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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Clay Stains

By Dr. Laundry December 3, 2009

Q. My son has nylon white baseball pants with red and blue stripes on the legs — NOTHING gets the Texas clay stains out. What can I do?

A. Baseball pants always seem to get those ground-in stains from sliding and just wiping the hands between swings. Key to possible success here is to get started quickly, especially if they are muddy, and use the right product/process. It’s the very fine dirt/clay particles that get ground into the pant fibers that are the problem. Brush/shake/scrape away as much as possible before starting the process; the more removed here means less to be removed in the subsequent laundering. So I recommend a good presoak in powdered detergent (1 cup in a gallon of warm water) for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Make sure the detergent is fully dissolved before soaking. After soaking, wash in hot water using the recommended amount of detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. Also, a lot of colors on these items can be bleached. I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden colored area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item. Any color change could also show you the amount of change in color that likely will occur if you proceed with the liquid bleach usage. If you can’t bleach the items, wash in the hottest water recommended on the care labels using detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster. And, I would include a 1/2 to 1 hour presoak in the oxygen bleach before the wash. Check for success before drying as you may more than one treatment.

However, if you have red clay, the stains may never fully come out since its iron content makes cleaning and bleaching them nearly impossible.