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How Do I Remove Dried Stains?

By Dr. Laundry September 3, 2016

Q:  How to get out dried in stains? A: It’s frustrating to find a stain on a garment after you pull the item out of the dryer!  Stains are so much harder to get out when they’ve been exposed to dryer heat, which is much hotter than many people realize.  Fortunately, for many stains that have been through the dryer, good pretreating and then rewashing can get them out.  If you know what the stains are, that is always helpful.  If you don’t, then you may need to try a few different pretreating techniques to cover all the bases.  This is especially important if the stains turn out to be combinations stains: having both an oily and color component.  So here’s what you can try:

First, retreat the entire stain with liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) by applying a few drops and gently massaging it in.  Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse the stain with warm water.  This will break up any food oil if that’s part of the stain.

Next, pretreat again—how you do this second step depends on the color and fiber content of the item.

For white, bleachable items (avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex), use Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel for the second pretreatment step.  Use the soft scrubber tip to apply a little of the gel directly to the stain and gently rub it in. Immediately wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Air dry and check your progress.

For items with color or white items with spandex, use liquid Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster for the second pretreatment step.  This product is particularly effective at taking out dryer set-in stains when used as a pretreater!  Use the cap to easily apply the product directly to the stain, and then gently massage it into the fabric.  Wait 5-10 minutes (don’t go longer—you don’t want the product to dry out on the fabric) and then wash in the warmest water recommended on the item’s care label using detergent and more Clorox2®.  Air dry and check your progress.

If the stains are out, great! If not, you can repeat the treatments, each time getting out a little more of the stain.  You may also want to try increasing the wash temperature.  The hotter the water, the better the cleaning, so if you’ve got a white item labeled machine wash cold, and the stain is not coming out, try warm or hot.  For items with color, try a warm wash temperature instead of cold.  Any risk of shrinkage or color loss from the higher temperature is worth it to get a stain out of an item that is otherwise unusable!

Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!

–Dr. Laundry