Then use cold water in a hand sprayer, and apply to the blood and repeat the blotting process.

When the stain starts to fade, you can use a dilution of carpet shampoo and water and then repeat the process until it’s completely gone.

Top tip Keep in mind that, in terms of hygiene, blood might need professional removal to ensure the area remains clean and safe. If you’re not sure, contact a professional.

Stain type: chocolate

Dark chocolate bar in chunks
Chocolate chunks ©Getty

Use a blunt knife or spoon, white spirit

How to It’s possible that chocolate stains can be a combination of both oil and water. Remove excess food first by carefully scraping with a blunt knife or spoon, then vacuum over the area.

Blot the stain with white spirit to remove any oil, then apply diluted carpet shampoo and blot out as much as you can.

Repeat the process as required, and leave sheets of kitchen towel on top of the wet carpet before leaving overnight to dry. Finally, remove the towels and vacuum the carpet.

Stain type: grass

Use spirit vinegar, warm water and liquid detergent

How to Begin by removing any excess grass or dirt from the area, but make sure you don’t inadvertently make the stain worse by rubbing it further into the fabric.

If it’s a particularly hardy grass stain, it will benefit from pre-soaking the area with a mix of spirit vinegar and two parts warm water for around 30 minutes.

If you don’t have these, soak the stain in cool water then sponge with liquid detergent. Rinse away and treat again, before washing on your usual cycle in the washing machine – and don’t forget to check out our guide to the best washing machines on the market.

Stain type: toothpaste

Toothpaste on a toothbrush
Toothpaste ©Getty

Use neat laundry detergent, water

How to check the toothpaste tube for ingredients like hydrogen peroxide. If it contains this, you’ll need to scrape away excess product with a knife and flush the area with water immediately, as the chemical could bleach your clothes or carpet.

If it doesn’t contain hydrogen peroxide, still scrape the area with a blunt knife before mixing a 10-pence-piece-sized blob of laundry detergent with half a pint of water. Use a white cloth to dab the mixture onto the stain, and blot the stain on the clothes or carpet. Repeat the blotting process and allow to air dry.

Stain type: mud

Use a vacuum cleaner, shampoo and kitchen towels

How to Allow the mud to dry, and then go over it with the vacuum cleaner on the lowest setting.

If there’s any residue left, use a dilution of carpet shampoo and water through the hand sprayer and blot and repeat as required.

Leave six to eight sheets of kitchen towel on top of the wet carpet and leave overnight to dry. Finally, remove the towels and vacuum the carpet.

Stain type: barbecue sauce, ketchup or mustard

Yellow french mustard bottle
Mustard ©Getty

Use cool, running water and detergent

How to Remove any excess sauce with a blunt knife to avoid the stain from spreading. Rinse the stain from the back (turn fabric inside out) using cool running water. Spread liquid detergent over the stain and leave for a few minutes before rinsing with cool water. Sponge the stain with white vinegar before rinsing again. Treat with a prewash stain remover then machine wash on your usual cycle.

Stain type: pet urine

Use white vinegar and water

How to Soak up as much liquid as possible with absorbent towels, apply pressure and turn or replace the towels regularly.

Mix two parts white vinegar and two parts water in a hand sprayer, apply it to the carpet and repeat the blotting process.

Once you’ve done this, use a dilution of carpet shampoo and water through the hand sprayer and blot, repeat as required.

Leave six to eight sheets of kitchen towel on top of the wet carpet and leave to dry. Finally, remove the towels and vacuum the carpet.

Stain type: sun cream

Sun cream on yellow background
Suncream ©Getty

Use bicarbonate of soda

How to As suncream is an oily substance, yet it can be a nightmare to get rid of from your clothes.

Your best bet will be using a chemical stain remover as this can cut through and lift the oils within the sun cream with ease, but if you don’t have any to hand, scrape off any excess cream using a knife and sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on the area.

Leave it to settle and absorb the excess oils and brush it off, before scrubbing the area with colourless washing up liquid. Wash and dry in the machine as normal.

Top tip If your top is white and you’ve washed and dried it but a slight yellowing remains, use laundry bleach to whiten in the next wash.

Stain type: make-up, nail varnish or fake tan

Use surgical spirit and a white towel

How to It’s difficult to know where to start with cosmetics as some are oily, some water-soluble and some a combination of both.

Start with white spirit or surgical spirit, apply it to a clean white towel and blot the stain. Remove as much of the stain as you can by turning or changing the towel, adding small amounts of spirit if required.

If the stain persists, proceed with a dilution of shampoo and water as above.

Stain type: egg yolk

Fried eggs
Fried eggs ©Getty

Use cold water and a credit card

How to Like with sauce, use a blunt knife or credit card to carefully scrape off the excess egg, before soaking the garment for around half an hour in cold water – this serves to soften and lift the stain.

Stain type: oil

Use white spirit

How to Treat any oily stains with white spirit – apply it to cloth, blot the stain and repeat as necessary.

Top tip Over-applying solvents such as white spirit can wear away the backing of a carpet, so be careful and rinse the area with water if need be.

Stain type: fruit juice or ice lollies

Lemons on a pink background
Lemons ©Getty

Use Borax Substitute

How to Fruit stains should be soaked in a solution of Borax Substitute for 15 minutes, before being washed on your usual machine wash. Something like watermelon is the perfectly refreshing summer snack, but if it’s not treated quickly, it can leave a permanent stain, so if you don’t have solution to hand, you’ll need to blot the stained fabric with a damp cloth before preparing it for wash.

The natural juices can be lifted by soaking in water – nice and simple! However, if it’s artificial colourings, try squeezing some lemon juice on it – the acid can play a part in breaking down the colouring.

When you wash, use a detergent that contains a lot of enzymes to be able to break apart the stain. If it remains, don’t dry the fabric –  simply hand wash it in warm water and oxygen-based bleach, before allowing to air dry.

Top tip With fruit juice, the secret is to keep the stain moist. If you’re dealing with a dark fruit stain that won’t seem to budge,  try soaking in white vinegar.

Stain type: pollen

Use sticky tape

How to Shake the garment to knock off most of the dust, being careful not to touch or rub the stain further into the fabric. Lift away pollen dust that is left with sticky tape, then wash as usual.

Stain type: avocado

Avocados halved
Avocados ©Getty

Use liquid laundry detergent and a clean toothbrush

How to Ah, avocado – the star of any alfresco brunch! If you’re unfortunate enough to drop a bit on yourself, you need to work quickly – it can be nearly impossible to remove if it dries due to the fat content. Rub it gently with liquid laundry detergent – pop some on a clean toothbrush to scrub if needed. Rinse and wash in the machine as usual.

Stain type: chocolate ice cream

Melting ice cream in a cone
Ice cream ©Getty

Use neat liquid detergent

Advertisement

How to Scrape off any excess using a blunt knife or credit card, then rinse in cool water under a running tap, from the back of the stain to try to push it out. Pour liquid detergent directly onto the stain and gently spread over the surface. Without rinsing, place in the washing machine and run on your usual wash.