How to Remove Old Stains From Clothes

Even if the stain is old, you still might be able to get it out if you try our techniques.

Published December 10, 2019
Woman Washing Stained T-Shirt

Even if you do all your laundry right, there are times when stains persist. Rather than throw away your favorite shirt, give a few of these home tricks a try on your set-in stains on baby clothes, pants and shirts. From ink to blood, learn how to get old stains from your clothes.

Getting Stains Out of Washed and Dried Clothes

At one point or another everyone has missed a stain. Now that missed blood stain has set right into the fibers of your son's favorite football jersey. While you might be looking at the garbage can with despair, take comfort in the fact that most stains, even hair dye stains, can be removed even after they've set in. That isn't to say that getting it out is going to be easy. It will take a bit of work. However, one of the great things about these methods is that they are natural enough to use even on baby clothes stains.

Stain Fighting Materials List

When it comes to old stains, you might need to try different methods for different materials. This means that you're going to need to have several materials ready for the stain fighting war.

collection of cleaning supplies

Vinegar and Baking Soda Power Punch

When it comes to versatile cleaners, you can't get more versatile than vinegar. The slight acid in vinegar is a stain treating master on even the toughest of stains. This method is very effect on most non-grease stains, working about 75-90% of the time. It will work best on stains that haven't dyed the material like ink or mustard. For this method, you'll:

  1. Fill an empty water bottle with straight vinegar.
  2. Completely saturate the stained area.
  3. Sprinkle baking soda over the area.
  4. Gently rub the mixture in to the fabric, respraying vinegar as necessary.
  5. Allow to sit for up to 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the back of the stain with cool water for a few minutes.
  7. Respray the area with vinegar.
  8. Fill a bucket or sink with about a gallon or so of water.
  9. Add a ½ cup of vinegar to the water and a couple tablespoons of laundry detergent.
  10. Allow the fabric to soak overnight.

Peroxide and Dish Soap to the Rescue

Removing stains like tomato sauce and mustard can be notoriously hard to remove once they have set in. For these, you might need something with a bit more stain fighting action. Since tomato and coffee can actually dye the fabric itself, this method might be a little less effective for getting those stains out. You are still shooting over 70% though. To get started, grab the Dawn and peroxide.

  1. In a spray bottle, you'll want to combine 1 parts dish soap to 2 parts peroxide. While Dawn is many people's go-to degreaser, you can try any dish soap.
  2. Saturate the entire area of the stain.
  3. With gloved fingers or a rag, rub the stained area.
  4. Let it sit overnight.
  5. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
brown coffee stain on light t-shirt

Baking Soda for Grease

Grease stains can be hard before they set into a fabric, but once they've been cooked in, it is even harder. This method is designed specifically for grease stains and has a pretty good success rate, but baking soda can also help remove butter stains from clothes. To banish that grease, you'll need to:

  1. In a spray bottle combine, 1 tablespoon of both glycerin and dish soap to 1.5 cups of warm water.
  2. Shake up the mixture.
  3. Spray the stain, making sure to soak the entire area.
  4. Let sit on the stain for about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Wash in cold water and add a tablespoon of baking soda to the load. This works to soak up any remaining grease.
  6. Hang to dry.

Acetone for Gum or Goo

Gum is never fun. Gum that has gone through the drying process is even worse. This method is effective for removing set in gum or goo on materials; however, it can bleach the color out of the area. So, you will want to proceed with caution.

  1. Add acetone (aka fingernail polish remover) to a cloth, preferably white.
  2. Rub the acetone over the goo until gone.
  3. Once all the goo is gone, launder as usual.

Pro tip: This can work great on dried glue stick too.

Knowing When to Give Up

If the stain is on your favorite shirt or something that you just bought, it is worth giving the stain removing methods a try. Stains like mustard, ink and red wine can be notoriously hard to remove. This is because they can actually dye the fibers of the material. Getting it out would require a bleaching process, which can ruin colored materials. Therefore, if the stain doesn't come up after a few tries, it might be time to throw in the towel. Additionally, clothing or fabric that is old or threadbare might not be worth the effort. That is, unless it is really important to you.

Stain Fighting Power

When it comes to stains, set-in stains are the worst to remove. However, with a little perseverance and hard work, most stains, even bleach stains, can be removed from clothes. If the first time fails, just give it another go. And it is important to realize when to throw it the towel.

How to Remove Old Stains From Clothes