Unfortunately, stains are an inevitable part of life. They ruin our clothes, our furniture, and follow us through every room of the house. Even though we may want to, there’s no need to throw our hands in the air and give up — not when a few simple stain removal tricks and some good-old-fashioned elbow grease just might be able to save the day.
Kitchen Stain Removal
If your sink is a little grimy, never fear! You most likely already have all the ingredients you’ll need to bring its sparkle back. Erase mineral deposits on porcelain, enamel, and stainless steel sinks with a paste made a half cup of powdered borax and the juice of half a lemon. Dab a sponge in the mixture, rub, and rinse with running water. If store-bought cleansers are more up your alley, consider Bar Keeper’s Friend.
Stains on formica counters are fairly easy to remove, but they can take a little time. If the stain is caused by fruit juice (or other similarly colored liquids) mix baking soda with just enough water to form a thick paste, apply the paste to the stain and place a wet paper towel over the paste to keep it moist. Let the paste work for one to two hours, and then wipe it away gently. Baking soda is slightly abrasive and can leave fine scratches, so don’t scrub.
If your countertop stain is a bit tougher — say, ink or something of that nature — a solvent such as denatured alcohol or acetone should do the trick. Apply a small amount of the solvent to a soft rag or cotton ball and rub the stain until it disappears. Though most solvents won’t discolor plastic laminate, it’s still best to test them on an inconspicuous spot first.
Nothing is more frustrating in the kitchen than oil spatters and stains. As time passes, these stains and splatters form a nasty, difficult to remove film on your cabinets, backsplashes, walls, range hood, and stove top. There are three ways to tackle this film. The first is to soak a paper towel in mineral oil and wipe the affected surface until the gunk is removed. Baking soda is also helpful when cleaning the inside of your oven. If it’s an especially stubborn film, you can add some baking soda in the oil to give it a little oomph. Then, wipe down the surface a second time with a clean paper towel to remove the excess oil. The mineral oil method works well for metal surfaces, such as the range hood or stove top.
The second way to beat oil stains is with an equal mixture of warm water and white vinegar. Soak a rag or sponge in this solution and wipe away light oil stains. For stubborn stains, use straight vinegar. Finally, wipe the cabinets with a rag soaked in cold water. This works well for walls and cabinets. The last way to get rid of kitchen oil stains involves using a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide as a degreaser. It works on all surfaces for stain removal (but you may want to test it in a hidden area before putting it on a painted surface).
Bathroom Stain Removal
Most bathroom-cleaning challenges are caused by the minerals found in hard water, particularly calcium, magnesium and iron. The particles form a hard scale on practically every surface, from handles and faucets to toilets and bathtubs. Here are a few ways to defeat these nasty hard water stains:
For light hard water stains, mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on your tub, shower, sink, faucets, or floor tiles and wait a few minutes before wiping clean. Note: Don’t use vinegar on real marble, granite, travertine, or other natural stone
For tougher hard water stains, use straight vinegar. Remove faucet aerators and shower heads and soak them in vinegar overnight. You can use a nylon bristled brush to help to loosen stubborn deposits. Rinse clean and replace. Wrap rags soaked in vinegar around handles and faucets. Let sit for an hour or more, adding more vinegar if necessary to keep the rags wet. When the mineral deposits have loosened up or dissolved, remove the rags and rinse the area with a clean towel or sponge.
If your toilet has hard water spots, pour one and one half cups of vinegar in the toilet bowl. Use the toilet scrubber to scrub the spots until they’re gone, and flush.
If you’re dealing with rust stains in the bathroom, you’ll need to skip the vinegar and turn instead to table salt and lemon juice. Pour salt onto the rust stain until it is completely covered. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salt. Let the mixture sit overnight and then remove and rinse. Never use bleach on rust as it will set the stain.
If these pantry staples fail to remove hard water and rust stains, you may need to pull out the big stain removal guns, i.e. a cleaner containing hydrochloric acid. This should be a last resort, since hydrochloric acid is rather harsh and not a lot of fun to work with. Make sure the room is well-ventilated and wear gloves. Spray the stained area with the hydrochloric acid, wipe it away, then rinse the surface with water and dry it. Take caution to prevent splatters onto tile or rugs. Hydrochloric acid is not recommended for septic systems.
Clothing Stain Removal
We’ve all ruined a favorite garment with an unfortunate stain, and it’s surprisingly heartbreaking. To avoid having to throw out beloved clothes in the future, remember the following tips for getting rid of common stains.
Soak immediately in lukewarm water. Dab stain with detergent or diluted vinegar. Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric and repeat as necessary.
Soak immediately in warm water. Cover the stain in salt and let stand. Rinse salt out, dab gently with detergent, and lay face down on a paper towel. Rinse again and launder normally.
Remove excess food carefully and dab liquid detergent onto the stain. Rinse with cold water from underneath the stain (to avoid pushing it back into the fabric). Launder normally.
Butter/Lard/Cooking Oil/Engine Grease/Machine Oil
Soak immediately in lukewarm water with detergent, using a pre-treatment if available. Remove and dab stain with detergent. Place face down on a paper towel and let stand. Repeat as needed.
Soak and agitate in lukewarm water to remove as much excess as possible. Apply detergent to residual stains and let soak for 20-30 minutes. Rinse and repeat. Launder normally.
Wash in hot water and detergent. If yellowing persists, soak in warm water and let stand with a treatment of white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Avoid chlorine bleach as it will only cause further yellowing.
Rinse immediately with cool water. Immerse in room temperature water with detergent and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Spot-treat with an enzyme cleaner. Launder normally.
Urine and Feces
Remove excess and rinse immediately in cool water. Soak and agitate in cool water with detergent. Drain and soak again, letting stand for 20-30 minutes. Launder normally.
For the ultimate laundry stain removal guide, check out this guide from the Cleaning Institute. Not all of the instructions are “green,” but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Though stains are truly frustrating, they’re not necessarily a permanent fixture. With a few common household goods and a little patience, you can banish hard water, rust, oil, and a number of other manner of stains from your life for good.
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