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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Chili Stain

By Dr. Laundry December 30, 2008

Q. I am trying to get a chili stain out of the cuff of a cotton shirt. It has narrow red and green pin stripes on a white background. Unfortunately, I did not notice the stain until about week after it happened.

My wife and I have tried scrubbing the stain with a brush and Shout Action Gel Advanced for set-in stains, Regular Shout, vinegar, lemon juice, Goo Gone, and a paste of baking soda to no avail. I should add that we washed the shirt in COLD water after treating and only dried it once after the first washing. We have not used Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 (yet) because we did not know what effect it might have on the colored pin stripes.

Do you have any suggestions, or is it just a “lost cause” because of the time that has elapsed?

A. Sounds like you have done a lot of correct things in trying to remove the chili stain, but need to kick the stain remover power up a couple of notches. It would have been useful to know if the shirt is 100% cotton or a poly/cotton blend, as I am also concerned about how the red/green stripes might hold up to liquid bleach.

To find out if the colors can safely be bleached, I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test: Add 2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden area like an inside seam; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel. No color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item.

If the stripes are bleachable, I would consider using Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel since it has 2 tips to control where and how much bleach is applied. Use the scrubber tip to rub the product, wait 3–5 minutes, then wash the item immediately in the hottest water recommended on the care label.

If the stripes are NOT bleachable, then I would try Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster, our color-safe oxygen bleach. Rub it into the stain, wait 3–5 minutes, then wash in the warmest water recommended on the care label using detergent and Clorox 2.