Protein Stains | Anyclean

updated: 23/10/2023

Protein-based items have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to stains and laundry. Who hasn’t wrestled, scrubbed and wrung (their hands or the garment that has been stained) trying to deal with this sort of stain. Sometimes, it seems as if even if you grab out the big guns, the stain sets and won’t come out ever again. What’s to be done about it?

Older stains that have set in the fabric are practically impossible to deal with, and I won’t cover them in this article. All spills and stains should be treated as soon as possible. All protein stains should be washed out using cold water (not hot). A bit of soap can help with most (but not all) protein stains, and you can also use a stain removal stick to help protein stains on their way. Which reminds me about the quip by a comedian about the ads for stain removal products that involve someone getting a massive bloodstain off a white shirt – “forget removing the stains – how have you managed to dispose of the body?” Joking aside, a potato cut in half makes a reasonable protein stain removal stick.

To wash out all basic protein stains, soak the item in cold to blood-heat water (i.e. it should feel the same temperature as you skin – test it by dipping your wrists in the water). Rub with a little soap and launder as usual but using cold water. Soaking overnight works wonders, and using an enzyme based (biological) washing powder also works wonders. You do not need to use any other type of house cleaning product as you may damage the fabric.

Well, what is a protein stain? Here is a list of the most common protein stains:

* Avocado: This relates more to the pulp rather than the stone – the sap from the stone acts like a dye and is used this way by poorer people in South American countries to brighten up dull clothing. Make sure all the pulp and stain is washed away by soaping and soaking before getting it anywhere near hot water.

* Bloodstains: Every woman will have to deal with bloodstains at some time in her life for obvious monthly reasons. Other people handling bloodstains include anyone with active children who bash themselves falling off bikes, butchers, rugby players and doctors(and murderers: one killer gave himself away by asking a checkout assistant how to remove bloodstains –the checkout assistant got suspicious and called the cops). If it’s not your blood you’re dealing with, make sure that you protect yourself from blood-transmitted infections and wear rubber gloves. Salty water can also help draw the blood out of the item – soaking in salty water is sometimes used by kosher butchers to make sure that every trace of blood is removed from the meat.

* Milk (including baby formula, breast milk, yoghurt, cream and cheese sauce). Act quickly, as sour milk smells awful.

* Red cabbage juice. As an aside, red cabbage juice can be used like litmus paper to indicate acid and alkaline substances – a good kids’ science at home project.

* Egg. Scrape off as much as you can before soaking.

* Poop (animal or human). Scrape off as much as you can using loo paper and wearing rubber gloves. You probably also want to put some disinfectant into the water for soaking to kill germs.

* Mucus on handkerchiefs (not on sleeves, I hope – please!).

* Mud. Scrape off excess before soaking. Soak first – mud stains are often mixed with grass stains, which need special treatment.

* Pee (animal and human). Baking soda will help reduce the characteristic ammonia smell – a must if an animal was the culprit, as lingering smells (which you won’t be able to pick up) will bring the animal back to the scene of the crime to reoffend. Avoid using ammonia on the stain, as this will enhance the smell rather than removing it.

* Semen (on sheets, underwear and one notorious blue evening dress). Take note, Ms Monica Lewinsky!
Vomit. Once again, scrape up as much excess as possible before washing. Use rubber gloves and add disinfectant to the soaking water.

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About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.