It’s undeniable – spills happen to the best of us. The morning coffee splash or a drip from an evening glass of wine – and spills of all types happen tenfold when kids are involved! Of course, some types of stains are more difficult to get out than others, and any stain treated right away will give you less trouble. But when it comes to stains already set in, almost any type will be tougher to remove. So, how do you get rid of stains on clothes after washing and drying?
All types of stains will be more difficult to remove after drying – since the heat from the dryer helps to set them – but it is not an impossible task. Getting stains out of clothes after they have been washed and dried is similar to the removing a fresh stain, only that it will take a bit more time and effort. Laundry stain removers, dishwashing soap, and vinegar and baking soda are all good treatments to try when attempting to remove old stains.
In this article, we will cover the best methods for how to remove stains after clothes have been washed and dried – including three step-by-step guides, as well as how to remove specific types of stains – from blood and sweat to grass and grease. We’ll also go over some helpful hints to brighten those whites that no longer look super fresh.
- Does Washing and Drying Make Stains Permanent?
- Can You Get Stains Out of Clothes After Washing and Drying?
- How to Get Rid of Stains After Washing: 3 Step by Step Guides
- How to Get Stains Out of Clothes After Drying
- Removing Specific Types of Stains After Washing and Drying
- 5 Ways to Bring Dingy Whites Back to Life
- What is the Best Commercial Laundry Stain Remover?
Does Washing and Drying Make Stains Permanent?
Washing a garment before a stain has been treated isn’t the end of the stain-removing world – but drying them is a different story. If you notice a stain on an article of clothing only after it has been washed – but before it has undergone the dry cycle – don’t fret. Simply treat the stain with your preferred method until the stain has been removed and re-wash as normal.
In an ideal laundry world, an article of clothing with a stain should never go into the dryer. Alas, there are many reasons a garment might make its way into a dryer before we notice it has been stained. Heat is the element that sets stains in. If you put clothes that have been spilled on into the dryer before the stain is gone, you’re facilitating the process of making the stain more difficult to remove. Though getting rid of the stain will take more work, it does not necessarily mean it will be permanent.
Can You Get Stains Out of Clothes After Washing and Drying?
Thankfully, a stained garment that has already been washed and dried should not immediately be considered a lost cause. Most stains can successfully be removed from clothing after they’ve undergone the wash cycle – many even so after drying. The work you’ll have to put into removing the stain will increase with the longer it has had to dry or set, especially when heat – such as with being dried – has been applied.
The good news is that most stains can be removed like normal, even if you only notice the mark while removing the clothes from the washer. Simply treating the stain with a laundry stain remover and then rewashing according to the care label is often enough to do the trick. If you’re dealing with a stain that is more stubborn, you may have to spend a bit of time rubbing out the mark until it is completely removed.
Using liquid dishwashing detergent – used for handwashing dishes, not the dishwasher – is a great tool for working out stains. Put a few drops on the stained area and work it in with your fingers until the stain has been lifted. Rinse and repeat as many times as necessary to completely remove the stain – finish by re-laundering in the washing machine.
Soaking is another method that works wonders at getting unwanted marks out of clothes. Mix a cleaning agent – such as OxiClean – with enough water to cover the garment and soak the stained item in this solution. The amount of soaking time necessary to remove the stain will depend on its size. Sometimes, an hour is sufficient to have your clothes ready for the wash – tough stains may require soaking for several hours or even overnight.
How to Get Rid of Stains After Washing: 3 Step by Step Guides
There’s no arguing that commercial stain removers can be convenient, but convenience isn’t always the only factor. These chemical-based products are often not the most economical – as well as rarely being eco-friendly. If commercial stain removers aren’t your first choice, keep reading for three step-by-step guides to removing stains using standard household items. Each of these methods is effective, safe, and gentle enough to use on baby clothes.
1. Liquid Dishwashing DetergentLiquid dish soap is an amazing tool for removing stains. Designed to cut through tough-to-remove grease, this soap can penetrate many substances that find their way onto your clothing – getting rid of stains and leaving them looking as good as new. Dawn dishwashing liquid has become many people’s go-to choice for breaking down anything containing grease – even outside the kitchen – but any dish soap can be used for this job. To use liquid dish soap for stain removal, follow these steps:
- Apply the dish soap to the fabric, covering the entire stained area.
