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How do you remove yellow cigarette smoke stains from polyester?

By Dr. Laundry January 9, 2015

Q: How do you remove the yellow stain from cigarette smoke in a polyester jersey?

A: While I don’t have any personal experience with cigarette or nicotine stains, and they aren’t part of our standard test protocol for developing or improving our products, I do hope I can share some general information about treating combination stains that will help you succeed in restoring your jersey.

Because cigarette stains include an oily component, breaking up the oil is a good place to start.  Once you pretreat or presoak to deal with the oil, then you can wash the shirt to further whiten.  I’m not sure if the “yellow look” you describe is a smallish stain or if the entire garment is affected, so let’s look at both possibilities.

For a small stain, first pretreat the stained area with a little liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes).  Just apply a little directly to the stain and let it soak in for 5 minutes before rinsing in a little warm water.  Now you can run the jersey through a wash cycle (see below).

Or, if the entire jersey is affected, start by presoaking the item.  The longer the presoaking time, the better, so if your jersey is white that helps because it allows you to extend the soak time.  As far as what to use for the presoak, powdered Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster is a great for this—just add a scoop of the powder to 2 gallons hot water and stir to dissolve.  Fully submerge the jersey in the soaking solution for up to 8 hours (or overnight) if the jersey is white.  If it has some color, then limit the soaking time to 30 minutes.  When soaking is complete, drain the soaking solution and rinse out the jersey.

When you have finished presoaking or pretreating the stain, machine wash the jersey in the hottest water recommended on the item care label.  Fortunately, polyester fabric can be safely laundered with bleach, so If the jersey is white, then use a good detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  If the jersey has only a small amount of color, you can try using detergent and ½ cup Clorox® Smart Seek Bleach, which is specially formulated to safely bleach mostly white items with only a little color.  And for items with more color, you can use detergent and Clorox2®.

When the wash cycle is complete, hang the jersey to air dry.  Depending on the severity of the yellowing, and the amount of build-up of the oily component of the stain, you may need to repeat the treatment.

I really hope this helps!