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The magnificent seven for stains

Published Oct. 6, 2005

Herb Barndt's seven stain removal methods:

1. Oil solvent. Ideal for removing stains that contain oil or greasy substances. Place fabric flat on top of paper towels.

Apply the solvent (Carbona, K2r) to the stain (use an eyedropper for liquids). Let dry. Remove residue with small brush.

If there's a ring, feather the edges with a cloth dampened with solvent.

2. The combination. Good for gravy or salad dressing. Apply a solvent (Shout, Spray 'n Wash, Clorox prewash) to the fabric prior to laundering. Wait approximately 15 minutes, but don't let it dry. Launder.

3. Digestants. Digestants contain enzymes that eat protein stains such as blood, chocolate, egg or gravy, or grass stains.

Mix powdered digestant (Biz, Axion, Era Plus, Wisk) with a small amount of water to make a paste. Apply to the stain. If using liquid digestant, apply directly. Place in warm environment, wait 30 minutes and launder.

4. Absorbents. Try this if you don't have time to clean a stain immediately but don't want it to set. Talcum powder, cornstarch and cornmeal are particularly effective at drawing out the stain before it works its way into the fabric.

Shake or pour the absorbent onto the stained area. Wait until it has soaked up the stain. Shake, brush or gently scrape off the remainder. Reapply if necessary.

5. Bleach. Bleaches (chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, white vinegar) remove the color of the stain. Always test fabric and dilute the bleach before use.

Apply liquid bleach with an eyedropper and wait up to 15 minutes. For powders, make a paste with water and apply. Flush with cool water. After application of any bleach, thoroughly flood the area with water or bleach will continue to work.

6. Soap. Use this on anything that contains no oil. Apply liquid soap (Woolite, Ivory, Tide and Cheer) to the stain or mix dry soap with water to make a liquid. Carefully knead without scrubbing to make suds.

Let stand for 5 minutes. Work in a little water to make foam. Let stand another 5 minutes. Rinse washables or flush non-washables with cool water.

7. Hot water. Check the care label to make sure fabric can tolerate hot water. Spread the fabric over a bowl. Pour a lot of boiling water directly on the stain from a distance of about 1 foot. This can be useful on red-wine stains: Spread salt over the stain, then pour the hot water over it.