There’s always something that is left after you put clothes through the wash. How do you clean those mystery stains off without (a) ruining the clothes or (b) sending the article to be professionally cleaned by the dry cleaners. And how do you clean stains without using ferocious chemicals that make you cough and give you stinging eyes and cracking skin – a sure sign that the cleaning product in question is a potent source of household chemicals.
Most of these stain removal tips are best used for cleaning clothes. However, some of them are quite likely to work if you have to clean carpets or clean upholstery. Though why you would have to clean perspiration stains off curtains beats me. Someone staggered off a home gym machine all covered in sweat, tripped and fell into the curtain? Never mind.
With all these natural stain removal methods, it’s best to do a little patch test in an obscure corner in case it’s too ferocious for the garment or other item you’re trying to get the stain off. The same goes for any unfamiliar cleaning product, natural or not, or whenever you clean something for the first time.
1 cup of vinegar
¼ cup salt
8 drops essential oil of choice (optional)
Combine the ingredients and let the salt dissolve. Soak the stain in the mixture, then scrub it gently with an old toothbrush before washing as normal. For cleaning curtains or upholstery, sponge the mixture off with fresh water, doing so several times until the stain has disappeared. Allow to dry as normal (but you can hurry things along on the curtain or the sofa with the help of a hair dryer).
Butter, cooking oil or margarine stains.
Your first resort here is soap and warm water, as soap breaks down grease and fats very well, especially with the help of warm water. Scrub the soap to a lather, but don’t be too vigorous on more delicate materials. Rinse as normal. If the wretched stain still lingers, try rubbing a paste of baking soda and water into the spot and allowing it to dry before washing as normal.
Cleaning wax spills:
Another greasy stain that turns up all over the place. If the wax is still liquid (it just spilt), freeze it hard quickly with ice cubes before it has time to work its way into the fabric or fibres of whatever you spilt it on. If it’s already hard, proceed to the next step, which is to pick it off with the help of your fingernails and/or a blunt knife blade. A little bit will still remain. You need the help of an iron set on low and a stash of paper towels or loo paper. Cover the site of the spill with a paper towel, preferably putting one paper towel on each side of the item, although you can’t do this when cleaning wax off carpets for obvious reasons. Melt the remaining wax by pressing the iron onto the site through the paper towel. Repeat with a fresh paper towel (or bit of paper towel) until no more wax comes out. A small mark may still remain. Treat this as you would any other grease stain (see above).
Don’t bother trying to clean wax off a wooden floor – just rub the wax in. It will do the wood a lot of good.
Some people swear by glycerine as the best natural method for removing lipstick stains. Other people prefer strong alcohol, such as vodka, methylated spirits or rubbing alcohol. Whichever method you prefer, rub the stain remover over the site and rub in well before washing as normal. In the case of cleaning lipstick off carpets or curtains (probably courtesy of a small child), this will involve gently scrubbing the spot with warm soapy water until the stain has gone, then blotting and sponging with fresh water to rinse.