Stain Removal Guide Logo


Very fresh stains can often be removed by normal washing or by moistening the stain with water and placing in the sun or before a radiator. If not successful, apply a solution of 1 tsp. sodium thiosulphate, (from chemist) in 1cup warm water. Rinse well.

Light Oils, e.g. sewing machine, hair oil, baby oil etc.

Rub some dishwash liquid into the stain, leave for 10-15 minutes, then hot wash (60-65C) using your normal laundry detergent. If any stain remains, repeat the process. For unwashable fabrics or articles, see under Butter.

Lipstick & Other Cosmetics

e.g. eyeshadow, mascara, blusher - washing with your usual laundry product may remove these stains. Pre treat the dry fabric stain with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover). On an unwashable fabric, first try dry cleaning fluid.

If stains are stubborn, sponge with equal quantities of methylated spirits (wood alcohol) and household ammonia. (Test on coloured fabrics first). If colour fades, reduce ammonia by half and test again. Rinse in warm water, or wash if possible.


Try to find out from doctor or chemist what the medicine contains, as this will aid in selecting the correct treatment: e.g. iron tonics - treat as for iron rust: medicines containing alcohol, rinse with methylated spirits (wood alcohol), etc.

Where contents cannot be discovered proceed as for "Unknown Stain".

Treat as soon as discovered, before the mould has time to weaken the cloth. Slight, fresh stains can often be removed by washing with your usual laundry product and drying in the sun. Otherwise, try these methods in turn, proceeding carefully with coloured articles:
a] Chlorinated laundry bleaches may be used for white untreated cottons and linens, according to general instructions given by the manufacturer. Rinse thoroughly before washing.
b] Vinegar added to the final rinse will help remove any traces of smell remaining from the bleach.
c] A diaper wash/sanitiser container sodium percarbonate is safe on all white and coloured fabrics.
Motor Grease & Heavy Motor Oil

Scrape away as much as possible. For washable materials, rub lard or Vaseline into stain or treat dry fabric with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover). Wash in a quality Laundry powder or Liquid. On unwashable materials, such stains are difficult. Treat repeatedly with dry cleaning fluid, continuously changing the pad and the sponging cloth. Finish with a sponging of lukewarm water and synthetic detergent, then warm water to rinse. If contaminated with metal particles, an iron stain my remain. Treat as for Iron Rust.


Allow to dry, then brushing off. Any remaining stain may be removed by washing or sponging with your usual laundry powder or liquid or if greasy dirt, pre-treat dry fabric with a laundry pre-soak (spot stain remover) or use a grease solvent, e.g. dry cleaning fluid.


Scrape any excess mustard from the fabric, ensuring you don't spread the stain any further. Dry the mustard-stained area. Mix together 3 parts dishwash liquid with 1 part of a D'Limonene based product (read our notes on each product at this link). Soak the stained area in this solution for 10-15 minutes. NOTE: On occasion the mustard stain will turn very dark, but DON'T PANIC - it will wash out! After the soak time, rinse in water as hot as is suitable for the fabric, then wash as usual, but preferrably with a Laundry Liquid. This treatment may require repeating.

Nail Polish

Apply acetone or amyl acetate (polish removers), but take care with synthetic fibres, as both of these dissolve some type of rayons. Wash or sponge with your usual laundry product after treatment.

Remove any remaining colour with a bleach, using a chlorinated laundry bleach for white cottons and linens. A diaper wash/sanitiser container sodium percarbonate for colours, and hydrogen peroxide for wool and silks.


Treat as a grease stain - see under Butter


Modern paints vary greatly in composition and it is not possible to give one treatment for all types. As a guide, use the solvent suggested on the paint tin label for thinning paint and cleaning brushes. Treat promptly, as set stains are very difficult to remove. If paint has dried, soften with glycerine before applying treatment.

For oil paint, enamels and alkyd type paints, scrape off as much as possible and soak remaining stain in turpentine, or kerosene. Then wash in usual way.

Latex or plastic water-base paints, e.g. Acrylic and P.V.A. will wash out easily with cold water when fresh. Remove any remaining stain with methylated spirits (wood alcohol) (test first to see that acetate fabrics are not affected). Once dry, these paints are virtually impossible to remove.

Pencil Marks (lead)

Try a soft rubber for unwashable garments. Use a quality laundry powder or liquid on lead pencil marks, but never for indelible pencil. If not successful, follow instructions for Indelible Pencil.


Wet area, apply glycerine and rinse out well, or sponge with equal parts of full-strength hydrogen peroxide and water. If the colour has already been removed from the fabric by the alcohol in the perfume, it may be helpful to add a few drops of methylated spirits (wood alcohol) to cheesecloth pad and sponge fabric lightly, working towards the centre of the stain, thus distributing remaining colour evenly.

Perspiration Stains

New perspiration stains are normally acid and may be removed by washing. If the dye is affected, hold the mark in fumes from an open ammonia bottle.

Older perspiration stains turn alkaline and sponging with 1 Tbsp. vinegar in c water will often restore the colour. This treatment also helps to remove perspiration odours.

To remove perspiration stains from unwashable garments or for any stubborn marks, apply a paste of 1 Tbsp. cream of tartar, 3 crushed aspirins and warm water. Leave for 20 minutes. Rinse well in warm water. Repeat if necessary. Follow this with vinegar and water to restore the colour if necessary.


Any of the methods given below are safe for white fabrics, but test on coloured fabrics before use.

Lemon Juice - suitable for light stains on delicate fabrics. Spread stain over a bowl of boiling water and sprinkle with lemon juice. After a few minutes, rinse well and repeat if necessary.

Lemon Juice and Salt - sprinkle stain with salt, rub with lemon juice and place in sunlight. Keep moist with lemon juice till stain goes. Rinse well.

Cream of Tartar - for extensive staining, boil in a liquid made from 4 tsp. cream of tartar in 600 ml water. Rinse well OR if less extensive, dampen stain, spread with cream of tartar, hold in steam from boiling kettle. Rinse immediately stain goes. Do not use on fabrics that cannot be washed in hot water.

Page Break

HA Campbell