How to Remove Stains From Clothes and Carpet Naturally

Woman cleaning a stained shirt with a sponge

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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.

1. Baking Soda

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

2. 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.)

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. Salt

Get rid of perspiration stains on shirts by making a saltwater soak. Pour 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 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.

6. Vinegar

This can also get rid of perspiration stains. Soak clothes in a mixture of 1⁄4 cup vinegar and cold water, then wash as usual.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Rubbing Alcohol

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

10. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What water temperature is best for stain removal?

    Most stains—especially of the food variety—benefit from a cold soak before they're washed in hot water. Hot water can actually "cook" stains into your clothes rather than remove them. It should only be used for mud stains, marker, egg, grass, oil and grease, mustard, and tomato-based stains. For wine, blood, coffee, and basically any other food stain, use cold water.

  • What are the toughest stains to remove from clothing?

    Some of the toughest stains to remove from clothes include red wine, tomato sauce, permanent marker, blood, chocolate, and grass. None of these, however, are impossible to remove.

  • What if the stain on your clothes is permanent?

    If you find that you simply can't get a stain out of your clothes, you could try sending them away to a professional (i.e., the dry cleaner). If that doesn't work, consider dyeing the stained item to cover up the stain and restore wear. If it can no longer be worn, recycle the item or donate it to an animal shelter to use as bedding.