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Treatments Remove Frustrating Stains
By Bethany Waldrop Keiper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A spot or stain on a favorite piece of clothing can be one of the most frustrating sights in the world.
Fortunately, with the proper treatment, many stains can be removed, said Dr. Everlyn Johnson, extension clothing and textiles specialist at Mississippi State University.
To help consumers keep their clothing stain-free, Johnson provided suggestions taken from the stain removal guide published by the Cooperative Extension Service at MSU.
The stain-removal publication also is located on the Internet and was featured earlier this year in an article in The New York Times. The guide lists specific treatment for about 50 different stains.
Johnson said determining the type of stain is important.
"Fortunately, all stains fit into one of five cleaning categories -- wet, dry, combination, special, or unknown," Johnson said. "Each type needs a different treatment for the best results."
Many times consumers treat a stain the wrong way or simply give up on the garment and commit it to the trash or the bottom of the closet.
Statistics from Rit brand dye and fabric treatments indicate the stains that most commonly send garments packing include grease or oil stains, color bleeding, ink, rust, blood, grass stains and food stains from tomato sauce, ketchup and mustard.
To prevent this, first determine whether the garment with the stain should be washed or dry cleaned.
"If the garment can be washed, decide which type of stain it has, and treat it accordingly," Johnson said. "If the garment must be dry cleaned, identify the stain for your dry cleaner and have the garment cleaned promptly."
For washable clothing, wet stains are water-based and can be dissolved in cool water, especially if the stain is fresh. To remove wet stains, loosen with liquid detergent or a paste of powdered detergent and water, then launder as usual.
"Wet stains include fruit juices, beer, soft drinks, iced tea and light mud stains," Johnson said. "Dry stains include cooking oil, suntan oil and motor oil."
Oil-based dry stains usually require some type of dry cleaning solvent for successful removal. Dry cleaning solvent can be found in most grocery and hardware stores.
Thoroughly rinse and air dry garments treated with dry cleaning fluid before laundering, Johnson said.
Combination stains such as meat gravy, ice cream and ketchup need twice the treatment since they contain both oil and water.
"Treat combination stains first as a dry stain to remove the grease, and then as a wet stain," Johnson said.
Combination stains containing protein, such as blood, collar soils and salad dressing usually need treatment with an enzyme-based product for removal.
"Stain sticks and gels are some of the newest enzyme products," Johnson said. "They are kind to most fabrics and colors and can be left on tough stains for up to a week without damaging the fabric."
Treat grass stains, another combination stain, with enzyme stain sticks or gels.
Special stains come from unusual substances and require individual treatment. Mildew is a common special summer stain. It is best removed with chlorine bleach for bleachable fabrics.
For non-bleachable fabrics, sponge the mildew stain with hydrogen peroxide, and then launder or soak in an all fabric bleach solution for 30 minutes or more.
"Unknown stains are those that simply cannot be identified through feeling, smelling or other means," Johnson said. "If the location of the stain doesn't provide any clues to the source, treat the stain as a dry stain first, and then as a wet stain if needed."
Test stain removal products on an inconspicuous area of a garment before using, and follow its care label instructions.
"Follow the product's directions and work carefully and patiently," Johnson said. "If a stain is still visible, re-treat it. Air dry the garment until you are sure the stain has been completely removed."
When treating a stain, place the stained area face down on a clean paper towel or white absorbent cloth. Apply stain remover to the underside of the stain, forcing it off the fabric rather than through it.