How To Get Stains Out Of *Literally* Everything

get rid of stains

Hacks to save a loved one.

My favourite item of clothing is a crisp white t-shirt but unfortunately, after 24 hours of wearing one, I spend the evening Googling ‘get rid of stains’.

When the white top goes out, in come the spills. The saucy flick of a fettuccine noodle, the splash of an oil bottle, or the runaway chocolate chip that melts between my boobs, nestling its way into the fabric, never to leave again. I am not messy by nature—I’m just skilled in the art of diving into an epic meal, or laughing too raucously for the glass of wine in my hand. Which is how life should be lived, right?

My secret weapon for rewriting the ending to these tragic tales is my mother, Juniper. I have many memories of sitting crossed-legged under the soft glow of our lamp, tea and biscuit in hand, surrounded by piles of laundry awaiting their assorted destination. As we chat away, mum dabs soap here and there on little t-shirt stains, throws muddy shorts into buckets, and create new piles of wools and whites for the morning. An operation well known to the household, and in fact, our extended family too. So you could say I’ve learnt a few things handy to this adult-life I now lead.

A few handy weapons of choice to stock up on are as follows: 1) Sunlight soap—a gentle stain remover that’s great for whites and wools, 2) Friend gel or spray—the most convenient application and is a great all-purpose stain remover, just less gentle, 3) Napisan—a good soaker is a must. Also, some at-home clothes for cooking, crafts, and any other spontaneous activity you’d like to relax into without fear of stains.

Depending on the stain and item of clothing, how you treat the unwanted gremlin will differ, but always make sure to read the care label inside to avoid damaging the fabric. Here’s three of the most common stains and how our family of expert stain removers deal with them.


Never rub, but scrape off dry as much as you can, then dab with stain remover. Leave to sit overnight and check again in the morning. If unsuccessful, pop in a bucket of soaker and leave for another night or two then wash as normal.

Cooking oil

Put dishwashing liquid on the oil spill, fat clings well to it, and using a wet cloth, give it a scrub. Wash away with hot water and repeat if necessary.

Red wine 

If you get to the stain while it’s wet, dab with a paper towel, pour salt onto it, and let it absorb for a while (unless the fabric in question is linen, in which case eschew the salt). Rinse and throw in a bucket with an overnight soaker. If it’s dried wine, I find that doubling the suggested portion of soaker works, followed by forgetting about it for a week (or even two!).

A few other general rules to keep in mind—never soak wool, take silk to dry cleaners, hot water sets most stains (not oil), so use cold, and as a last resort, always soak and repeat if necessary. If you’ve got a nasty stain you’ve abandoned for days, then a second, or even third time lucky is possible if you’re feeling determined enough.

On a last note—as my mother often reminds me—get onto a stain as quickly as possible. The longer you leave it, the more it seeps into the fabric.

If you have any other hot stain tips, be sure to pop them in the comments section below.

Words, Sian Henderson