Kids are grubby little beasts aren’t they? Dirt, food, drinks, paint, crayon – I could go on forever with the stack of stains they can produce. I’m sure you’re familiar with that situation. But I have some keen green cleaning methods to save your sanity, and your money.
There are a lot of “natural” laundry and stain removal products out there, but I have found that having a few common household items around has helped reduce the amount of stains on my kids’ (and my) clothes. What I am talking about here is regular every day clothing, preferably cottons. I am no expert on fancy fabrics e.g. silks, suede or satin; (Ha! like I can afford it anyway!) So let’s go “stain slaying!”
Firstly identify the stain. This is important for the chemistry of stain removal because you need to use the right treatment. If in doubt pre-test on the fabric somewhere not too obvious to make sure that the fabric won’t be harmed by the treatment.
There are two things that help a stain take hold, time and heat. Letting it wait will give the stain time to “set”. Try your best to wash the stain quickly or at least leave it to soak in salt water (one tablespoon per 10 litre bucket of warm, not hot, water) until you can get to the stain. The salt will naturally break down the stain and the water stops the stain in the fabric from drying out (which helps set the stain). This works for any type of stain
Heat is NOT your friend
Heat cooks – you get that right? All bodily fluids, animal or human, are a type of protein. This includes blood, vomit, baby spit-up, dairy, poo, pee, eggs and meat juices – you get the idea. Firstly soak in COLD water – not ice cube cold, but from the tap, and rinse, rub, rinse, rub, rinse. If you get to it fast enough, you can rinse that (protein) stain right out. However if it looks like the stain is a stubborn beast, soak the fabric in a little bit of cold salt water. Never use hot water. Why not? Because heat “cooks” proteins, changing the chemical structure and setting stains solid.
After soaking the fabric, rinse, rub, rinse, rub, rinse and rub the stain with mild soap to remove that blasted stain and once the stain has been lifted, launder as usual. But keep that stain wet until it’s gone.
If that stain is on white fabric, try a combination of a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and dish soap and rinsing well with cold water. If the stain has stuck dab some of the peroxide/soap mixt onto the stain. Let it sit there for a minute. Then gently rub the soapy stain and rinse again with cold water. Repeat if necessary. You may notice a little “bubbling” as the peroxide “eats” at the stain, don’t panic and if the kids are watching scare them with an “evil professor” type maniacal laugh.
But what about other stains?
Plant based stains like tomato sauce or berry stains can be conquered by simple cheap white vinegar, really! Rinse the stain as soon as you can, then soak the item of clothing in 1/3 vinegar and 2/3 water. Then launder as usual and watch that stain will magically disappear.
As for you blokes – problems with sweat stains? Rinse the stain as soon as you can, then soak the in bit of vinegar and water. If you are particularly sweaty after chasing kids (or the wife) all over the back yard mix a paste with vinegar and baking soda, rub on the stain, allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before washing as usual. This also works on removing most old stains too.
Barbeque blow back?
Oil stains are the worst. I could point out that wearing an apron will protect your clothes, give your kids ideas for future Dad’s day presents and possible amuse friends and family at your next big BBQ (those fake boobs ones are hilarious (to other blokes). Back to the stain; wash the oil stain in VERY hot water with a dash of dish soap, breaking down oil. If the stain is as obstinate as my mother-in-law, try placing the item in a large bowl, pour boiling water and a bit of vinegar or baking soda over it and soak overnight then scrub the stain with an old toothbrush and a bit of dish soap then in to the washing machine. If the stain is super stubborn or you’ve been greasing the motorbike again (by the way not to be done in the lounge room or wifey will murder you!), try soaking it in rubbing alcohol for about 30 minutes then wash but only if its cotton – this will not work on nylon or man-made fibres!
Let the sun shine
My favourite, (AKA cheapest and easiest), cleaning tip – use the sun. After trying above tips and washing the stained clothing, set it in full sun to dry, the sunshine will significantly fade the stain. Works best on lighter coloured fabric, and if you soak the prewashed article of clothing in a little bit of vinegar before placing into the sun it will help speed the process.
Extra tips for those extra stains:
- For ink stains: soak the stain in rubbing alcohol for an hour.
- For gum: Place article of clothing in freezer and the gum should scrape off once frozen.
- For Beer: Vinegar.
- Chocolate: Firstly, how did that happen? All chocolate must go straight into the mouth!!! Soak in detergent and launder. If stain remains, soak like a protein stain.
- Coffee and Tea: Spot-clean stains with vinegar then soak like a protein stain. For old coffee and tea stains, rub with glycerine before laundering.
- Chewing Gum: Put in freezer for a few hours; when solid, peel gum off.
- Crayons and Candle Wax: Freeze the stain, remove the residue, and pull off the wax. Next, heat an iron, cover the wax stain with an absorbent cloth, and melt the wax onto the cloth.
- Mould: Vinegar.
Bonus tips in the laundry:
Use White Vinegar: Eliminate soap residue by adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the washer’s final rinse. Vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics but strong enough to dissolve alkalies in soaps and detergents. Vinegar also breaks down uric acid; so adding 1 cup vinegar to the rinse water is especially good for babies’ clothes. To get wool and cotton blankets soft and fluffy as new, add 2 cups white vinegar to a full tub of rinse water. DO NOT USE VINEGAR IF YOU ADD CHLORINE BLEACH TO YOUR RINSE WATER. IT WILL PRODUCE HARMFUL VAPORS.
Baking Soda: 1/4 to 1/2 cup baking soda per wash load makes clothes feel soft and smell fresh. You can cut the amount of chlorine bleach used in your wash by half when you add 1/2 cup baking soda to top loading machines or 1/4 cup to front loaders.
Cornstarch: For homemade laundry starch, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 pint cold water. Place in a spray bottle. Shake before using. Clearly label the contents of the spray bottle.