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Pre-Treating Stains: A Quick Guide


You know that sinking feeling that you get when you bite into your hot dog at lunch, only for ketchup or mustard to spurt out all over your favorite shirt? Or when you offer to hold your friend’s baby for a minute – just when the baby decides to spit up half of her last bottle all over your dress? 

Sometimes it seems like no matter how careful you are, you just can’t avoid stains. However, a stain doesn’t have to mean that your favorite piece of clothing is ruined. Take a look at some tips for pre-treating stains effectively so that they come out in the wash. 

Time Is Of the Essence

The longer a stain sits on fabric, the tougher it’s going to be to get out. The earlier you can pre-treat it, the more likely you are to remove it completely. So the first order of business is to treat the stain as soon as possible. 

If you’re not at home and don’t have access to stain pre-treatment products, your best bet is usually to run the fabric under cold water as soon as you can. While your instinct might be to apply the water to the outside of the fabric – where the staining material most likely landed in the first place – you’re actually better off running water from the inside of the fabric to the outside. That way, you’re pushing the staining material out from the fabric instead of into it. 

The Blue Dawn Method

Grease stains are some of the worst to get out of your clothing, and they often don’t respond well to typical stain pre-treatment products. There is a way to get that french fry grease or cooking oil out of your shirt or pants – the Blue Dawn method. 

This involves saturating the stain in Dawn dish soap. The original scented, blue-hued Dawn is the recommended variety; other scents may contain ingredients that could cause further staining on your clothing. Rub the soap into the stain with your fingers, then wash the clothing according to the directions on the label. 

When you take the grease-stained item out of the washer, hang it up to dry rather than putting it in the dryer. Inspect the item under a bright light once it’s dry. If you still see evidence of the stain, repeat the process from the beginning, but increase the agitation on the washer. If you originally washed it in a delicate cycle, wash it in a normal cycle the second time, and so on.

Avoid Rubbing Fabric Together

The last thing that you want to do when you have any stain is to rub the fabric together while pre-treating. Rather than helping to remove the stain, this just pushes it into the fabric further and possibly spreads the stain further. 

A better option is to apply the stain remover to both sides of the garment, then rub it in with your finger from the back of the garment, not the front. To blot a stain, start from the edges of the stain and work your way inward. Use a white cloth so that you don’t transfer any dyes from the cloth that you’re blotting with to the stained garment.