How to remove stains from clothes and carpet naturally

pile of laundry
CC BY 2.0 H.A.M. Photography

Use common kitchen ingredients to fight all manner of stains.

There are many household ingredients that you can use to remove stains from clothes and carpet. This way you can avoid using conventional laundry stain removers that are full of artificial fragrance and other unpronounceable, questionable ingredients. Keep it natural with what’s already in your kitchen cupboards.

Baking soda: Make a paste of baking soda and water and scrub into carpet stains. Once the powder dries, vacuum it up.

Toothpaste: Rub it briskly into stains on clothing or carpet. Wash or rinse as usual. Toothpaste is supposed to be good for reducing stains in tea and coffee cups. (The TreeHugger article where I first read this tip specifically recommends Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. It also warns against using whitening toothpastes, which can bleach clothes.)

Lemon juice: Scrub underarm stains with equal parts lemon juice and water. Use straight lemon juice or a paste of lemon juice with cream of tartar for ink stains, preferably as soon as they happen, then wash in cold water. Use a paste of lemon juice and salt for mildew or rust stains, then dry in sunlight. Fresh lemon juice can freshen a load of whites and reduce mineral stains.

Coconut oil: Rub some coconut oil into a spot on carpet or upholstery, and it will loosen the stain. You can also mix with baking soda to be more effective. This baking soda-coconut oil combo can also double as a whitening toothpaste to remove tooth stains.

Salt: Get rid of perspiration stains on shirts by making a saltwater soak. Pour ¼ to ½ cup salt into washing machine and add enough cold water to cover clothes. Mix, then let soak for 1-2 hours. Wash as usual. If you don’t have a washing machine, make a salt paste with water and apply to stains before washing by hand.

If you have blood stains on clothes, soak in a mixture of 1 quart cold water and 2 tbsp salt before washing.

Shake a generous amount of salt onto red wine stains, as soon as they’ve happened. Let sit for a few hours before washing in cold water.

Vinegar: This can also get rid of perspiration stains. Soak clothes in a mixture of ¼ cup vinegar and cold water, then wash as usual.

Water: Pour a kettle full of boiling water over stains from as great a height as you can manage – at least 2 feet high. (Try standing on a chair.) This works on berry stains, ketchup, red wine, coffee, and oily spots. One TreeHugger reader recommended putting a bowl inside a shirt, with the stain centered in the middle, then pour boiling water through the stain into the bowl.

Use ice water to get rid of blood stains. Soak item in a bowl of cold water, adding ice as needed, to loosen the stain before laundering.

White chalk: If you have an oil stain on fabric, rub in some white chalk as soon as possible. Wash in cold water, and avoid putting in the dryer unless the stain is completely gone, since that will set it.

Rubbing alcohol: This is effective for oil stains, too. Dab a small amount onto the stained fabric before washing in cold water.

White wine: Here’s the one case in which two wrongs make a right. If you spill red wine, pour a small amount of white wine onto the stain to counteract it. Blot with a clean absorbent towel from the outside in to prevent spreading. Treat stain remnants with another method.

Tags: Cleaning | Clothing | Laundry

Best of TreeHugger 2014

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK