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Removing Stains on Down Comforters

By Dr. Laundry November 15, 2013

How do I remove an enchilada sauce stain from my down comforter?

 

Enchilada sauce is a combination stain with an oily component and either tomatoes or tomatillos depending on whether it’s a red or green sauce. It’s not the most difficult stain to get out, BUT having it on a down comforter definitely complicates things, mainly because you need to “let the item air dry while you are working on the stain” so it takes repeating a treatment to get the stain all the way out. But it’s not practical to air dry a down comforter, and treating and rinsing the stain could get messy, so you have your work cut out for you. You’ll need to treat the stain at least twice—once for the oily part and then again for any remaining color.

First, pretreat the stained area with a good liquid laundry detergent, preferably one that’s “free and clear” of dyes but does contain enzymes. Rub a little directly into the stain, and let it sit for 10 minutes. This will solubilize the oily part of the stain, making it easier to remove, while the enzymes begin breaking up colored parts of the stain. Next, rinse the treated area with a little warm water, and the stain should be much lighter. Now you can pretreat the stain again, this time with Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel. This product is specially formulated with a lower level of sodium hypochlorite that is safe to apply directly to white cotton fabrics for pretreating, something you shouldn’t do with full-strength bleach. Normally after pretreating with the gel pen, an item would go through a regular bleach wash, but the down filling in your comforter should not be bleached. Instead, after a minute, rinse away the gel and check your progress.  At this point, let the stained area air dry so you can check your progress. Wet or damp fabric can camouflage a residual stain that didn’t come all the way out, so keeping the comforter out of a hot dryer.

Since you are going to wash the comforter one final time, you may just want to pile it up in a plastic laundry basket with the treated area facing up, and put the basket outside. The fabric cover should actually dry pretty quickly—you aren’t trying to dry any of the filling, so it shouldn’t take too long. As soon as the fabric cover is dry and you can confirm the stain is out, run the down comforter through a wash cycle using detergent and Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster. This is important because there will be detergent that has gotten into the filling during the process of pretreating that will need to be washed away. Finally, tumble dry the comforter in a very large capacity dryer with 3-4 clean tennis balls to fluff up the down. Note that if you don’t have a front loading washer, you may actually want to take the comforter to a laundromat that does for the final machine wash, since large bulky items like comforters generally do better in front loading washers.

If you do end up needing to pretreat the stain multiple times with the bleach pen, be sure to limit the contact time to one minute each time.  If you leave it on for a longer period of time, you will likely end up with a yellow spot that is unfortunately permanent, so don’t be tempted to just leave it on longer.