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Laundry tips to defeat 5 impossible stains

By Doug Frattallone, Contributing writer
Published On: Sep 04 2011 02:23:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 17 2013 11:54:15 AM CDT
Laundry basket

Stop it. Stop the guesswork on fighting those almost-impossible-to-get-out laundry stains.

We have the answers right here. Not the easy stains like grass or mud -- but the big boys.

The stains you see show up on your clothes and you say to yourself, "How in the heck am I going to get that one out? I'll have to toss this shirt!"

We'll have to thank the extension agents at Texas A & M University and Iowa State University for the bulk of the research, as well as a certain 83-year-old gal named Norma Laverne (after all, my mom knows everything).

A few points before we start. One, fight a stain as soon as possible. If a day goes by before you deal with it, good luck getting it out. Two, if a stain is on a garment that is "dry clean only," do the right thing -- take it to the dry cleaners.

With all that said, it's time to jump into the wash tub. Here are five super solutions to five super stains.

The first dirty word? It rhymes with "Oh my!

Red and white clothes in laundry

No. 5: Clothing dye

The Situation: Johnny, a freshman at college, never washed clothes in his life. He thought mixing red clothes with white clothes wouldn't be a problem. Wrong. The red dye in that snazzy polo shirt made a mess out of that white T-shirt.

The Solution: Johnny, Johnny, Johnny -- you knucklehead. But don't freak out, kid. There is a way out.

First, you want to rewash that shirt as soon as possible (when it's wet!) -- and don't dry it unless the stain is out. Drying ANY stain tends to send you down the road of never-get-it-out-ville.

Back to the shirt. Apply liquid detergent to that bad boy and work it into the affected area. Once you see that it's starting to fade, wash it with detergent and one cup of chlorine bleach. IF the shirt were anything other than white, you'd use a non-chlorine bleach.

You can also use a commercial color remover (Rit, for example), but make sure you follow the directions on the package.

Underarm deodorant

No. 4: Deodorant stains

The Situation: Ken wears a white shirt and tie to work every day. He also wears solid underarm deodorant to keep his cool while climbing the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, the underarms of his spiffy shirts now sport crusty yellow rings.

The Solution: Ken, don't blow your next raise on new white shirts. You can salvage your stained wardrobe right now.

First, you want to apply liquid detergent to that bit of nastiness and massage it into the fabric. After that, rinse it out and wash in warm water.

You could also pre-treat the pitted-out shirts with stain removers (like Shout). But if you do that, let them stand for at least five minutes before washing.

The key to all of this is to recognize the stain as quickly as possible. After a ton of washings and drying, aluminum and zinc salts may be almost impossible to remove.

Mechanic with greasy hands from oil

No. 3: Motor oil/grease

The Situation: Deborah Marie just finished rehabbing her Harley. She's in the garage getting the hog ready for the road, when she slips and drags her jean jacket across the chain. Grease is the word!

The Solution: Deb, you have a problem. You better act fast, or you can just hang that jean jacket in the garage -- permanently.

The first thing to do is work some detergent into that stain. It can be liquid detergent or a pre-wash stain remover. Just make sure you work it!

After you do that, wash the jacket in the hottest water that particular fabric can handle. Rinse, and take a good look at the stain before you toss the jacket in the dryer. If it's not removed completely, repeat the treatment.

If you only have powdered detergent on hand, mix it with water to make a runny paste -- and work that into the stain.

Blood stains on laundry

No. 2: Blood stains

The Situation: Ric, in his 10,000th pro wrestling match, decides to cut his forehead again with a razor blade at a match in Nashville. It's called "wearing the crimson mask" in the business. But that blood gets everywhere. In this case, on his pristine blue wrestling robe -- which has to look good for tomorrow night's match in Memphis.

The Solution: Ric, who has been around the block a few thousand times, knows exactly what to do.

The second he gets back to the hotel, he grabs his robe and tosses it in cold water. Blood is a protein stain, which needs to be treated before the garment is washed. If you use hot water, that cooks the protein -- making the stain more difficult to remove.

In the pre-wash stage, apply liquid detergent into the stained area first. When you're done, then go ahead and wash it in warm water with detergent.

If the blood is still there, don't dry it. That'll just set the stain. Instead, soak it overnight (in cold water) and try washing the garment again in the morning.

Paint-covered boy

No. 1: Oil-based paint

The Situation: Sal is covering a fence panel with green paint. Being 13 years old, he's not exactly careful. By the end of the exercise, his yellow shirt is spotted with emerald hues. His mother wants to wring his neck.

The Solution: It may seem impossible, but zapping an oil-based paint stain can be done. The key is speed. Once paint is dry, it cannot be removed.

While paint is wet, use turpentine or paint thinner to get it out as much as you can and then rinse. Next, you'll want to use a pre-wash stain remover to get more of it out -- and then you're ready to wash the garment.

For water-based (latex) paints, soak the shirt in warm water and heavy detergent before you ultimately throw it in the washing machine. Water-based paint is a lot easier to remove from clothes, but again, you have to move fast. If it dries, you're out of luck.