You watched it happen. Amid the hustle and general bustle of your friend's Saturday afternoon BBQ, you looked on with complete helplessness as a dollop of ketchup slowly slid off the back of your wonderfully charred kosher hot dog and landed splat down on the bottom hem of your heather gray tee. Instantly, the condiment began to latch its horrid, tomato-based tentacles onto the tender cotton fibers of your shirt (and possibly ruin the entire evening).
Lucky for you, and anyone else on this great green earth that will inevitably encounter spillage, the guide below will help fend off any and all sauce monsters and seven other common clothing stains.
1. Take it easy with the strength. Never apply direct pressure or rub the stain. That's only going to set it in the fibers even further. Dab it gently instead.
2. Work from the inside out and outside in. Always, always add your stain-removing solvent of choice to the inside of the stain, with the other half of the fabric resting on a pad or towel. And dab the stain from the outside in to keep it from getting larger.
3. Reading is fundamental. Always check care labels before beginning the stain removal process, and always test the solvent in an inconspicuous area before applying it to the stain.
4. Know your fabrics. This guide is broken down by stain type, rather than fabric, because there are a range of variables to consider when attacking a condiment-, alcohol-, or blood-induced spot. However, knowing the general cleaning guidelines of the three most common fabrics will go a long way in limiting damage:
- Cotton: It's extremely durable and can endure just about the harshest of cleaning treatments. With that being said, cotton responds best to detergents and light acids (lemon juice, vinegar, etc.).
- Wool: Highly heat-sensitive, so treat this baby with care. When you soak a wool item, make sure to lay it flat to dry to prevent any distortion. Also, not all laundry and soap detergents are safe to use on wool. You're going to need to use special wool-safe soaps and work at the stain(s) in lukewarm water. If it's a particularly tricky splotch, you're best off dropping it at the dry cleaners.
- Synthetics: Fabrics like rayon and polyester are even more durable than cotton, but don't typically react well to heavy acids (i.e. aspirin, which contains acetylsalicylic acid).
The Stains & How To Kill Them
1. Wine. Blot the stain and then completely soak it in cold water. Mix one tablespoon of dish soap or laundry detergent with one tablespoon of white wine vinegar and two cups of lukewarm water. Soak the stain thoroughly with the solvent and continue to blot. If that doesn't work, mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and soap and perform the same maneuver outlined above.
2. Sweat or yellow armpit stains. For a colored shirt, make a paste by mixing baking soda and warm water. Coat the stain and work the mixture into the shirt. Let it sit for 30 minutes, rinse, and wash the item as you normally would. For white shirts, mix one part detergent with two parts hydrogen peroxide and soak the area. Add a sprinkle of baking soda to scrub out tougher stains. Let it sit for 30, rinse, and wash normally.
3. Ink. Put nail polish remover on a cotton ball or paper towel and dab the stain. If that fails, do the same thing, but with non-gel toothpaste. If both of those fail, soak the spot in rubbing alcohol and wash the item normally.
4. Chocolate. Brush off all excess signs of slobbery and then go at it with good ol' clear packing tape, which should lift most of the embedded cocoa, then flush the stain from the back with cold water. If that pesky bugger still lingers, soak it in a mixture of water and detergent for 30 minutes, then wash the garment as you normally would.
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