As a textile conservator I know that stain removal from fabric is hard. And it doesn’t really make a difference if we’re talking about a pre-Colombian Peruvian mantle or a your beloved silk dress. It will be hard. And the first rule is to act fast (I know.. probably this post comes way to late).
Acting fast means taking care of the stain as soon as it happens. Every substance will be easier to remove before it has time to penetrate the fibers and make friends with them (or chemically bond with them). The second trick is also a Chemistry rule ( high school science class anyone?) – Like dissolves like. What this means is that as everyone else, stains like to hang out with materials that have a similar composition or places where they can bond. So to be efficient in removing them, you’ll have to attack the stain with a product that they like even better. Like removing grease with a greasy soap..
Also a good strategy to attack stains is to work on them from the back – in this way you’ll avoid that the stain will spread deeper in the fabric.
Below is a list of common procedures and products used in stain removal, with focus on food-y stains:
Butter, Cream & Fatty Stains: Wash immediately in warm water. If it is an old stain, apply (you can brush it with an old toothbrush) a grease solvent, e.g. spot stain removal and let it stay for a couple of waters before washing. One trick very used in my family is to apply flour, bread or talk powder just after it happens, to soak up the grease. It works.
Coffee & Tea: For a fresh tea or coffee stain, immediately pour boiling water over the stain until it disappears. Or, soak the stain with borax and water, then wash as usual. On old stains, make a paste of borax and water, leave on for 15 minutes, then wash as usual.
Red wine: Immediately bloat the stain with a camp cloth and then soak the stain with white wine or vinegar – they’ll both neutralize the red wine stain. Wash it normally. For old stains try to use non-alkali soaps.
Wax: All the Holiday’s meals call for candles and the wax always ends up in the table-cloth. To get candle wax off your tablecloth, put a plain paper bag over the spot, and press with a warm (not hot) iron. Continue this, using fresh pieces of paper until all the wax is absorbed. Or try to put the table-cloth in the freezer and then, once frozen, just scrap the wax out.
Blood: Wash it in cold water immediately – warm water will make it clog. If it is a small stain, like the ones you sometimes do while sewing, use your own saliva to clean it out – works really really well on cotton.
Does anyone one have a different trick that wants to share? Holiday season is only starting and we all know what that means..