The ultimate A-Z list of useful stain removers

By | July 14, 2016

Useful Stain Removers

Whenever its time to fix a stain, the first thing that comes to mind is soap or detergent. But did you know that some of the most common household items that you use everyday can also be used as powerful stain removers. And those do not include soap or detergent.

They are readily available at your fingertips, are very cheap and many of them are natural and non-toxic too. Sure, many of us want to use our favorite commercial spot removers but if you are looking for something that is green and safe, then try out one of these.

1. Absorbent Powder

Absorbent powders help you absorb the “liquid” or wetness of a stain to either dry it up or remove it entirely. These include corn-starch, baby talcum powder, fuller’s earth, baking soda, bran etc.

Such powders are very useful in absorbing greasy stains on leather for example. They absorb the grease or oil very easily without affecting the underlying surface much. In a previous article here we talked about removing oil stains from leather.

2. Acetone

Acetone is one of the many chemical compounds that can dissolve stains and lift them out of a fabric easily. Acetone is available in pure form, or non-oily nail polish remover also contain acetone.

Acetone can be used to remove stains caused by synthetic chemicals like permanent markers, nail polish, paint etc.

However, keep in mind to never use acetone on fabrics made of acetate/triacetate. Acetone will “dissolve” those fabrics or in other words melt them. Also avoid it on other delicate fabrics like silk and wool. Also remember that acetone is an inflammable liquid, so use it in a ventilated place away from any fire or heat

3. Alcohol (isopropyl)

Rubbing alcohol is a powerful solvent that can dissolve a variety of stains like ink, permanent marker, blood, tea, coffee, acrylic paint and many others. Can be used on clothings, leather, carpets any many other places. Dilute it with water when using on special fabrics like silk or wool.

Rubbing alcohol should be used in a ventilated area with caution, as it is inflammable and also gives out fumes that should not be inhaled.

4. Ammonia

Ammonia solution is strongly alkaline, hence it can be used to remove stains that contain acidic, or greasy substance. It works well on dried stains of blood, perspiration, fruit juices, urine, ink etc.

Ammonia solution comes in many variants. Make sure to use only plain ammonia solution and not the sudsy or scented ones. Whenever using ammonia to clean, first do a spot test on some hidden part of the fabric to ensure that it is colorfast to ammonia and does not get bleached.

Also keep in mind, never to mix ammonia with chlorine bleach, which results in highly toxic chloramine fumes.

5. Baking soda

After vinegar, baking soda is the most useful household item for cleaning jobs. It is alkaline in nature and can be used to lift stains made of acidic or greasy substances. And it is non-toxic.

Use it to clean your kitchen sink, marble or granite countertops, carpets, bathroom tiles, porcelain bathtubs and washbasins, clogged drains etc. The abrasive nature of the powder rubs away the dirt and the alkaline property reacts with acid based dirt and grease to break them down and decompose.

It is effective in removing stains cause by soil and grass. It can also be used as a deodorizer for your basements.

6. Borax

Borax is another powder with properties similar to baking soda. It is alkaline in nature and can be used in cleaning just like baking soda. Use directly or mix with water to form a solution. Can be used to launder clothes better or remove stains.

7. Bleach stain removers

Bleach is a very strong cleaner and often used to treat very strong stains. It comes in many variants like chlorine based, oxygen based etc. Before using bleach on a fabric you have to first ensure that it is safe for the fabric. Using bleach on the wrong fabric can completely ruin the color or even the fibers.

Oxygen bleach is considered safer than chlorine bleach and can be used on a wider variety of clothes. But still check the label on the fabric to ensure that it is bleach safe.

8. Club Soda

Club soda ( carbonated water ) is found effective in lifting certain types of stains from clothings and carpet. If you do not have club soda, you can try using non-flavored soft drinks.

If there is a ink or wine stain on the carpet, sprinkle a little salt and pour some club soda over it. Then dab with a sponge and the stain should lift out. Club soda can be used on almost any kind of stain on any fabric. It helps loosen out the stain and prevent it from setting in.

9. Color remover

Color removers are special products that can help you lift dye stains from white clothes that were mistakenly washed with colored clothes that were not colorfast. Some popular brands include Rit Color Remover and Carbona Color Run Remover. You can get them at your local hardware store, or on amazon.

10. Cream of tartar

Cream of tartar (Potassium Bitartrate) finds use in some cooking recipes, but can also be used for household cleaning. It is “acidic” in nature.

Mix some of it with vinegar or lemon juice to prepare a paste. This can be used to clean metals such as brass, aluminum or copper and other surfaces like porcelain. It can also be used to treat food stains on clothes.

