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How Do I Remove Yellow Stains From White Linen?

By Dr. Laundry January 27, 2016

Q: I have a white linen suit that was packed in cartons with other clothes. When I finally opened the box after a year, I found yellow stains on the collar. How do I remove the stains?   A: While yellowish stains that appear on white items during storage can be just about anything, oily residue is usually the culprit.  It can be oil from cooking, but it can also be body soil, which also has an oily component.  You might be able to clean the stains yourself, but first make sure you can safely home launder the suit by checking the care instructions.  If it says “dry clean only” on the care label then you should take the complete suit (both pants and jacket) to the dry cleaner.  But if it has reasonable home washing instructions that you can easily do yourself, then you can try the following:  
  1. Apply a little liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) to the stain and gently rub it in.  Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse with a little warm water. This helps break up the oil.
  2. Pretreat again with a little liquid Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.  Apply a little liquid directly to the stain and gently rub in.  Wait 5 minutes, and then wash as directed on the care label using detergent and more Clorox2®.
  3. Make sure you wash both pieces, the jacket and the pants, together as you would any two-piece set.
  4. Air dry and check for success.  Since the suit is linen it will definitely have to be pressed before you wear it again; only press the suit if the stains are out.
  I am so curious about the care instructions for your suit.  I actually expect that it is a dry clean only item just because it is a suit.  Suits do vary in ease of care, from something casual without much extra construction, to a fully fashioned (lining, shoulder pads) jacket, the type of garment that benefits from professional care.  If you do take the suit to the dry cleaners, be sure to show them the stains so they can pretreat them appropriately before dry cleaning.   I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing.   –Dr. Laundry