How to Remove Dirt and Mud Stains

Mud and dirt are inevitable enemies of laundry. They may seem easy to manage, but if not handled correctly, they can lead to an unsightly and permanent stain. By following a few simple steps, you’ll be able to tackle even the most formidable mud stain with ease.

Removing Mud Stains

What You Will Need

  • Plastic knife or plastic spoon
  • Small nail brush or toothbrush
  • Liquid dish soap (such as Dawn or Ajax), or laundry pre-treatment product (such as Shout or OxiClean)
  • Washer
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bleach (optional, depending on whether the soiled clothes can tolerate bleach)

Steps to Remove the Stain

  1. If the stain is wet mud (as opposed to dried dirt), allow the mud to dry completely. DO NOT attempt to wipe away mud that is wet or damp as this will spread the stain and possibly grind it into the fabric fibers.
  2. When the mud is dry, gently scrape off the excess with the plastic knife or spoon, being careful not to grind the dirt into the fabric.
  3. Gently brush at the dirt/dried mud with small brush or toothbrush.
  4. Put a few drops of liquid dish soap onto the stain, and rub it into the stain with your thumb and forefinger.
  5. Add a drop or two of water to the detergent/stain spot and briskly rub with brush or toothbrush on BOTH sides of the fabric, using circular motions.
  6. You may need to repeat these steps several times before the stain is completely gone.
  7. In the alternative, treat the stain with laundry pre-treatment product of your choice, as per the directions on the package.
  8. Wash the garment following all care guidelines on the tag.
  9. When cycle is completely finished, check the clothes carefully for any sign of the stain. If the stain remains, repeat steps 4-8. NEVER dry clothes in a dryer if a stain remains as this will set the stain, which will then be nearly impossible to remove.

Removing Set-In Mud Stains

What You Will Need

  • Hand cleaner (ex: GoJo or Purell)
  • Small brush (an old toothbrush works well)
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Washing Machine

Steps to Remove Set-In Stains

  1. The hand cleaner that mechanics use is most effective. A common brand of this thick pasted, clear cleaner is GoJo. There is a generic version of this hand cleaner available at the dollar store that works just as well.
  2. Spread a layer of the hand cleaner on both sides of the clothing stain.
  3. Use a small brush to scrub the stain on both sides of the fabric. The goal is to work the cleaner deep into the fibers to remove the stain.
  4. Allow the cleaner to set on the stain for an hour or so.
  5. Wash in the washing machine with warm water and laundry detergent.
  6. Allow the item to agitate for longer than normal. When the agitation part of the cycle nears the end, it may be necessary to restart it. Allow the piece to agitate for 30 minutes if possible.
  7. Continue the wash cycle as normal.
  8. Allow the piece to air dry first to ensure the stain is removed.
  9. If the stain remains, repeat the above steps. 

Additional Tips and Advice

  • ALWAYS read the label on your garment to determine proper washing instructions.
  • It is generally a good idea to wash stained clothes separately from other laundry to avoid spreading the stain to other clothes.
  • If the dirt or mud stain is on a delicate fabric such as silk or wool, or if the garment is designated as dry-clean only, take the item to a professional cleaner. For help finding reputable cleaners in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, or visit the yellow pages.
  • The laundry aisle of your local grocery store most likely has numerous products available to pre-treat stains (i.e. Tide to Go, Shout, etc.). Always read and follow all directions carefully, making certain that the product is appropriate for the fabric you have in mind.
  • If using bleach in your wash, always exercise caution. Bleach is a hazardous chemical and should be handled with care. For more information, see the Ashland Material Safety Data Sheet (PDF).
  • Although removing a fresh stain is often easier than removing one that has set in, trying to remove a mud stain before it is dry will generally only worsen the stain, so make sure the mud has dried first.
  • With dry dirt, the sooner you can treat the stain, the better. Even if you can’t get the item into a washer right away, it is best to pre-treat the stain anyway. If you don’t have access to dishwashing soap, even liquid hand soap will be better than nothing.


  1. Susan says:

    For easier scrubbing to remove dirt from cuffs and other dirt stains, use a motorized scrubbing brush (like an old electric toothbrush). It takes some of the work out and removes the stains much faster than scrubbing by hand.

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