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The Cheater’s Guide to Stain Removal: Tips and Tricks You Need to Know


November 5, 2019


Old shirts frequently become fodder for the chore-mill. They are what we wear when we paint the front porch. They are catchalls for things like our old automobile oil, the gunk behind the oven, the dust in the attic, and rogue grass clippings. While these trusty work uniforms may get dirty, it doesn’t mean that every dirty task or tough chore has to be the end of the road. In many cases, these shirts can be saved from the trash can, if treated quickly and properly.

Whether you just poured some pasta sauce on your favorite dinner shirt, or you just came in from a day in the yard, here are useful stain removal cheats to treat those pesky accidents and slip-ups:


It’s common knowledge that one of the best uses for old t-shirts you no longer want is for painting. Unfortunately, once the paint dries, it becomes stuck. It’s not coming off. But here are some tips to help you save your t-shirt before that happens.

Water-based paint: Rinse fabric in warm water when stains are still wet, and launder.

Oil-based paint/Varnish: Use the same solvent listed on the paint can as a thinner, or turpentine. Rinse, pretreat with stain remover or detergent. Then, rinse and launder.



Spilled wine on fabric

You’re drinking wine in a t-shirt? Props to you, because you either go to really cool events, or don’t care what anybody thinks.

Although red wine is the biggest offender here, most alcohol stains can be treated in the same manner.

Sponge the stain with cool water and soak for 30 minutes. Then pretreat with a prewash stain remover. Launder, and add a little chlorine bleach to the water. When doing this be careful—if undiluted bleach touches your fabric it leave a stain that’s even worse!



Grass Stains

If you’re an active person (or maybe just clumsy!), you probably have t-shirts or other clothing with awful grass stains. These stains are particularly rough on the eyes if the fabric is a lighter color, or worse, white. We shudder at the thought.

To treat a grass stain, run a liquid laundry detergent with enzymes (think: Arm and Hammer plus OxiClean, Ultra Plus, Tide original liquid formula, etc.) on the stain and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then, launder with hot water and diluted bleach.

Tomatoes (Ketchup, Pasta Sauce, etc.)


Ketchup Stains

Some foods are messier than others, and when push comes to shove, we’d bet that most people are more likely to get a tomato stain when eating sloppy meals like burgers, hotdogs, or pizza. No need to change your barbaric ways (we kid)! Here’s how to treat that stain:

Flush the stain with cold water from the inside of the garment. Apply liquid detergent, then tap with a toothbrush to break it up. Rinse, sponge the stain with white vinegar, and rinse again. Repeat this step until stain is mostly gone, and then launder.




Eating chocolate can be a very involved process. It’s glorious, and it’s delicious—but it’s also messy. (Seriously. Have you ever eaten a chocolate bar and somehow found chocolate on your fingers/keyboard/notebook/phone hours later? No? Just us? Ok, cool!) And chocolate seems to easily stain when little chocolate pieces fall and melt into t-shirt fabric.

Getting rid of a chocolate stain is tough, but not impossible! First scrape off whatever chocolate remains in place. Then, soak in cold water. Pretreat with prewash stain remover and launder on HOT. If the stain persists, try washing your t shirt again using a bleach safe for fabric.



Blood Stain

We’re not going to ask where it came from, we’re just going to tell you how to deal with it!

… Kidding. Paper cuts, slips and falls, scrapes–accidents happen. We can’t make you less clumsy, but we can help you clean yourself up!

First, blot the fabric with paper towels. Then, pretreat the garment with laundry soap, prewash stain remover, or dish soap, combined with 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Apply this mixture with a soaked sponge. Make sure to wash in cold water and air dry.



Sweat Stains

Don’t feel bad—deodorant stains happen to the best of us, and it’s actually partly caused by your deodorant (well, antiperspirant…). The aluminum compounds in antiperspirant, when mixed with sweat, create that gross yellowish stain.

Instead of shouldering a little awkward embarrassment about deodorant stains, here’s how to get rid of them:

If it’s light, pretreat with laundry detergent, and wash.

If it’s heavy, pretreat with prewash stain remover and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Then launder with oxygen bleach.


What other stains have tried to ruin your beloved t-shirts? What did you do to get rid of them? Please share in the comments so we can save more t-shirts!


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