Love to wear white? Spill things sometimes? This one’s for you. The question isn’t “do you wear white after Labor Day,” the question is, “how do you get stains out of the white clothing you obviously wear all year.” Coffee—I mean wine—is often the culprit, and is no small feat when it comes to erasing the evidence. Below, my five favorite methods for pretending stains never happened. Your secret is safe with me.
FIRST DETERMINE THE TYPE OF STAIN
Before we begin, a quick reference guide to stains. The stain remover you choose actually depends on the kind of stain you’ve imparted upon yourself. It’s pretty simple:
OIL STAINS: Oil stains need a product with surfactants, which will make the stain more water soluble by decreasing the surface tension between the stain molecule and the material, so that the oil molecules can be washed away. It’s science.
PROTEIN STAINS: We’re talking stains like grass, blood, egg yolk, dairy products, and sweat. You’ll want an enzyme-based stain remover for these. What happens here is that the product breaks up non-water-soluble molecules in the stain into smaller, more soluble ones. Stay with me, it will start making more sense below.
TANNIN STAINS: Look for stain removers that oxidize the stain, these are oxygen or bleach-based (if the clothing is white!) removers. Basically the product is removing the color of the stain molecules to solve your problem and save your clothes. Think wine, coffee, tea, ink and soda.
THE BEST STAIN REMOVERS
Tide Pen: In my opinion, if it ain’t broke, remove pinot noir stains with it. I never go anywhere without one of these in my bag, in my TSA-approved liquids pouch, you name it. The best quick solve for unsightly stains that happen at the worst times (i.e. that time I got chocolate on the front of my white rehearsal dinner dress), Tide Pens are the spill-prone person’s best friend. For oil-based stains and protein stains you’ll likely need something more serious, but the Tide Pen is very effective on tannin-based stains (except ink stains—you’ll need something more serious for that as well) and food-related stains of all kinds. When tackling stains like ketchup, BBQ sauce, grape juice, tomato juice, coffee, soda, chocolate, tea, and wine there’s really no reason not to have one (five?) on hand at all times.
OxiClean: I’m pretty sure this product does it all. Like if you asked it nicely, it might make you breakfast, too. With over 101 uses (that’s the packaging talking, not me), this is an excellent stain remover to keep at home to treat stains new and old prior to tossing in the laundry. Definitely effective on tannin stains, this one will actually work for oil and protein stains of all kinds, too. I also really like the spray version when pre-treating laundry.
Best for Tough Protein
Zout: Especially designed for protein-based stains, this magic potion contains three enzymes that really cover all of your stain bases from tomato sauce, to grass, even sweat. Also it’s just fun to say.
Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. I’d never heard of this product but after some digging, I’m convinced we all need at least one bottle of this lying around. This biodegradable, non-toxic product has a 4.7 star rating on Amazon. For comparison, that’s the same rating as the iPhone 8. Just a drop of this stuff will remove any troublesome oil or tannin stain, even those unsightly grease moments threatening to ruin a silk blouse.
Biokleen: Does the name sound like a salesman is advertising this to you on TV in the 60s? Yes. Is it also a miracle worker? Also yes. Biokleen should be your solution for protein-based stains of all kinds, especially anything with an unpleasant odor. Bonus: You can use it on your carpet, too!