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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Summer Stain Blunders

By Dr. Laundry June 23, 2006

With summer now in full swing, it is a good time to start discussing some common summer stain blunders that are going to happen during this season’s activities.Speaking of summertime activities – check out photos of the stuff we’ve been doing with several Minor League Baseball teams this year. Everyone knows stains can happen at any time or any place, and an outing to the ballpark always seem to have plenty! We gave away thundersticks at a recent Corpus Christi Hooks (Texas) game.

Also—check out my name in some recent magazines! In the July issue of Real Simple magazine, I was quoted in an article on “Summer Stains” explaining why so many stains occur during the summer. Also—Chemical & Engineering News’s June 12 issue (last week) wrote an article about my blog! Wow, I may be starting to get famous!

OK, back to stain removal. I know it is very embarrassing when you are at your friends’ or relatives’ homes and you, or your child (whether they’re 2 or 42) spill on clothing or your host’s tablecloth. I know they happened at my daughter’s recent graduation party.  Hey, don’t fear the ketchup bottle – just act fast. Here are some tips to keep you from creating a party foul this summer… Remember our basic rules for best results:


  • Treat stains ASAP; better wet than set

  • Pretreat or presoak to help jumpstart removal

  • Always read and follow label directions and pretest any product on the fabric to make sure colors won’t be affected

  • Check for success at end of wash cycle, before drying; retreat problem if needed


Here’s a quick table to help get you started.

Remember, we need different chemistry to attack different types of stains. 

The first box contains stains that are generally water soluble and colored.  Thus, rehydrating them and using bleach is a good approach to remove them.

The second box contains stains that have significant greasy/oily components. Never wet them first (oil and water don’t mix).  Rub a good liquid detergent or pretreater product into the stain to help dissolve up the oily part.  Then follow with a good hot wash and bleach to help remove any colored portion of the stain.

The third box contains dairy and protein stains. The key here is never start with warm or hot water as it may “cook”/ set the protein and severely limit removal. Most good detergents have enzymes which help break down the protein for easier removal in the wash.  Again, adding bleach in the wash helps finish the job.

More on other outdoor stains in upcoming posts. 

Don’t be shy…. Send me questions or comments.