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We love our coffee, but we prefer to drink it, not wear it. Some days we’re just clumsy, or we have the misfortune of running into someone (literally) and spilling Starbucks on our favorite shirt. Stain remover pens can be a godsend, but different stains (like chocolate, blood, or salad dressing) require different treatments to remove a spot for good.
Luckily, you probably have most of the supplies you need in the pantry or under the sink, which is good because you want to treat stains ASAP, says Jolie Kerr, author of My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag… And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Follow these tricks to treat 16 common stains, whether they’re on your pants or the carpet. And for washable clothes, as a last-ditch effort, follow these steps and then pre-treat with a stain remover (like Shout) and throw them in the wash as soon as possible.
If you spill your cup of joe, pour cold water on the back of the stain over the sink or a small container. If the coffee stain persists, massage the affected area with liquid laundry detergent and soak it in cold water up to 30 minutes.
Grab a knife and scrape off all the chocolate you can. Pour milk over any spots that remain and wait five minutes. Then run the stain under cold water and rub with your fingers to lift the stain. To finish, dab liquid laundry detergent on the spot before you put it in the wash.
“If it’s a fresh stain, pour a liberal amount of salt all over the stained areas,” Kerr says. “The salt will absorb a lot of the wine.” If that doesn’t do the trick, pour club soda on the stain and blot it with a towel.
Lift a soy sauce stain by running it under cold water. Then blot it with a paper towel that has been dipped in an ammonia solution (one part ammonia, two parts water).
Use a knife to scrape off all the ketchup you can. Next, cover the stain with dish soap and top that with white vinegar. Finish by running the spot under cold water.
Just like you did with ketchup, use a knife to remove as much mustard as you can. Then mix a cup of cold water with a teaspoon of clear liquid laundry detergent and sponge the solution over the stain.
Generously spread cornstarch over the salad dressing stain and let it sit for at least five minutes to give it time to soak up the oil. Then run the spot under cold water and apply liquid laundry detergent. Let it sit for 15 minutes before putting it in the wash.
Kiss those smooch stains good-bye by spritzing the spot with hair spray. Don’t be shy with the hair product—you want the lipstick stain to be damp to the touch. Let the hair spray sit for 10 minutes, and then dab it with a wet paper towel.
Tear off a few sheets of paper towels and place them on a table top. Take the stained item and place it stain side down on the paper towels. Dab nail polish remover on the back of the stain. Replace the paper towels as they get wet and finish by running the spot under cold water.
If foundation has found its way from your neck to your shirt collar, there’s an easy fix: Dip cotton swabs in rubbing alcohol and dab until the stain disappears.
Kids aren’t the only ones who end up with dirt stains on their clothes. When it happens, whip up a quick cleaning solution that’s one part vinegar, one part water. Pour it over the spot and let it sit for five minutes. If that doesn’t lift the stain, pour more cleaning solution and massage the spot with your fingertips.
Next time a pen explodes, have hair spray at the ready. Soak the spot with the hair product, let it sit for five minutes, blot the stain with a paper towel, and throw it in the laundry.
For acrylic or water-based paint, dab a paper towel over the affected area and remove as much paint as possible. Then make a cleaning solution that’s one part liquid laundry detergent, two parts warm water. Sponge the solution over the stain until it’s lifted. For oil-based paint, follow the directions for grease stains below.
Next time you get a cut, scrape, or bloody nose that dribbles over your clothes, soak them in cold salt water (one half teaspoon of salt per cup of water) for two hours. Then rinse the spot with a cleaning solution that’s one part ammonia and two parts water.
Pit stains are unsightly, but they don’t have to ruin your clothes. Pour shampoo on the stain, rub it in, and let sit for five minutes. Then rinse the spot with cold water. If that doesn’t work, try pouring cold water on the spot and sprinkling salt on top. Let that sit for five minutes before washing off the salt.
Bacon tastes oh-so delicious until the grease drips on your lap and ruins your favorite pair of jeans. But those pants aren’t goners if you have baby powder and a toothbrush. Sprinkle the baby powder on the spot, let it sit for 30 minutes, and then use a toothbrush to lift the remaining stain.