For most people, removing stains from cotton is a matter of dunking the garment in a tub full of liquid detergent and water and washing it briskly. If the stain remains, as it very often does, tough luck, but what can one do? Plenty, as it turns out.
The finish of the garment is crucial when removing stains from cotton. As no doubt most of us have found out, it is harder to remove stains from cotton garments with a smoother finish than those that have a rougher texture. Similarly, garments in darker colors respond more readily to stain removal treatment than those in pastels. However, as a general rule, you should always dab rather than rub when removing stains from cotton, and you must act immediately after the stain has formed so that it doesn't spread further. Also, once the stain hardens, scrape off the crusty bits and concentrate on the residue.
Warning: Never use hot water when removing stains from cotton. Always remember that a stain may set further with hot or even warm water.
Now here's some advice on removing specific stains from cotton:
- Blood. First, and most important, you must soak the bloodstained garment in cold water for at least an hour, when the stain ought to turn a faded brown. Next, apply a pre-wash stain remover to the affected area and rinse. If the stain remains, soak it in a solution of ammonia and cold water. Alternatively, apply a little hydrogen peroxide to the area and rinse.
- Ink. Hairspray is a great way to remove ink stains from cotton. However, be careful not to spray on too much, and always wash the area well with liquid detergent and water to prevent hairspray residue from forming. An alternative to hairspray is nail polish remover.
- Chewing gum. Rub the wad of gum with an ice cube until it freezes solid. Next, scrape off as much gum as possible with a dull scraper, and remove the residue with a clean white cloth dipped in cleaning solvent.
- Food. To remove food and grease stains, first apply a cleaning solvent. If the stain persists, dilute a little vinegar in water and apply it to the stain to remove any residual color. Wash the vinegar solution off with liquid detergent and water.
- Makeup and lipstick. Gently dab the stain using dishwashing liquid diluted with a little water. If the stain fades but does not vanish altogether, continue to dab. When the stain disappears, wash the garment with detergent and water. For lipstick stains, apply an oil-based cleaning solvent and let the stain dry. After gently scraping off the residue, wash the stain off with liquid detergent and a little cold water.
- Tea and coffee. When removing tea and coffee stains from cotton, the trick is to act immediately, so you must sponge stains with cold water as soon as possible. Next, wash the garment using detergent and bleach. Another effective method is to immediately pour enough salt on the stain to soak up the liquid. Once the excess stain is gone, soak the garment in cold water for at least thirty minutes and wash it as usual.
- Chocolate and cocoa. Soak the garment in cold water for at least two hours, and then wash it in hot water with liquid detergent. For residual grease stains, use a dry-cleaning solvent. If any trace of color remains, sponge the area with hydrogen peroxide and wash the garment again.
- Milk and ice cream. Soak the garment in cold or warm water for at least an hour and wash it with liquid detergent and water. Gently rub residual grease spots with a dry-cleaning solvent and wash again.
As a final thought, though salt water can remove certain stains on colorfast garments, salt can potentially damage some dyes and cause the color to fade, so it is better to try alternative methods.