You’ve just had your best outfit dry cleaned and upon the first wearing – splat! a new stain is born.
We all know that stains need to be treated promptly for the best chance of successful removal, but it will be days before you can take it to the cleaners again. What do you do? Well, you can either blot it off as best as you can and wait until you can get it to the dry cleaners, or you can attempt to remove it yourself. There are many “dry clean only” fabrics that can be treated for stain removal. If nothing else, it works as a great temporary fix until you can get the item back to the dry cleaners. Here are some general guidelines for removing stains from “dry clean only” clothing.
Gather the Necessary Supplies
There are a few general items that are commonly needed to remove any stain.
- Cotton swabs or cotton balls (depending on the size of the stain)
- Plastic spoon
- Clean soft cloths
- Cool or cold water
- Paper towels (optional)
Choose the Right Stain Remover
Select the stain remover based on the type of stain listed below.
- Grease Stains (oil, butter, mayonnaise): Dry cleaning fluid such as Afta or an absorbent powder like baking soda or corn starch
- Protein Stains (grass, meat, eggs): Dishwashing detergent (only use clear as colored detergents will add a color stain) or enzyme cleaner like Nature’s Miracle (available in the pet aisle)
- Fruit and Vegetables (juices as well as solids): Use the same as washables, but limit the amount of water used. Enzyme cleaner might also work, such as Nature’s Miracle (available in most pet aisles)
- Lipstick: Dry cleaning fluid such as Afta followed with white vinegar
- Wines: White – cold water; Red – denatured alcohol followed by white vinegar
- Beer: White vinegar
- Tea: Lemon juice
- Milk/Cream: Dry cleaning fluid such as Afta
- Coffee: White vinegar
- Wax: Same as washables
- Gum: Same as washables
- Smoke: White vinegar
- Sauces (chocolate, condiments, BBQ, salad dressings): Dry cleaning fluid such as Afta followed with white vinegar
- Mustard: White vinegar (may require dry cleaners assistance)
- Mud: Dishwashing detergent followed by white vinegar
- Lotion or body oils: Dry cleaning fluid such as Afta or an absorbent powder like baking soda or corn starch
- Ink: Glycerin followed by detergent and water (ballpoint ink) or denatured alcohol (felt-tip ink)
- Paint: same as washables
- Sweat: Enzyme cleaner, such as Kids ‘N’ Pets, see the guide How to Remove Armpit Stains from Dry Clean Only Clothing for more information
- Deodorant: the area often needs to be soaked, see the guide How to Remove Deodorant Stains from Clothing
Steps to Remove “Gloppy” Stains
- If there is any “glop” of stain such a dollop of ketchup, carefully remove it by scraping if off from the outside towards the center with a spoon.
- Next, blot at the stained area with a clean cloth moistened with a small amount of water. (Wring the cloth out first so it’s only damp, not dripping.)
- Switch to a clean portion of the cloth frequently to keep from reapplying the stain to the area.
- Next, apply the appropriate cleaner from the list above. To do this, wet a clean cloth with the cleaner, then blot (press) or swipe the cloth over the area.
- Blot again with a clean cloth dampened with only water.
- Repeat until the stain is removed.
- When the stain is removed, lay the piece flat and allow it to dry completely.
Steps to Remove Liquid Stains
- Begin by blotting the stain with a clean, soft cloth to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
- Apply the appropriate cleaner with a cotton ball, cotton swab or soft cloth depending on the size of the stain.
- Continue to blot with a clean, white cloth. As you are blotting, you will notice the stain transferring to the cloth.
- Switch to a clean section of the cloth frequently to keep from spreading the stain.
- Repeat the application of the cleaning product and blotting until the stain is either completely removed or you feel you have removed as much as possible.
- If the cleaner needs to be rinsed out, blot the area with a clean cloth moistened with plain water.
- Lay the piece flat and allow it to dry completely.
Steps to Remove Oil Stains
- Oil based stains require an absorbent to soak up the oil from the stain. Cover the stained area with corn starch or baking soda and allow it set for 30 minutes.
- Flip the fabric over and shake to remove the absorbent.
- Now that the oil has been absorbed, you are ready to treat any remaining stain.
- Apply the cleaning solution or absorbent (repeating the process with fresh powder may remove more of the stain) and allow it to set for a few minutes.
- Blot the area with a clean cloth to remove.
- Rinse with a clean cloth moistened with water if necessary.
- Lay the piece flat and allow it to dry completely.
Additional Tips and Ideas
- Not all dry clean fabrics can be treated for stain removal. If you are in doubt about how the fabric will hold up to the cleaning products, it is best to either test a small, hidden area first or allow the dry cleaners to remove the stain.
- It is helpful to place a towel inside of the shirt or pants to prevent pushing the stain through to the other side of the clothing.
- Any stains that may have sugar remaining (juices, wines, jams, etc.) should be pointed out to the dry cleaners even if they appear to be removed. If there are any remaining sugars in the fibers, they will caramelize during the dry cleaning process and leave a stain.
- Avoid using bleach on these delicate fabrics. Other products such as lemon juice and vinegar can be used as a mild bleach to remove remaining color stains.
- This is a general guide for various stain removal procedures, if you are in doubt or concerned about how the fabric will react to the cleaning products, do not hesitate to consult your dry cleaner for stain removal. Simply blot the stain with a clean cloth to remove as much as possible and take it to the dry cleaners as soon as possible.