- Rub the soap into the cloth using your fingers.
- Allow the garment to sit for 10 minutes.
- Wash as usual.
To use dishwashing liquid as a presoak for stained laundry, do the following:
- Fill a bucket or sink basin with at least one gallon of water – enough so that the item you’re treating will be submerged.
- For every gallon of water, add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap and mix well to combine.
- Submerge stained clothing in the water – making sure that the items are wet all over – and allow to soak for at least 1 hour.
- Check that stains have been removed before washing as usual. If the stain is still visible after an hour’s soak, allow the garment to soak for additional time. Or move on to one of the methods below.
2. Vinegar and Baking Soda
This miracle cleaning duo is one of the most versatile cleaning products. The combo works in many situations and is safe and completely natural. Every household should have baking soda and vinegar on hand at all times. To get stains out of clothes using vinegar and baking soda, follow the steps below:
- Fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar.
- Spray the stained part of the clothing until the entire affected area is completely saturated.
- Sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar-soaked area.
- Using your fingers, gently rub the entire area, working the mixture into the fibers and helping to loosen the stain.
- Respray vinegar as necessary to re-wet the stained area.
- Allow the garment to sit with the vinegar/baking soda mixture for up to 30 minutes.
- Rinse the stain – from the back of the garment – with cool water until most of the baking soda has been removed.
- Re-spray the entire stained area with vinegar.
- Fill a bucket – or the basin of a sink – with enough cool water to cover the garment.
- Add a ½ cup of vinegar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of laundry detergent to the water, followed by the garment.
- Agitate to ensure that the entire item is submerged and allow to soak overnight.
- The following day – check that the entire stain has been removed before washing as recommended on the care label.
If residue of the stain remains, you can repeat the scrubbing process again before washing. Or try one of the other methods listed here.
3. Peroxide and Dish Soap
For even tougher stains, you may need a mixture slightly stronger than what’s listed above. A combination of dish soap and peroxide can be used on set-in stains that are super stubborn. The favorite choice – Dawn dish soap – can be used, but any liquid dish soap – even an eco-friendly type – will work.
- Mix 1 part dish soap with 2 parts peroxide in a spray bottle. Swirl to combine.
- Spray the entire stained area until it is completely saturated.
- Wearing gloves, rub the soaked area – working the mixture into the stain. Alternatively, you can rub the stained area using a rag.
- Leave the garment to sit overnight.
- Rinse the item until all of the solution has been removed.
- Inspect the area for remnants of staining. If no stain remains, continue washing and drying the item as normal. If the stain persists, repeat the process until the stain has been removed completely.
How to Get Stains Out of Clothes After Drying
The easiest way to get rid of stains on clothes is – without a doubt – to treat them as soon as they happen. Applying any heat to a stain helps set it into the fabric, making it more difficult to remove. If for some reason, the stain is missed until you’re pulling the item out of the dryer, all hope is not lost.
The three methods listed above can remove many stains that have already been washed and dried – but if that too fails, you may need to move on to something stronger. Knowing precisely what kind of stain you are dealing with can help determine which methods and substances will work best.
Removing Specific Types of Stains After Washing and Drying
There are many types of common stains and a slightly different method of removal for each. Some stains may come out relatively easily, while others will undoubtedly be more difficult to get rid of. For stains that are very old or have been washed and dried multiple times, the stain is still a possibility. Complete removal can be hit or miss depending on the stain type and fabric you are working with. See below for specific stain types and how to treat each one.
Blood can get on clothes for several reasons and can be a difficult stain to remove – especially if not rinsed with cold water immediately. If you want to get rid of an old blood stain, try ammonia. Ammonia is somewhat of a harsh substance, but it can do an impressive job lifting set-in blood stains.
When using ammonia, it is best to use gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Also – as with putting any chemical on fabric – you should test an inconspicuous area of the garment before applying it to a larger, more obvious part of the clothing.
