Save Your Clothes With These Stain Removal Tricks

It was, quite possibly, the hardest part of learning to live on my own: doing my own laundry. Growing up in my parents’ house, I’d never been expected to do my own laundry; in fact, after an accident in the laundry room when I was four years old (I pulled a hot iron on to my forehead), my mother actually banned me from the area. I tried – and, for the most part, succeeded – in getting out of doing my own laundry during college, when I’d simply bring home huge bags of dirty clothes for my mother to wash during school vacations, but once I graduated and was truly out on my own, I finally had to learn to do laundry.

Over the years, I’ve come to find that some of the most ubiquitous objects are the most likely to leave you with really tough stains. Here are three of the toughest stains I’ve encountered, plus the steps I took to eradicate them.

Ballpoint Pen Stains

Who hasn’t come across a ballpoint pen stain at least once? Since I kept a Bic pen in my purse at all times, it was only a matter of time before one would stain my clothes – and it did: my favorite white button down shirt.

My first mistake was assuming this would be a simple stain to remove. Instead of taking the proper precautions before running it through the washing machine, I simply threw it in with my normal load of whites without giving it a second thought. Fortunately, I checked the stain before throwing the shirt in the dryer, only to see it hadn’t budged.

That’s when I called my mom – an expert in stain removal (among many, many other great talents) – for help. Her step-by-step tutorial for getting rid of ballpoint pen stains has been part of my laundry arsenal ever since:

  1. Apply an alcohol-based product ASAP. Put some paper towels underneath the stain, and blot it with hairspray, rubbing alcohol, or even nail polish remover. (Just be sure not to use a product with any type of moisturizer in it, which will only make the stain worse.)
  2. Turn the fabric inside out, and repeat step one focusing on the backside of the stain.
  3. Repeat steps one and two until the stain is gone.

Dry-Erase Marker Stains

Why is it that something that is so easy to wipe off a white board is nearly impossible to get out of clothes? The reason is because the ink in these markers is not water-soluble. Have you ever spilled water on a white board? It actually sets the dry-erase marker; you need a special cleanser to remove it, which explains why dabbing any fabric stained with dry-erase markers with water is a major no-no. I had an unfortunate run-in with a dry erase marker during a presentation at my first job, and once again turned to my mom for help.:

  1. If you’re in a place where they have the commercial dry-erase marker removal solution, go ahead and use it.
  2. If you don’t have access to the cleanser, use another alcohol-based product – like the ones used to remove ballpoint pen stains. As dry-erase markers dry, their ink becomes more of a solid (ever tried to clean a white board with your fingers? you know what I’m talking about), so you might want to try scrubbing with a toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush.
  3. Try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. My mom swears by this as a last-ditch effort (otherwise, you’re in for a trip to the dry cleaners), although I’ve never personally tried it (step two has always worked for me).

Crayon Stains

You tend to think of your washing machine and dryer as a place where your clothes go from dirty to clean; I always did, until my youngest child put a crayon in a load of laundry. When I saw all the clothes come out with thick, purple stains on them, I thought I was going to have to trash the whole load. So again, I called my mom – and she saved me with a very unlikely (and easy) solution:

  1. Put the clothes back in the wash, filling the machine with water that is as hot as possible.
  2. Add 1/2-cup of distilled white vinegar (more if you’re looking at an entire load of ruined clothes), a few tablespoons of dish soap (I like Dawn, and think it works better for this than the off-brands), and your normal amount of laundry detergent.
  3. Let the clothes sit for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Run the wash as you normally would; repeat if the stains don’t come out the first time.

I was dubious, but after two washes, the crayon stains came out – even though I’d washed and dried the clothes!

Reader, have you ever tried any of these stain removal tricks? Have they worked for you? Do you have any alternative solutions?

Libby Balke

Libby is a jack of all trades, master of… well, you know how the saying goes. Media consultant by day, mommy by night, you can usually find her with a glass of wine in hand, provided the kids are in bed!

One thought on “Save Your Clothes With These Stain Removal Tricks

  • November 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Great tips. Honestly, I’ve never even heard of a crayon stain before this post.

    Dishdetergent is a good way to get oil based stains out, especially, cooking oil.


Leave a Reply to Wayne @ Young Family Finance Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *