Fabric Stain Removal Tips

In a perfect world we would all have our dedicated stitching rooms from which children, pets and anyone carrying noxious liquids would be barred. Tea or coffee and the odd light repast would regularly be served just within the doorway. There would be no interruptions or domestic crisis and when we chose to leave the room the precious embroidery would be carefully covered, undisturbed until we returned.

I wish!

Back in the real world where accidents happen, however careful we are, the following suggestions might be of use.I have tried to cover obvious stains but if anyone can think of or has experience of dealing with removing stains from precious stitching please contact me with your comments and I will try and include them in any updates.

There are of course some excellent specialist cleaning products out there but the shop stocking these might not be immediately accessible and if the stain is fresh you'll want to tackle it yourself.

General Points for Fabric Stain Removal

  1. The quicker you can attack the stain the better. It will be harder to remove when set.
  2. Try to avoid hot water initially. as this will also set the stain. Cold or lukewarm will suffice.
  3. If possible try for colourfastness by rubbing a wet cotton bud over a small test sample of your stitching at the back.
  4. Approach gently - dab don't rub because this will spread the stain further.
  5. For the same reason, work inwards towards the centre of the stain.
  6. Place a clean white towel, or a wad of white kitchen towel, under your embroidery before starting. This will catch surplus liquid and stop the fabric picking up further staining from anything underneath it that isn't colourfast. Remember to keep replacing kitchen towel or moving clean towel underneath to prevent stain re-attaching itself to another piece of your fabric. This last piece of advice is based on personal experience.

Fabric Stain Removal - Drinks

Wash fresh stains in warm water, then soak and wash in warm soapy water such as washing up suds.

If stain is set then dab with methylated spirit, soak and then wash in soapy water.

Wash in warm water after soaking.

Red Wine
Pour sparkling mineral water or white wine over stained fabric and blot with kitchen towel to absorb stain. Cover with a large quantity of salt; leave for 30 minutes then rinse in cold water followed by gentle wash in warm soapy water.

White Wine
When fresh, wash in warm water. With a dried wine stain, work a little neat washing up liquid into stain; leave for an hour then wash.

Fruit Juice
Work a little washing liquid into the stain, leave for an hour, and wash in warm soapy water.

Fabric Stain Removal - Pen Marks

Many of us will have a pen to hand for marking off progress on our charts. There are fabric pens available that mark paper or fabric and are cold water soluble but in case you haven't got one...

Felt tip and Ballpoint
Good luck! Dab repeatedly with methylated spirit then rinse in cold water and gently rub in neat washing up liquid, rinse and wash in warm soapy water.

If water soluble, try and wash out with cold water, blotting as you go. When you have removed as much as you can, then apply neat washing up liquid to the remaining mark, leave for 5 minutes and try washing in warm soapy water. Repeat washing up liquid sections if necessary.

Non Soluble Ink
This is probably the worst one. Blot as much off as you can. Then try dabbing with methylated spirits not forgetting to keep moving your clean kitchen towel beneath as the stain comes out. When removed, rinse in cold water and wash in warm soapy water.

An American contributor recommends rubbing a mixture of baking soda and water into the stain, rinsing and washing. It sounds sensible but so far ink and my embroidery haven't coincided, though most other thing have down the years. Excuse me while I race off and touch wood.

Work neat washing liquid into the mark, with your finger, then rinse and wash in warm soapy water.

Fabric Stain Removal - Grease or Fat

Spread talcum powder over the grease mark brushing it off as it absorbs the grease. Repeat until grease mark is gone, then wash in warm soapy water

To remove rust stain from fabric

I wouldn't use this one on coloured fabrics unless you can incorporate any possible bleaching of the fabric into your design at this point. You may therefore want to test run it on a spare, similar piece of fabric first.

Dip half a lemon in salt, rub over the fabric and leave for an hour. Then rinse and wash as usual

To remove blood stain from fabric

Soak as soon as possible in cold salty water. If item is heavily stained then keep changing water until it is clearThen wash in warm soapy water. Never use hot water with a bloodstain because it will set it.

Fabric Stain Removal - Chocolate

This is for those who believe in the possibility of doing two of your favourite things a the same time and get a mite careless.

If chocolate is still soft, place stitching in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge for a few moments until the chocolate has hardened. Take it out of fridge and scrape off surplus chocolate. Stain can now be sponged with warm soapy water before being washed in same.

Avoid if possible any family member seeing you do this - you will never live it down.

P.S. This works on chewing gum too! You need to wait until it's hardened in the fridge, when you can peel most of it off and then pick any surplus bits out with a fine needle.

Fabric Stain Removal - Newsprint

Remember a pattern can become damp and mark your stitching if the two come into contact.Dab with methylated spirit, rinse off and then wash thoroughly in warm soapy water.

If all else fails

Here I am thinking of fabric stain removal from a fairly small part of fabric. I'm also presuming that the expensive stain remover that you purchased the next day wasn't successful.

If you can't get that stain off, how about embroidering over it. A train of a dress can be extended or a border changed or a small appropriate motif such as a flower petal, star etc, put in. On one of my first designs a stain turned into a distant seagull in the sky. Well three months work wasn't going to be wasted, and I felt rather proud of that seagull in the end!