To remove a blood stain – using a cotton ball:
- Apply a solution of ammonia diluted with water in a 50:50 ratio.
- Dab the solution onto the stain and gently rub – rewetting the swab and repeating as necessary. You should see the stain beginning to lift almost immediately.
- If you need more friction, consider scrubbing the soaked area with an old toothbrush – taking care not to damage the material.
Directly following stain removal using ammonia, the item should be washed as usual.
Colored stains stand out against the backdrop of a garment meant to be pure white. If the step-by-step methods listed above don’t work to remove colored stains from your clothes, an oxygen-based bleach soak should do the trick. OxiClean, OXO Brite or Nellie’s All Natural Oxygen Brightener – are all products you can use. Fill a bucket or basin with a solution following the instructions per your product. Soak stained items in this solution for up to eight hours. Check that stains have been removed before washing as usual.
What is more alarming than realizing a red sock has snuck in with the white laundry?! Dye transfer can leave unintentional and unwanted stains on all sorts of clothes. If the laundry wasn’t thoroughly sorted and you didn’t notice the color-streaked clothes until after removing them from the dryer – try soaking them in an oxygen-based bleach, as above.
Mix a solution according to the directions of the product you are using and fully submerge all affected items. Allow soaking for at least 8 hours. The stains should have faded after this time, but if some dye remains – mix a new batch and repeat with a second soak. Oxygen-based bleach products should not be used on all materials, so be sure to check individual garments.
Oil / Grease
Oil and grease stains are some of the most notoriously difficult to remove. This is unfortunate since the tiniest drop of salad dressing can leave a conspicuous dot front and center on your shirt. Thankfully, there are several methods you can use to remove a grease stain.
Enzyme-based cleaners – such as OxiClean – can do a great job working through tough grease stains. Soaking – using the method outlined above is a good place to start. Dish soap – which is designed to break down grease – is also one of the first things you should try.
Baking soda, [white] chalk and cornstarch are three substances you can use to try and pull out old grease stains. Because grease and oil are hydrophobic, it is best to work on grease stains while the garment is dry. Sprinkle the substance of your choice onto the affected area and rub it into the grease stain – if using chalk, rub directly into the stain.
Allow the garment to sit for 24 hours. Brush away any excess powder and spray the area with vinegar. Follow by using a brush to scrub with soap and water. You may need to repeat this process several times before the stain is removed completely.
Grass stains are the enemy of anyone who plays sports – or anyone with children – but before you pull out the chemicals – try giving these items a soak. Allowing the stained item to soak in a cup or two of distilled white vinegar for 30 minutes can be more effective than you might think.
After it soaks, remove the stained garment and rinse well. If the entire stain has been removed, you can now wash it normally. If you are working with an especially pesky old stain – try scrubbing with a paste of baking soda and water. Allow the paste to sit on the garment for around 15 minutes after scrubbing before rinsing clean.
Gum / Glue
Though unique from other stains, gum, glue, and other gooey products can leave undesirable marks on your clothes. Even after going through the dryer, set-in gum and glue can be removed from fabric using acetone – though you risk bleaching dark or colored materials.
Before attempting to remove the gunk from your clothes – test the acetone on a discreet area of the garment. If everything looks okay – apply acetone to the goo using a cotton ball or rag. Rub the affected area until all of the gooey substance has been removed. Once you’ve gotten rid of it all, launder as usual.
Ink can be one of the toughest stains to remove, but it’s not a substance that is impossible to dissolve. If regular washing didn’t do the trick – try this method using rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol can discolor fabrics and alter certain synthetic materials – test an inconspicuous area of the garment before moving forward with the stain removal.
Before attempting to remove a stubborn ink stain, place a piece of cardboard between the layers of your fabric to prevent the stain from seeping onto the other side. Using a rag or cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, blot the ink-stained area. Ideally, the alcohol should break down and dilute the ink, allowing it to be pulled from the fabric. Rinse the area frequently and repeat as many times as necessary to get rid of the stain.
