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Removing Flower Stains From a White Shirt

By Dr. Laundry March 5, 2015

Q: I was carrying a flower arrangement and got an orange stain on my shirt. I’ve used Clorox, Oxyclean, Shout & Dawn with no results. Please help

 

A: Did the arrangement have lilies in it?  If that’s the case then the stain could be from the pollen-rich anther.  Because pollen is sticky and oily, and it has color, the discoloration is a combination stain.  In that case, you want to work on the oily/sticky part first.  If you tried the bleach products before completing this step, that’s probably why you haven’t had much success.

For concentrated oily stains, usually I recommend pretreating with a little liquid dishwashing detergent (like Dawn, which I see you have already tried).  If you treated the stain on wet fabric (that is you rinsed it first) then the detergent won’t be as effective. If that’s the case, start by pretreating the stain directly with the Dawn when the fabric is dry.  Apply a few drops and gently work them into the stain.  Wait 5 minutes, then rinse with a little lukewarm water.  The stain won’t be completely gone, but the oil should be, and now you can work on the colored component of the stain.

Pretreat the stain again, this time using Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.  This product, in case you are not familiar with it, has the same sodium hypochlorite bleach active as our Regular-Bleach, but at a lower concentration that is safe to apply directly to fabric.  Just apply a little directly to the stain, and then wash the item immediately in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Air dry and see how it turns out.  If the stain is lighter, then you can always repeat the treatment.  Hopefully the item hasn’t been through a hot dryer while you have been working on it because that will make it harder to get the stain all the way out.

I also wanted to mention that since you have already tried Clorox Regular-Bleach I’m assuming that your shirt is white and bleachable; note that you should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex.  If your shirt has any spandex in it, then don’t use the bleach pen or regular bleach.  Instead you can use liquid Clorox2 Stain Remover and Color Booster for the second pretreatment step:  apply a little directly to the stain and wait 5-10 minutes before washing in the hottest water recommended using detergent and more Clorox2.

Because the stain is orange, I wanted to also mention that if there is any chance the stain could actually be rust (maybe the vase is metal or the arrangement includes some sort of metal embellishment) then you need to use a rust remover product to get the stain out.  Oxidants like Clorox® Regular-Bleach do not take out rust stain!  I don’t think this is actually the case, but still wanted to bring it up.  I hope that by simply reversing the pretreating order (dish detergent on dry fabric, then pretreat with bleach gel  before washing with detergent + bleach) you will be successful.  Let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!

–Dr. Laundry