Summertime and the living is easy! But all those summer activities come with a heavy toll on our clothing. We stain, we wash and sometimes we even throw away clothing that we simply can’t get clean.
A recent survey by the company that sells the laundry detergent OxiClean shows that 90 percent of households with children have thrown away clothes because they were unable to get them clean. By contrast, if the household had no children, the statistic dropped to 70 percent.
In fact, the survey separated the stains by age group and said that the three main causes of stains were cooking oil, perspiration and dirt in all groups. But one exception was with families that have children from 4 to 12 where ketchup was the second most often occurring stain. That should come as no surprise to those of us who have raised kids. Ketchup can really stain clothes, and every 6-year-old loves ketchup.
You don’t need to throw away clothing that has been stained. There are some basic recommendations that work on all stains.
Fresh stains are easier to remove, so treat stains promptly.
When treating stains, make sure the stain is completely gone before putting it in the dryer. The heat of the dryer will set a stain.
Avoid too much rubbing since that damages fibers or finishes and color and can spread the spot.
Work on the wrong side of the fabric. You want to push the stain out of the fibers rather than deeper into the fabric where it is impossible to remove.
Read the care labels on all garments and on the stain remover before using it on a garment.
Let’s take a quick look at some of those common summer stains and how to treat them.
Grass on clothing can be a challenge to remove. Pretreat using a liquid detergent or a prewash stain remover according to the directions on the label. Wash in the hottest water the fabric will stand. If any of the stain remains, use an oxygen bleach when washing it a second time.
Dirt and mud can be removed by letting the mud dry thoroughly and brushing off as much of it as possible. Pretreat the stain by mixing powdered laundry detergent and water to make a paste or use liquid laundry detergent. If it is a particularly heavy stain, soak for 30 minutes before laundering. Again, use the hottest water that is safe for the fabric.
Rust can be tackled with home products or a commercial rust remover. Try covering the stain with salt and saturate with lemon or lime juice and let set for a few hours. Launder as usual. If using a commercial rust remover such as Whink or Iron Out, simply squirt the stain with the remover and wash immediately. These removers are made from acids and can be damaging to fabrics, so work quickly to rinse them out. Never use chlorine bleach on rust — it will permanently set the stain.
Fruit and berries can be removed by soaking the garment in warm water with 1 teaspoon of dishwashing soap and 1 tablespoon vinegar for 15 minutes. If the stain remains, wash with an oxygen bleach. An effective method of removing berry stains is to suspend the stain over a bowl and pour boiling water through it. This is one of the few times you should use hot water. Most of the time, hot water sets stains.
Tomatoes and ketchup are a common stain and a real problem. Get rid of the excess ketchup by scraping it off with a dull knife and soak the clothing in cool water for 30 minutes. Use liquid dish detergent to pretreat and launder in warm or hot water, depending on the fiber.
Mustard is another food that dyes the fabric. Scrape off the excess and treat garment with a prewash before laundering.
Tree sap can be removed by using paint thinner, mineral spirits or a cleaning solvent (such as K2R or Goo Gone). Rub in laundry detergent and water to remove the residue. Launder in the hottest water the fabric can stand.
Careful treatment of stains can extend the life of your clothes.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201.