Sweat stains can be unattractive and embarrassing, but removing them may be easier than you think – using just a few household items. Drenching a sweat stain with a mixture of vinegar and water should be all you need to remove those unsightly stains from your clothes.
Make a solution using a 4:1 ratio of water to vinegar and soak any sweat-stained areas – alternatively, you can soak the entire item. Allow the vinegar solution to penetrate the stain for at least 30 minutes. If after this time period the stain persists – you can try scrubbing with a mixture of baking soda and water or hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide can sometimes discolor fabrics, so testing a discreet area before applying more liberally is always a good idea.
Please note! Chlorinated bleach should never be used on sweat stains – even with all-white clothing! Adding chlorinated bleach to the yellow stains can darken and make them worse.
Stains on White Clothes
Several of the methods listed above can be used to get rid of stains on white clothes – with a couple of additions. The baking soda and vinegar method works particularly well here. White vinegar poured directly on the stain can be successful, and you can always use a baking soda scrub for something extra pesky.
Ammonia – as described for removing blood stains – is another option. Squeezing lemon juice onto a stain and allowing it to sit in the sunshine is a 100% natural method that can work to bleach out some tough stains. If that doesn’t work – an oxygenated-bleach soak can still be successful.
If all else fails when trying to get rid of stains – dry cleaning is always an option. Dry cleaning uses chemicals that may be able to get stains out that home-use products just can’t handle. It is also important to note that some fabrics should not be wet washed or exposed to certain substances. For stains on any garment labeled “Dry Clean Only” do not attempt any of the above stain removal processes. Instead, go straight to the dry cleaner.
5 Ways to Bring Dingy Whites Back to Life
Perhaps not a stain, per se – dingy white clothing leaves much to be desired. Instead of buying all new whites – check out the methods below to brighten your white wardrobe:
1. Enzyme Presoaks
Enzyme presoaks are a great way to lift off protein stains – like grass, blood, and milk – and residue. They are super successful for brightening whites because they remove stains that cause yellowing – lending that dingy appearance we want to get rid of.
2. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice is an all-natural laundry whitener. It also freshens by removing odors. You can add 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice to your washing machine and the detergent when washing whites. Proceed by laundering as usual. Lemon juice should only be used on whites as it has bleaching properties and can discolor dark or colored clothing.
3. Baking soda
Seemingly laundry’s best friend – baking soda – is another completely natural option for whitening, deodorizing, and softening your clothes. Add ½ cup of baking soda along with your regular detergent – at the beginning of the wash cycle if using a liquid detergent and during the rinse cycle if using a powder.
Another non-chemical based choice – borax, comes from a naturally occurring mineral and is a common laundry room product that can be used to deodorize, remove stains, and brighten whites. Half a cup of borax can be added at the start of the wash cycle – or as a presoak with a small amount of detergent before washing. Borax also helps soften water – allowing the laundry detergent to do a more efficient job when washing.
This may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of whitening clothes – but bleach can be a harsh chemical that should only be used sparingly. Most types of bleach – chlorine and oxygenated – break up stains through oxidation, which means they chemically alter the stain’s molecules, rendering them colorless. Most garments will signify which type of bleach can be used on them – “non-chlorine bleach only,” for example – so care labels should always be referenced before using.
Chlorine bleach is a much harsher substance than non-chlorine varieties and it should never be combined with vinegar or ammonia-containing products as hazardous fumes can be produced.
Non-chlorine bleach products are much less toxic and do a great job of brightening white clothes. Hydrogen peroxide is a much gentler option than chlorine bleach and can be used not only to freshen white clothes but also to disinfect them and remove stains.
What is the Best Commercial Laundry Stain Remover?
The quantity of cleaning supplies on the market is vastly overwhelming – often, just looking at the number of options can leave you feeling depleted. To help keep things simple, here are a few of the top choices in laundry stain removers:
Getting rid of stains on clothes is never a fun activity – especially when the stain has already been set by going through the dryer. But getting that spill out of your fave dress or sweater will leave you with a fresh garment and a sense of satisfaction. With all of these stain removal methods now in your arsenal, I hope you’ll be able to save a few items that before you may have thought were lost for good.