How to Remove Stains Naturally from Clothing

How to Remove Stains Naturally from Clothing


Stains on clothes are a fact of life, they will happen.

Later on we will give you our top tips for naturally removing stains. But first, let's understand what we are dealing with.


Why do clothes stain?

Clothes have a tendency to stain because they are made from fabric, which is made up of millions of tiny fibers. These create the perfect gaps for a stain to seep into.

On top of which, many natural fibres are themselves porus. Stains can be removed with just water and detergent if acted on quickly, before the stain has a chance to seep deeply into fibers.

However, if it becomes chemically bonded to the fibres, which can happen if heat is applied such as via sunlight, iron, tumble dryer etc. You basically have two options:

  • Dissolve the stain - With some sort of solvent and flush it out. Depending on the materials the solvent may end up damaging the fabric as well, or
  • Bleach the stain - Bleaching is the act of breaking down the chemical bonds of the stains chromophore, the molecules responsible for its colour. Again, this might also damage the fabric by destroying the colour of the fabric as well as the stain.

Stain removal basics

No matter what type of stain you are trying to remove there are some basics you should always adhere to:

  • Don't delay - Don't let a stain set in, as soon as it happens you need to act. Even the best stain removers will have a hard time once a stain has been absorbed and allowed to dry.
  • Don't apply heat - Any source of heat could result in the stain chemically bonding to fibres, exactly what you don't want. This is especially true of organic stains like, milk, eggs and blood
  • Blot, don't rub - Rubbing will spread the stain around to other fibers. It is much better to blot so that you at least keep the stain contained to one area
  • Checks your labels - Certain garments may advise against using certain chemicals or washing temperatures, best to always check the label. For more on this check out our guide on washing label symbols.

Natural stain removers

Let's run through some of the best stain removers out there. As mentioned there are 2 ways to go, dissolve the stain with a solvent and flush it out or bleach the stain so you can no longer see it.

Water - Basic solvent - Heat can set stains so use cold water. What you are trying to do here is flush out the stain from within the fibres, therefore if you can, it's best to completely submerge your garment in water so you can tackle it from every angle.

If you are out and about and this isn't an option, blot the stain as much as you can. Remember, don't rub as this will spread the stain into other fibres.

Vinegar - Mild solvent - Vinegar is a mix of water and acetic acid (normally no less than 4%) and a much more effective solvent than water. As you will want to use it sparingly, blot the stain rather than submerge it.

Rubbing alcohol - Excellent solvent - Great at penetrating deep into fibres and removing stain causing molecules. Especially effective at removing oil based stains. If you don't have rubbing alcohol, try using Vodka instead!

Sunlight - Light bleaching effect - The UV rays from sunlight do a similar job of breaking down the chemical bonds responsible for colour as bleach, although on a much smaller scale.

You have probably seen this effect on a poster or sign that has been in shop window too long

Lemon Juice - Mild bleach - Citric acid, naturally present in lemon juice, is an oxidizer and therefore a natural bleaching agent. Best used on whites, apply to the stain and let it sit for a 30 min before washing as normal.


So there you have it a quick and dirty guide about how to remove stains naturally.

Andy Smith
Andy Smith

Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks


Related Posts

How to clean a washing machine naturally
How to clean a washing machine naturally
While there are lots of complex, specialised cleaning products on the market, nothing beats the natural cleaning powe...
Read More
Spend less time doing laundry - Time-saving laundry hacks
Spend less time doing laundry - Time-saving laundry hacks
Doing laundry isn't one of the most exciting things in the world. So here are a few tips on how to get it done quickl...
Read More
Clothes washing symbols explained! A guide to washing instruction labels
Clothes washing symbols explained! A guide to washing instruction labels
So you want to keep your clothes in tip top shape do you? Say goodbye to shrunk woolly jumpers and discoloured shirts...
Read More