11. Enzyme based detergents

Bleach free and enzyme based detergents are the best choice for removing almost all kinds of stains from fabrics, carpets and upholstery. You could also use dishwashing liquid like Dawn or Joy.

Mix about a teaspoonful of liquid laundry detergent or dish washing liquid in about a cup of warm water and add a tablespoon of white vinegar. This powerful cleaning solution can be used to lift stains from fabrics and carpets. Use a sponge to dab the stain with this solution and afterwards launder as usual.

Dry cleaning solvent

Dry cleaning solvents are specifically formulated for non-washable fabrics. They are available as liquid spray or even powder. Ideally you would spray the solvent on the stain area and then let it dry. The stain will be gone.

There are a variety of different dry cleaners available. Each has a different chemical composition for different kinds of fabrics and stains. Some are made for carpets and upholstery, while some for delicate fabrics like silk and wool. So you need to get the right kind of dry cleaning solvent. Check out on amazon.


Glycerin has an effect similar to that of alcohol and acetone. It can soften or completely dissolve stains out of fabrics. Its effective on both food/oil based stains like mustard, turmeric and chemical based stains like paint, ink etc. Just spray glycerin on the stain and let it sit for few minutes. Then dab with a wet sponge and see the stain coming out.

Hair spray

Hair spray contains high quantity of alcohol which gives it the cleaning ability. It can be used in the same fashion as rubbing alcohol. Can be quite effective in removing ink, wine, blood stains from fabrics and carpets. However just like rubbing alcohol it is also inflammable and toxic. So make sure to use only in ventilated places away from any heat or spark.

Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has “bleaching effect” and can soften or loosen out stubborn stains that have dried for some time. Use it on stains caused by food items like oil, mustard or chocolate. Make sure to use 3-5% solution of hydrogen peroxide. Also test it on some inconspicuous part of the fabric to test the colorfastness.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice is nature’s bleach and disinfectant. It contains citric acid which acts as a cleaner. You can also add little salt to it to make a paste that is even more effective in removing the stains.

For white clothes, apply some lemon juice on the stain and hang in bright sunlight. The stain itself should evaporate. Or just pre-treat the stain with a paste of lemon juice and salt and let sit for about 30 minutes. Rinse it with fresh water and launder as usual.

Nail polish remover

Nail polish removers can remove stains other than those of nail polish. Try a non-acetone based nail polish remover first. It is less harsh on skin and fabrics.

Prewash stain removers

Prewash stain removers allow you to treat a stain before washing the garment. They come in spray or powder form. Apply on the stain and let it sit for few minutes. It removes the stain and then you can launder the clothes as usual. However be sure to read the instructions on the product and the label on the fabric. Popular stain removers are Oxi Clean, Shout Stain remover etc. All of them can be found on amazon.

Rust stain removers: Choose a commercial rust remover, available in supermarkets and hardware stores, or a 5% oxalic acid solution, which is available in pharmacies. Oxalic acid is poisonous, so always wear rubber gloves, rinse garments thoroughly to get rid of any traces of the rust remover, and avoid contact with skin and eyes. Always follow package directions carefully. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute recommends Rit Rust Remover (for washable white fabrics) and Whink Rust Remover (for colorfast fabrics).


Sometimes something as simple as salt can do a marvelous cleaning job. Mix with a lemon juice to prepare a paste. Use this paste to clear mildew stains from clothes. The same can be used to clean glassware and the kitchen sink.

If you just spilled wine on a carpet, sprinkle some salt on it and cover it. This will pull much of the wine out from the carpet and prevent it from setting in.

If you spilled somekind of sticky liquid or food recipe in the kitchen, use salt over to coagulate the liquid and remove it easily.


The plain white vinegar is perhaps the most useful cleaner for your home. It effective in lifting stains from clothings and carpets. Simply mix it with water and use directly over the stain. Or add a teaspoon of dishwash liquid to make it even more powerful. Plain white vinegar is widely available, is cheap and non-toxic.

Mix equal parts of vinegar with water and keep in a spray bottle. Vinegar is useful in cleaning water stains on utensils, glassware, bathroom tiles, faucets etc. Spray the solution and rub with a sponge. Avoid vinegar on stone surfaces like marble and granite.


Oils like turpentine are not meant to be used as cleaners but they can lift certain types of stain that are otherwise difficult to handle. These act as solvents and can easily dissolve stains caused by synthetic coloring compounds like paint, crayon, polish or even grease. Use it on wooden surface, laminate, glass, vinyl or even polyester jackets. Make sure to use very little of it.


So keep your favorite stain remover at hand and use it when ever you see something that needs cleaning. If you know any other useful cleaning aid, then let us know.

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